Just like there are two sides to a coin, there are two sides to ENHYPEN. One is a passionate, blinding brilliance, echoing their exciting, youthful energy. On every release, it slams into your face and leaves one breathless in its intensity and spellbound in the magic.
Lurking underneath all that, however, is a creeping fear – welcome to the aforementioned dark side. Despite their forward march, a spectre clearly follows them, clouding their decisions and shadowing the crystal clarity of their journey.
On the spectacular ‘Drunk-Dazed’ – one of the representative K-pop tracks of summer 2021 – for example, their knife-sharp choreography and hypnotic pop-rock sound did an excellent job of covering up the wickedness of “carnival” that they were “trapped” in, as the lyrics put it. On the successor, “Tamed-Dashed”, this terror was harder to spot, covered as it was in the pristine blues of the sea and the sparkling sunshine of the beach – you almost missed the fact that the mis-en-scene was a proverbial snow-globe.
While duality is one of K-pop’s favourite concepts, it’s more than a surface-level plot device for ENHYPEN. From the moment they debuted, they’ve been candid about how this dichotomy of their lives echoes in their journey from a music survival show to idols.
The seven members of ENHYPEN were introduced to the world on the popular South Korean music reality show, I-Land. Over 12 episodes, 23 trainees battled it out for a chance to debut in a final group – in the end, Jungwon, Heeseung, Jay, Jake, Sunghoon, Sunoo, and Ni-ki emerged as winners.
From the trial of fire that was I-Land to a rollercoaster of a life as idols, ENHYPEN’s music has always put this transition and its subsequent effect on them as artists and people front and centre – on “Given-Taken”, from their debut EP BORDER: DAY ONE, they wonder whether their position in the group was ‘given’ to them or whether they ‘took’ the opportunity when it came.
This pondering has also branched out into an expansive internal battle, where they often reckon with where the person and the artist intersect, and whether there is more of the person or the artist. ‘So, what is it I want? Is this correct? What should I do? What choice do I make? Who am I? And what do I mean when I say “me”?’ as they wonder on “Interlude: Question”, the closing to DIMENSION: DILEMMA.
As of now, they don’t know whether there might an end to this exploration, but the beauty of the journey is that the landscape keeps changing. With each new release, ENHYPEN venture deeper into themselves, uncovering new facets and adding new colours to their artistry. As they say on DIMENSION: ANSWER, there might never be a concrete resolution, but at least they’ll know who they are and what is important to them in the process.
Below, Rolling Stone Australia catches up with ENHYPEN about DIMENSION: ANSWER.
Rolling Stone Australia: DIMENSION: ANSWER is coming after your first studio album. What were some of the lessons that you learned on your first album that you took to ‘Answer’?
Jake: Through our last album, we experienced a lot of growth in terms of choreography. In our last lead single “Tamed-Dashed”, we used different props and a variety of formations, which helped us learn the importance of teamwork.
For our new single “Blessed-Cursed”, we worked even harder to deliver really powerful and perfectly synchronised performances. I think the teamwork that we built truly shines through the preparation of this album.
RS: While talking about DIMENSION: DILEMMA you said that you found yourselves in a dilemma ‘while facing a variety of desires between being an artist as well as being an individual’. Did DILEMMA: ANSWER provide a resolution to that?
Sunoo: While looking for the answers to our ‘dilemma’, we faced the reality of the world. So we set out to not just accept the answer that the world gives us, but we try to find our own answer and our own story. That is what this new album is about. In this album, we haven’t found the answer just yet, but it’s the first step to finding our own answer.
RS: We saw a lot of references to The Matrix in “Blessed-Cursed“, especially the concept of red and blue pills. How do you think this concept reflects what you go through as idols?
Jungwon: We debuted after going through a survival program, and we were given this amazing environment in which to grow in. Obviously, we felt that was a blessing.
In this album, we say some things are ‘curses’ – in reality, they’re not curses per se, but some things that we realised, like how there were certain responsibilities that followed with being an artist. So, we are on our way to looking for our own answers in being artists and as individuals.
RS: How do you guys personally approach finding the answers to your dilemmas, whether personal or professional?
Heeseung: We each have our own ways to deal with our dilemmas, but I think as a team, we practice more. For myself personally, I try not to think too much. I try to work more and just move more.
RS: On “Outro: Day 2“, you said: ’Maybe this won’t amount to much, But I won’t let someone else write for me… This is the real beginning of a world of my own.’ It felt like to me that on this album, you found a new level of confidence.
Jungwon: (laughing) Our members aren’t very outgoing except for maybe Jay. We’re very introverted, but we try really hard to improve our confidence and Sunghoon especially does this, he tries to speak more and talk like he is very confident. So that sort of boosts our confidence overall.
RS: There are a lot of references living in two different worlds in your work. It’s like you’re always switching between sort of like reality and fantasy. If you bring that concept over to real life, one would say that in being idols and yourself, you are also living in two worlds. So how do you keep yourself grounded?
Jungwon: This is difficult.
Jake: I feel like the question you asked is the dilemma. We’re gonna keep facing it throughout the years. I feel like as an artist, that’s the dilemma that you have to solve on your own. Every artist has that: you’re grounded in your own personal life, but as well as just showing the fans what they like. Balancing the two different sides of you is really important, but it’s also really hard. We’re gonna keep trying to get better at doing that. Hopefully!
RS: You guys have talked so extensively about the pressures of debuting and living as idols. Why is it important for you to talk about this dilemma?
Jay: We talk about our feelings and our thoughts and all these things that we experience through the album and what we feel, the dilemmas we face. It’s very important for us to reflect this in our album and our songs in a very authentic manner.
Sunghoon: And we talk a lot about these issues with our company. That’s also how we incorporate that into our album.
RS: What are your personal goals for 2022?
Ni-ki: We started off the new year with a comeback, so I think it’s a very good start. And I hope that in the new year we get to perform overseas in person in front of our fans.