It’s been a massive year for Korean septet ENHYPEN since they debuted in November 2020 after forming on survival reality series I-Land. They’ve released two hit EPs and a Japanese single, won their first music shows, received awards, collectively overcome COVID-19 (Sunoo is the only member not to have gotten the illness), and held their first fan-meet. Now, they’re releasing their first studio album, DIMENSION : DILEMMA, which notched up 600,000 pre-orders in just six days.
The seven members – Jungwon, Heeseung, Jay, Jake, Sunghoon, Sunoo, and Ni-Ki – sat down with MTV Australia to talk through the album, their experiences this year, and what they’re looking forward to in the future.
MTV AUSTRALIA: DIMENSION : DILEMMA is your first studio album. How did the process of preparing for it differ from your previous releases?
JUNGWON: We give it our all for all the albums, but since this is our very first full-length release, we paid even more attention to perfecting every aspect of this album. The tracklist was longer, so we had more to prepare for, but we made sure to get down to the smallest details during our recording and dance practice sessions to bring the album to the next level. We hope our audience sees our growth and maturity that resulted from putting this album together.
Through your music, you aim to tell both your own story as a group while reflecting the story of your peers – how do you strike the right balance?
SUNOO: Since our debut, we’ve expressed our own stories and honest emotions through our music. Our story is based on our experiences, but we think many people can relate to the root of it. Uncertainty at the cusp of a new beginning, feeling dazed at the center of attention in a new environment, facing a dilemma where it’s difficult to make a choice – these are all emotions that we, as well as our peers, can experience in this day and age. Our B-side tracks also cover a wide range of topics, so they not only deliver our story, but also encompass the stories of this generation.
DIMENSION : DILEMMA explores themes of identity, which are crucial to anyone coming-of-age. You are all dealing with this with the added layer of doing so in the spotlight – how do you navigate such a challenge, and the conflicts that may arise?
HEESEUNG: There are moments when I want to show my growth as an artist, but also want to spend some time by myself. I think this dilemma stems from the contrasting situation that we are placed in now compared to before our debut. And, I think our dilemma and concerns are natural, given that we’re simultaneously living the life as artists as well as normal people. Whenever we feel this way, we overcome it by focusing on practicing to improve our music and performances as artists. These thoughts and emotions are deeply embedded into this album.
Lead single “Tamed-Dashed” is about having to choose between conflicting desires. What do you do when faced with difficult choices and uncertainty? Are you someone who just “dashes” forward?
JUNGWON: I tend to wait if there isn’t a definitive answer.
HEESEUNG: I usually rush to make a decision after considering what feels like the right choice.
JAY: I quickly think of a solution and move forward with it.
JAKE: I do my best to think rationally in any situation.
SUNGHOON: I make decisions after considering what I want and what is most efficient.
SUNOO: If I’m placed in a situation where I have to make a choice, I carefully consider the options and move forward with my decision.
NI-KI: I make decisions after carefully gauging the situation.
The music video and choreography for “Tamed-Dashed” utilises rugby/football imagery – why did this feel like the right visual representation for this song?
NI-KI: You experience a dynamic range of emotions such as fun, frustration, and even sadness when playing sports like rugby or football and we thought those array of emotions were similar to the complex emotions you feel when you face a dilemma. We also thought that the sports imagery was fitting to portray the youthful and refreshing feel that we try to express through this album.
Are any of you rugby fans? What was it like incorporating the sport into your work?
JAKE: I personally really enjoyed incorporating elements of rugby in our performance since I played rugby in school while living in Australia. I think it made the choreography very unique and nothing like we’ve seen before. Our teamwork was especially important for this choreography since we even incorporated an actual rugby ball, so we practiced throwing the ball during our breaks to become more comfortable and natural with it on stage. We also tried to put ourselves in the shoes of actual athletes and focus on strategically moving together as one group. It’s overall a very energetic performance, so we hope our energy can be delivered to our audience.
For each of you, what is your favourite song off the album, and why?
JUNGWON: “Just A Little Bit”. It was our first attempt at a ballad, and it really brings out the members’ vocals.
HEESEUNG: “Just A Little Bit”. I think it’s a song that many people can relate to. I was also able to relate to it at a personal level while working on it as well.
JAY: “Attention, please!”. It’s a song that's refreshing and gives off a liberating feeling.
JAKE: “Attention, please!”. It’s different from what we’ve done before, so I think we’re able to show ENGENEs that we’re capable of executing different genres and not limited in any way.
SUNGHOON: “Upper Side Dreamin'”. I like the catchy melody and the way it reminds me of high-rise buildings.
SUNOO: “Upper Side Dreamin'”. It made me feel like I was in the ocean as soon as I heard it.
NI-KI: “Upper Side Dreamin'”. I really liked the catchy melody and the way it makes me groove along to it.
This album explores a variety of genres – do you have any particular faves you enjoy working in, or are there any you haven’t tried that you’d like to?
JUNGWON: I want to try out more acoustic style music which I like.
HEESEUNG: I want to challenge myself with all kinds of genres.
JAY: I would like to try Latin style music.
JAKE: I listened to a lot of Rock/Hip-Hop knowing that our new album incorporated those genres. In particular, I looked up many Rock artists and became keen on the genre.
SUNGHOON: I like the musical style of BTS’ “Butter.” I hope we get the chance to try out music with a retro vibe.
SUNOO: I like to listen to mellow Indie music, so I would like to try it out in the future.
