Photo Courtesy of Belift Lab
Meet ENHYPEN, K-Pop's Latest Breakout Boy Group
One of the most exciting K-pop debuts in recent years came at the end of 2020: ENHYPEN. The seven members of the group were selected by fans worldwide after they competed on Mnet's "I-LAND," a South Korean survival reality show. Featuring members who were former trainees under Big Hit Entertainment, the masterminds behind BTS and TOMORROW X TOGETHER, and from various backgrounds, ENHYPEN are now spreading the K-pop agenda worldwide.
After wrapping up "I-LAND'' in September, the septet immediately began preparing their highly anticipated debut: BORDER : DAY ONE, released last November on Belift Lab, a joint venture between Big Hit and South Korean entertainment company CJ ENM. (Belift Lab are the creators of "I-LAND.")
On BORDER : DAY ONE, ENHYPEN explore a wide range of genres while grappling with their new status as an emerging global act. The album's lead single, "Given-Taken," is a high-energy pop song showcasing the guys' youthful vocals and doubling as a dark power anthem; the song's lyrics tackle the complex question of whether they have earned their coveted spots in the group, or taken them.
Elsewhere, "Intro: Walk The Line" takes on alternative hip-hop, "Let Me In (20 CUBE)," produced by Big Hit's FRANTS and "Hitman" Bang, mixes reggae with hip-hop, and closer "Outro: Cross The Line" wraps up the album in an eerie, waltz style.
Since debuting in November, ENHYPEN have taken the international K-pop world by storm. Their debut mini-album broke the record for highest first-week sales in Korea among rookies who debuted in 2020, and they won the Next Leader award, aka rookie of the year, at the Fact Music Awards within 12 days of their debut. Their exploding social media presence also reflects their ability to connect with global fans: They currently have more than 1 million followers on Twitter and more than 3 million followers on TikTok.
Beyond the numbers game, the guys come from diverse backgrounds that align with their goals for world domination: Sunghoon, who gave up a successful career as a competitive figure skater to become an "idol," Sunoo, Heeseung and Jungwon are Korean; Jay is from the U.S.; Jake is Australian; and Ni-ki, the group's youngest member, is Japanese.
Surrounded by some of the best minds in the industry, ENHYPEN have a promising future ahead of them. With young members who are eager to learn and grow, the group is ready for the burgeoning worldwide success that's on their horizon. Despite debuting in a pandemic, which has caused them to rely on the power of social media to connect with ENGENES, their so-called fan base, all eyes are now on ENHYPEN.
GRAMMY.com checked in with ENHYPEN to talk about their debut mini-album, BORDER : DAY ONE, and their plans to take over the worldwide K-pop industry.
First off, you're making your debut not long after ending "I-LAND." What has the process been like preparing for your debut? Has it been difficult or more demanding than training on the show?
Jake: We did our best to prepare, wanting to meet our fans as soon as possible. We helped each other out and received help from our staff as well, so the preparation process was pretty smooth.
There are huge expectations for your group, with many considering you guys the most anticipated rookie debut. How does it feel to have so much support already? How do you deal with the pressure, if any?
ENHYPEN: We are thankful for all this support, and it motivates us to do even better. We try to take all this as a good energy that fuels us to work hard to show our fans the best version of ENHYPEN.
A lot of new acts debut in the K-pop industry every year. What do you hope to bring that is new and different from other artists? In your opinion, what makes ENHYPEN special?
ENHYPEN: ENHYPEN's forte is music that is rooted in our own stories and performance and the chemistry between the seven of us … Our teamwork has been getting better and better as we've been together throughout "I-LAND" as well as the process that led to [our] debut.
Out of the six tracks on your debut EP, do you each have a song that resonates with you most or that you're most excited to perform?
Jungwon: "Given-Taken" resonated the most because the lyrics reflect our current situation. I'm most excited to perform "Given-Taken" and "10 Months." The latter is a very sweet song. The performance and gestures are more relaxed, and I just really like the song.
Heeseung: I can't wait to show "10 Months" because it puts a spotlight on ENHYPEN's vocals, dance and charms all at once. The song especially highlights the vocals, so we want to perform it really well.
Jay: It's "Given-Taken." The lyrics encapsulate the complex emotions that I'm feeling right now, and I want to deliver a genuine performance.
Jake: "Let Me In (20 CUBE)." This song shows a more groovy side to ourselves, and a performance with all of us in perfect synchronization.
Sunghoon: It's "Given-Taken" for me. I relate to this song the most because it talks about the complicated emotions of seven boys who have finally achieved their dream of [debuting] and are at the borderline of a new beginning. The performance radiates a dark and powerful energy.
Sunoo: I like "Let Me In (20 CUBE)" because of its catchiness, but "10 Months" resonated with me the most, because the lyrics [say] that despite looks of a grown-up, we have a lot more room to grow emotionally and mentally mirror ourselves. Also, the cute performance allows us to show fans various facets of ENHYPEN.
Ni-ki: For me, it's "Let Me In (20 CUBE)." I personally like up-tempo melodies, and I also think this song underscores ENHYPEN's charms really well.
The lead single, "Given-Taken," addresses the complex emotions you face as you're starting a new beginning, which is fitting for your journey and relatable for a diverse audience. What about your group do you hope resonates most with audiences?
ENHYPEN: "Given-Taken" is a song that we can do at this moment as it captures our current situation. We're really at the beginning right now, so we hope that these complex emotions one has at the verge of a new start resonates with many people.
You've been working with Big Hit's well-known producers on your EP. Is there anything you have learned about producing or songwriting through the process? How do you hope to make your music your own?
Heeseung: The process of making this album taught me how to polish my rhythm and groove into a final output and about the importance of a good delivery. I will take all this into account for the recording that will come hereafter and make good music.
Jungwon, as the leader of ENHYPEN, what do you think makes you a good frontman? How would you describe your group's chemistry?
Jungwon: I think the most important thing is communication, so I try to listen to our members' opinions as much as possible. ENHYPEN's chemistry is really solid!
It must be tough to debut during a pandemic, where you can't perform in front of fans in person. Despite that, you're part of the "digital native" generation that regularly utilizes social media. How do you hope to grow the fan-artist bond you have created for the time being? Is there anything you're looking forward to doing for your fans in person when time allows?
Sunoo: We connected with our fans via socials and livestreams. To keep this connection strong, we want to show them various aspects of ENHYPEN [that] we haven't revealed yet!
You're obviously very busy, but outside of your recent debut, what have you guys been doing to pass the time? What are your hobbies outside of music and performing?
Ni-ki: We usually watch choreography videos during breaktime or at our dorm because those videos point out what we lack. I personally like soccer clips and movies. We don't have much downtime these days, but I want to go [watch] movies and soccer games with our members soon.
This is a really exciting time for all of you, and you're getting ready to build your own legacy after various years of training. What are you most excited about for the near future, and what career or debut goals do each of you have? What are some of your biggest dreams?
Jay: My career goal is to become a versatile artist not limited to a certain specialty. And throughout all that process, to be close to our fans. As for now, I wish we could perform on the global stage with the costumes I created or took part in designing.
Lastly, for those unfamiliar with your stint on "I-LAND," what is the most important thing people should know about ENHYPEN going forward?
Sunghoon: ENHYPEN grows together by connecting one another. Our group's goal is to connect worlds and people through our music.