Even though ENHYPEN prepared heartfelt remarks to share with fans at their Radio City Music Hall concert, a flood of tears and a group hug were not part of their plan. But the unexpected and, according to the boy band, uncharacteristic wave of emotion led to a collective epiphany.
Although it is standard for each member of a K-pop group to individually address the crowd during a concert, the final moments during an encore are usually the most sentimental, ENHYPEN member Sunoo couldn’t hold back tears as he spoke to the group’s teamwork “like seven” and “the amount of love I’ve received from my members as well as the love from the thousands of ONES,” and called out the group’s fandom name.
To group leader Jungwon quickly ran to wrap Sunoo in a hug, the rest of the ENHYPEN members Jay, Heesung, Jack, Sunghoon and Not-ki everyone gathered with them, linking arms and patting each other on the back as their bandmate finished his speech.
With the sold-out crowd singing their names, Jake told them: “Throughout our Seoul concert after the US tour, I feel like the seven of us have really gotten stronger together because of all the incredible love and support you’ve given us .”
While ENHYPEN showered each other with hugs and compliments while occasionally lending a sleeve to wipe away tears, the K-pop act says they rarely open up to each other like they did in front of thousands on stage in NYC.
“It’s kind of creepy,” laughs the band’s oldest member Heeseung, who celebrated his “happiest” 21st birthday at their live debut in NY, which doubled as the final date on the US leg of the band’s Manifesto Tour . “I think it’s scary when you compliment each other a lot.”
“We’re just 20-year-old boys, so it’s a bit awkward for us,” adds Jake, 20, the band’s friendly Australian native who has taken the lead in conversations with audiences on tour and in this Billboard interview, partly from the most comfortable member with English, but also from a puppy-like energy of excitement. “We don’t really compliment; we just kind of give each other feedback … but I feel that the times we do show our love for each other, why it’s so genuine.”
After wrapping up seven concerts in six states for the US leg of their Manifesto World Tour, the band notes that their first time performing together in multiple cities on the road underscores the importance of all seven individuals that make up ENHYPEN.
“It’s really important to me because we started together as seven members and it has an absolute value to me,” Heeseung says of the multinational performance with members representing Korea, America, Australia and Japan. “We spent a lot of time together and, every member, I carry them the most in my heart. So, I think I realized after this tour that this is our golden time together. So, yeah, I really love my members” before naturally laughing as he adds a “cringe” to round off his thoughts.
ENHYPEN’s understated, soft-spoken leader, Jungwon, says private moments have shown him their compatibility. “The little things I did with my members really cheered me up,” he explains. “We practiced a lot and said things like, ‘Let’s go together’ before going on stage; those little things really lifted me up.”
Jake adds that the close quarters for concerts also created a natural camaraderie. “Between stages we have like a little hockey thing where we have to change really quickly, but it’s really crowded and we can’t really move around,” he says. “But I can really see our chemistry showing because we have to look out for each other – it’s always very messy in there.”
ENHYPEN was born from the singing competition I-Country where 23 K-pop hopefuls battled for a spot in a new boy group with HYBE founder Bang Si-Hyuk overseeing the competition while Rain, BTS, Zico, SEVENTEEN and Tomorrow X Together guest mentored. Despite the high stakes in making the group, ENHYPEN never saw each other as competitors.
“I-Country was kind of a competition, but I don’t think either of us really felt like it was,” explains Jake. “I feel like to the viewers who watched the show, it might seem that way, but we felt like we all had to do well and give good performances.”
Jay adds that some members already had an established brotherhood from their early days in the K-pop system. “I’ve been training with Heeseung for about four years, it already feels like he’s family.”
After I-Country wrapped in September 2020, the septet told an unfolding story as rising superstars through albums. From their debut EP Border: Day One discussing their start in the industry (and peaking at No. 14 on Billboard‘s World Albums chart in early 2021) to this past July’s Manifesto: Day 1 with 69,000 album copies sold in the first three weeks, worldwide fans are growing with the band. Earlier this year ENHYPEN also had their first no. 1 single on the Japan Hot 100 with their electro-pop/rock hybrid “Tamed-Dashed,” no doubt with help from Japan-born member Ni-ki, who is loudest when he’s making his bandmates laugh throughout the interview as much as they to him.
“I feel like every album and every song we put out kind of portrays what we’re feeling at that moment and what we’re going through,” says Jake. “Our first album was about moving on from I-Country, becomes an idol, and debuts as an idol. Our second one [Border: Carnival] kind of said what we felt while performing as an artist. Now, it’s been two years since we became an idol and now we’re sharing our story with the whole world. Each album has its own meaning and I think that’s one of our strongest points.” Jay calls it ENHYPEN’s “history”.
When it came to Sunoo, one of the younger members known by fans for his cute and sunny disposition that radiates even during an early Monday morning interview, his concern about completing the career milestone in ENHYPEN’s first US tour was daunting. He says the tearful conversation at the concert was more of a release of relief.
“Personally, I had a lot of worries during the tour,” says the 19-year-old. “The biggest concern is: ‘Will I be able to finish this concert successfully?’ I think it would have been impossible to finish this concert and tour really successfully without ENGENEs, members and our staff who always support me. So, I got teary because I was really touched by the fact that we ended this tour really successfully, but I also want to mention that I also got a lot of energy from this tour.”
Jake adds that the tour experience played a big role in naturally rushing to Sunoo’s side: “We knew what he was going through. Before the last show, he would talk about being kind of tired and just not feeling 100 percent. We can all agree and kind of empathize.”
While Jay’s warm side comes through in concert and during this interview despite his deadpan delivery (he’s the first to say “never” when asked if the band opens for each other), the Seattle-born star had his own concerns to Stateside as well.
“I was nervous because it was my first time returning to the States as an artist,” he says. “I’ve been to almost every city we’ve performed in, but it really feels different from when I was a little boy. I think I was just proud of all of us who performed in my home country; it really touched me.” Jay told his members “all of us did amazing, all of us did great” on stage at the end of the concert.
Looking ahead, the septet is thinking and talking excitedly about future directions after this first extended tour.
The quieter but undeniably eloquent Sunghoon, who gained fame in K-pop for his hosting abilities, says the tour experience opened his eyes to a new way of creating music. “Until now we have focused more on our music itself and the album itself,” he explains. “But after the US tour, I thought it would be good if we could actually imagine our concert and performance while making the album and it would improve our delivery.”
Heeseung is curious to add urban pop to the band’s sound. At the same time, Jungwon wonders how the group can do if they choose songs that mix less genres to the mixing of punk-rock and electronic production on “Drunk-Dazed” or swirling influences of Chicago drill with dance-pop buildups on “Future Perfect (Pass the MIC).” Ni-ki hints at taking more freestyle on stage, noting the band’s encore performance of “Future Perfect” was his personal tour highlight. “We use the handheld microphones for the encore performance,” shares the skilled dancer, the microphone allowing them to relax on the group’s synchronized choreography. “It made it for me and was my favorite show.”
No matter what the show, ENGENEs are sure to enjoy wherever the group’s story is headed, comforting the group and inspiring them to look forward together with excitement.
“If we focus on our albums, concerts and tours, the results will naturally follow,” believes Sunghoon. Jungwon says, “Graphs and rankings are not something we can control, but what we can control is focusing on our performance and giving a lot of happiness and entertainment.” Notably, no one has a funny comment or adds a “shrinkage” to their leader’s last words, perhaps because it is an undeniable sentiment that they all feel comfortable and confidently share with each other.