- K/DA, a fictional girl group featuring “League of Legends” characters, just released a five-track EP called “All Out.”
- The group, a product of Riot Games, is centered around four “League” champions — Akali, Ahri, Evelynn, and Kai’Sa — and debuted with the single “POP/STARS” in 2018.
- Real-life artists lend their voices to the project, and a new “League” champion, Seraphine, also appeared in the group’s latest music video.
- Here’s a rundown of K/DA, the group’s 2018 debut to their collaboration with Seraphine to their most recent release.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
K/DA, the multilingual, virtual girl group from Riot Games, has grown into a full musical force in 2020. Two years on the heels of the fictional group’s first release, 2018’s “POP/STARS,” they’re back with a five-track EP, “All Out,” and a new roster of collaborators.
Comprised of versions of four “League of Legends” champions — Ahri, Akali, Evelynn, and Kai’sa — the group first debuted in 2018 in the lead up to the League of Legends World Championship Finals that were held that year in South Korea. In 2020, they’re coming back with a full EP, new lore, and a new featured artist: Seraphine, a new “League of Legends” video game champion and virtual influencer.
You don’t need to be a “League of Legends” player to enjoy the group’s content. Their music and style are heavily K-pop influenced with plenty of modern pop flavor, and the animated music videos that accompany some of their releases are lush and intricate.
Still, for the uninitiated there are a lot of levels to K/DA’s existence: the members are virtual and based on “League of Legends” characters, but they’re voiced by real-life artists who “collaborate” with the members on music. Throw newcomer Seraphine, a new “League” character who has her own social media presence and featured on the recent K/DA EP, into the mix, and things can become even more confusing.
In 2020, the group has become more than a one-off project. K/DA’s first EP, “ALL OUT,” dropped on November 6, featuring five songs and a full slate of collaborators ranging from seasoned K-pop songwriter Bekuh Boom to pop artist Kim Petras to Chinese artist Lexie Liu. Here’s a rundown of the group, from their 2018 origins to current activities and collaboration with Seraphine.
The group is comprised of 4 'League of Legends' characters with their own K/DA lore
Four characters — or champions, as they're referred to in the game — from "League of Legends" make up the four members of K/DA. However, the members of K/DA are alternate versions of their "League of Legends" characters, and while they bear some similarity to their in-game counterparts, they don't share the same lore. These four characters are the static members of K/DA, and the group's identity revolves around them rather than the real-life collaborators who lend their voices to the project.
While Akali is a rogue assassin in the game, K/DA Akali is the group's main rapper.
—K/DA (@KDA_MUSIC) September 2, 2020
Ahri, a popular nine-tailed fox mage in the game, is K/DA's leader, co-founder, and main vocalist.
—K/DA (@KDA_MUSIC) September 23, 2020
Evelynn, a demonic assassin in-game, is K/DA's lead vocalist and co-founder.
—K/DA (@KDA_MUSIC) September 11, 2020
Kai'Sa, a marksman champion, is the group's main dancer and choreographer.
—K/DA (@KDA_MUSIC) September 14, 2020
A series of comics, published on the "League of Legends" website, flesh out the members' K/DA backstories a bit, with nods to their in-game lore and personalities.
In K/DA's lore, Ahri brought the group together. Akali carried her K/DA experiences with her to "True Damage," another fictional group from Riot Games that released the single "Giants" in 2019. Evelynn had a solo career before joining K/DA, but stuck true to the group even when people tried to recruit her away from the project. Kai'Sa started dancing as a child while moving frequently around the world with her father and later started teaching dance before being recruited into K/DA.
K/DA debuted in 2018 with the single 'POP/STARS'
Riot Games, the company that develops "League of Legends" and is responsible for K/DA, launched the group in 2018 with a music video for "POP/STARS," an electric dance track sung in Korean and English and featuring real-life singers Soyeon and Miyeon of (G)I-DLE, Madison Beer, and Jaira Burns.
The single was a huge success: two years after its initial release, it has over 390 million views, and at the time, it hit number one on Billboard's World Digital Songs Sales chart. Soyeon, Miyeon, Madison Beer, and Jaira Burns performed the song at the finals of the 2018 League of Legends World Championship in Incheon, South Korea alongside holograms of Akali, Ahri, Evelynn, and Kai'Sa.
As Polygon reported at the time, K/DA's great unveiling also came with a set of skins — in-game cosmetic modifiers — available for purchase, so the in-game Akali, Ahri, Evelynn, and Kai'Sa could look like their popstar counterparts.