NI-KI: I would like to try out a musical concept that feels hip.
Your previous releases have explored vampiric mythology, but your concepts this time draw on Greek mythology, and particularly the story of Odysseus and the sea monsters he faces. What about this myth appealed to you, and how does it connect with the messages you want to convey?
NI-KI: The main theme of this album is “dilemma,” and we utilised our three concepts – SCYLLA, CHARYBDIS, and ODYSSEUS, and the mythological stories behind them which felt fitting to convey this theme.
You’ve all expressed your desire to grow as songwriters, were you able to contribute on this album?
JAY: We all have had interest in songwriting since we were trainees, and we’re continuing to practice on a regular basis. During the album preparation process, we discuss with our label our ideas in terms of songwriting, lyrics, choreography, and so on. Personally, I was able to contribute to the narration arrangement for “Interlude : Question”, the last track in DIMENSION : DILEMMA, and I felt honoured and proud to find my name in the credits of the song.
You collaborated with Yeonjun from Tomorrow X Together for “Blockbuster”. How did that come about? What was it like working with him?
SUNGHOON: We were so surprised when we first heard the news that we would be collaborating with him. It was exciting to have a collaborating artist for the first time, and that person being a fellow labelmate Yeonjun made it even more exciting. Jay and I visited Yeonjun during his recording session, and he was so focused and dedicated throughout. His featuring brought the track to another level and we’re truly thankful for his support!
You will soon celebrate your first anniversary as a group. How does it feel to be reaching such a milestone? What will you do to celebrate?
JUNGWON: I can’t believe it’s already been a year. I want to celebrate our one year anniversary together with our fans who have been with us throughout this past year.
HEESEUNG: I feel incredibly happy. I hope we can continue to make memories together for two, three years and counting.
JAY: It’s unbelievable that we’re reaching our one year anniversary, and I want to do even better moving forward.
JAKE: I’m thrilled that we can remember our debut date and celebrate every year. I hope we can continue to make special memories with ENGENEs.
SUNGHOON: As so much has happened in the past year, I think it went by really quickly, and I look forward to whatever lies ahead of us. I want to celebrate our anniversary with our ENGENEs.
SUNOO: It still hasn’t hit me yet that a year has gone by already, but looking back I feel proud of myself.
NI-KI: I’ve learned a lot and grown so much in the past year. I want to spend time with ENGENEs to celebrate.
What has been your biggest lesson or moment of growth in the past year?
JUNGWON: What I’ve learned in the past year is that it’s most important to have love and passion towards what I do.
HEESEUNG: I’ve learned that it’s the greatest blessing to be able to focus on what I want to do.
JAY: I feel that I’ve grown when I notice that I’ve become more familiar with our activities as artists.
JAKE: I think my mentality and unwavering confidence show my growth. I’ve learned to enjoy and be thankful for what I do.
SUNGHOON: The more we experience, the more our skills improve.
SUNOO: In the past year, I’ve learned to give my all every day, and I feel like my mentality has matured.
NI-KI: We explore a variety of genres with every album, so I think my skills have improved significantly.
What has changed the most over the past year, as individuals and as a group? What’s something that hasn’t changed?
JUNGWON: I think I've become more natural in front of the camera, and I think our chemistry as a group has improved significantly.
HEESEUNG: I don’t think I’ve changed, but I think as a group we’ve grown closer to each other.
JAY: I think as an individual and as a group we’ve matured, but our passion remains the same.
JAKE: Personally, I’m slowly learning the mindset of being an artist. As a group, we’re learning to depend on each other more and share our burdens. My excitement, nervousness, and desire to do well on stage remain unchanged.
SUNGHOON: I was afraid whenever I was trying something for the first time, but I’ve gained the confidence to believe in myself. As a group, I think we’ve become more professional. ENHYPEN’s passion for the stage is unwavering.
SUNOO: My mentality has matured, and I think our recognition as a group has increased. If something hasn’t changed, it’s my bright and happy self.
NI-KI: I think my personal skills, as well as our teamwork as a group, have improved. Something that hasn’t changed in the past year are my goals.
In September, six out of seven of you experienced COVID-19 first-hand – how are you all doing now? What was it like to go through that as a group?
JAKE: We’re fully recovered and doing great. We just couldn’t stop thinking about ENGENEs and felt sorry that we had caused concern. Their kind words of love and support were a huge source of energy for us, which motivated us to think about our new album and focus on our comeback. We’re glad to finally give back to our fans who patiently waited for us.
What is your biggest goal moving forward as artists?
JUNGWON: We’re close to the first anniversary of our debut, and looking back at the achievements we’ve made so far with our ENGENEs really motivates us to work harder. Continuing to receive good chart results and acknowledgment for our work would be amazing, but most importantly we want to keep connected with our listeners and show our endless possibilities as artists. As a group that aims to be the destination for K-pop fans around the world, we also hope our music can be witnessed by not only ENGENEs, but also a wider audience. But most of all, as a group that debuted during the pandemic era, our biggest goal as of now is to perform for ENGENEs in person so that we can give back to them for the achievements we’ve made together.
Finally, what’s one word each of you would use to describe 2021?
JUNGWON: The beginning.
SUNOO: Rainbow. (After the storm.)
Words and interview by Jenna Guillaume, an entertainment journalist and author of YA rom-coms What I Like About Me and You Were Made For Me. Follow her at @jennaguillaume.