The group wasn't necessarily supposed to be an extended project, creative director Patrick Morales told Engadget. After the success of "POP/STARS," however, a follow-up was inevitable, and Riot Games started the process of a comeback in December of 2019.
Riot Games teased a new champion, Seraphine, by crafting her identity on social media
Seraphine is the newest champion to be associated with K/DA, although she's technically not a member of the group. Like the other members of K/DA, her lore as a new "League of Legends" champion is different from her story that played out on social media, although there are character similarities in both universes.
In the game, she's an idol who can hear the souls of others and uses her voice to try and heal the rift between her home city of Piltover and rival city Zaun, from which her parents hail. In the K/DA universe, she's an aspiring singer who worked a day job until K/DA discovered her, invited her to collaborate, and took her with them to perform in Shanghai (the site of this year's real "League of Legends" world championship).
Seraphine's rollout started with social media. As Polygon reported, the character had accounts on Soundcloud, Twitter, and Instagram before she was even officially tied to "League of Legends," although fans suspected that she was associated with the game long before it was confirmed. She released covers, commented on other artists' work on Twitter, and posted selfies with her cat on Instagram.
In August, she dropped a cover of K/DA's "POP/STARS" (after previously telling followers to "stan kda") and later revealed that she would be "helping to produce [K/DA's] album" and featuring on a track. On October 28, Riot Games released a music video for "More," a K/DA single featuring Seraphine.
Seraphine's social media presence has drawn criticism
As much as Seraphine has tweeted about her music or excitement to collaborate with K/DA, she's also posted about her mental health and struggles with confidence. At points, she's solicited encouragement, posted art of kind words that people have passed along to her, and tweeted about being sad that she had to quit her day job.
—Seraphine⭐🌊 (@seradotwav) October 11, 2020
Vice's Gita Jackson called the Seraphine marketing "beyond perverse." Fictionalizing things like quitting your day job to pursue a dream hit different during a global pandemic that's led to significant job loss, she wrote, also arguing that Seraphine's self-esteem issues don't come across as attempting to open a dialogue, but rather to reinforce fans' parasocial relationship with the character.
Similar critiques emerged on Twitter as well in the replies to Seraphine's tweets. "People are actually sending heartfelt messages to a fictional character created by a gaming company worth billions of dollars for the sole purpose of marketing," Twitter user @KeroKeroBug wrote in the replies to Seraphine's tweet asking for encouragement.
Polygon's Julia Lee reported that Seraphine's campaign was run by Riot Games creative director Patrick Morales, but that all of her tweets were written by Bethany Higa, a writer at the company. Higa told Polygon that much of Seraphine's story was based on her own experience coming to Riot Games.
"I personally experienced self-doubt. I personally experienced imposter syndrome and all those things," Higa told Polygon. "The intention behind the story was the show that sense of hope, that sense of persistence, and show her growing in confidence and overcoming those struggles and those fears she might have."
Morales told Polygon that the team realized that the story "had an unintended impact outside of the narrative that we were trying to tell" and that they were being conscious about what kinds of topics could potentially "hurt or mislead people."
K/DA released a five-track EP in November, featuring a wide variety of vocal talents
On November 6, Riot Games released K/DA's first EP, titled "All Out." The album features the trilingual single "More," which is sung in English, Korean, and Mandarin and brings together the vocal talents of Soyeon and Miyeon of (G)I-DLE, Madison Beer, and Jaira Burns, all of whom lent their voices to 2018's "POP/STARS." Seraphine, as well as Chinese artist Lexie Liu, joined the track as well.
Four other tracks inspired by the members — "The Baddest," "Villain," "Drum Go Dum," and "I'll Show You" — round out the album. The collaborator roster grew as well: Bea Miller, Wolftyla, Kim Petras, Aluna, Bekuh Boom, Annika Wells, and four members of Korean girl group TWICE (Jihyo, Nayeon, Sana, and Chaeyoung) lent vocals to the album in addition to the "More" singers.
Toa Dunn, the head of Riot Music Group, told Engadget that the goal of K/DA at this point is to create impact rather than generate revenue. And while K/DA does have a full-fledged merch collection, but the fandom response to the group isn't hard to see, with people creating fanart of the members, posting their own covers of the group's songs, and even participating in cosplay challenges on TikTok.
K/DA's future plans aren't definite at this point, but the group — and Seraphine — have become a dominant act in the virtual artist space.