Neither the tone nor volume of MINGYU’s voice changed much throughout the interview. The little variation that arose as he conveyed with his voice each and every word with their own pronunciations created its own rhythm. Just like the way he lives his life.
You kicked off your comeback with the single “Bittersweet,” which you did with fellow hip hop unit member WONWOO. How did you like performing a duet together?
MINGYU: It was hard to make a song work with two people, but it was fun. We didn’t have to specifically decide who would sing which part; it all came together naturally. Our voices are more different than I thought. And our expressions give off different vibes in the music video. Plus WONWOO always dressed semiformal while I wore something casual. When I saw the finished video, I thought I somehow ended up looking a little pitiful. (laughs)
The other members were teasing you in the “Bittersweet” reaction video, saying you were rejected by your crush. (laughs)
MINGYU: Well, the song’s about the relationship between love and friendship. The ending’s not clear, but it seems a little bit like I was growing apart from the person they both like (laughs) so it was fun. I wanted people to see it as being open-ended.
Even the song doesn’t end clearly, going out on a quiet note but without any clear ending.
MINGYU: Right. I wanted it to keep it really open-ended and end on the question, What can we do about feeling sad? We could’ve packed more story into the music video if we used more of the footage, but the director left the ending ambiguous.
Instead of rapping, you sang a song full of mixed-up emotions. What did you concentrate on while making the song?
MINGYU: We both agreed we wanted to sing this time instead of rap. So with that in mind, we wanted to make this one feel totally different. I could feel a big difference on where I had to pull back and where I had to put more power into it in order to tell the song’s story. It was interesting taking the time to study how I could better express myself with my voice while singing one whole song.
I feel like your uniquely coarse singing voice adds something special to SEVENTEEN.
MINGYU: That’s just the voice that’s most comfortable for me. I stressed out a bit when I tried it out for the first time because I thought my throat might get sore and then my voice might sound crackly. But once I got more used to it, I realized it might actually help add something special to our vocals, and now I’m really into singing.
But you also burst out with a rap in “GAM3 BO1,” and it’s in a style we haven’t heard from you much.
MINGYU: So when it came to “GAM3 BO1,” it was more about what to say than how to rap since I’m not into games very much. WONWOO did the hook because he likes games the most out of any of us, so it suited him well. VERNON doesn’t really like games much either, so he wrote about what people are like today. That left me and Coups, but he actually likes games. I don’t know anything about games, but I thought there’d probably be an issue if I wrote lyrics pretending like I do, so I tried to write them according to what I know. I thought a lot about which expressions I should use that would sound the most natural if I wrote out acronyms like we used to do on old instant messengers when we were younger.
You sound intense when you rap that part, but it’s fun that you’re rapping about the way life used to be. Maybe you’re the type who has to think through even the tiniest details of your everyday life.
MINGYU: I guess I’m the kind of person who has to think things over. If you don’t pause, you miss everything. I developed a habit of repeatedly organizing things that zip by but it’s also something I inherited from my dad. My dad says, “MINGYU, you have to do it this way,” and then five minutes later, he calls again and explains: “MINGYU, simply put, it’s like this.” (laughs) After I have a meeting with the members, I reflect on it and send a message like, “First we did this at the meeting, next we decided to do this, third we came to this conclusion. To be discussed further.” I have to keep track of things that move by quickly like that.
Would you say the music video for SEVENTEEN’s song “Snap Shoot” is a kind of way of taking stock as well? The video is like a collection of the most important moments from everything you shot.
MINGYU: Right. When it comes to video, you can just make a quick three-minute one whenever you feel like it. If you finish filming something and you’re not completely happy with it, you just edit it. I think it was a good choice for me for a hobby, since it aligns with my personality.
I thought the scenes where you made each member stand in front of a different background captured everyone’s personality well. Was that another way for you to think things through? Maybe a collection of things that you wanted to pull out from each member?
MINGYU: I think that was just instinct. I didn’t choose any of the locations for “Snap Shoot” based on the members’ images; I just called over whoever came to mind once I got to each one. Coups wouldn’t want to shoot in the grass, for example, but one of the members would think it’s pretty if I took them over to the grass to shoot. I know them better than anyone, so it’s also easier than with anyone else. And I think, once we’re done shooting and I show it to them on the monitor, they’re going to say, Wow, nice! There’s a lot to show since there’s 13 of us. When we make a music video, even if every member gets just 10 seconds each, the song is finished. But choosing the right 10 seconds is really important.
So that’s why you ended up as editor for the magazine GOING—because you know how to choose each member’s 10 seconds.
MINGYU: Exactly. When I was shooting I asked the producer to do this—you know, whenever you take a photo, it comes up on the monitor, right? But if I just show the photos without making any changes, the other members don’t find it very appealing. So I told the producer they should use the same filter they use when choosing the best picture, to make it look more like the final product. And then the members say, Wow! I have it set up so the photos look flashy and bright as soon as I take them. That way, they appeal to all of the members.
You’ve really got your knowledge on the members arranged nice and neat for the members.
MINGYU: I’m sure the same goes for all of them. There’s a point in every practice where it gets tiring and we naturally end up feeling defensive, so I just smile and say, Hey, we’re five minutes away from having a fight; let’s take a break. Now we know how to handle ourselves when we’re five minutes away from a fight.
How did you come to know that?
MINGYU: It was easier to let go than I expected. I can’t adapt myself to someone else’s feelings 100%, and they won’t be able to understand mine 100%, and anyway, it doesn’t make sense to even try to close the gap that way. Once I realized that, I learned to just let things go, which in turn helped me to respect other people’s decisions. And once I give them respect, there’s no problem. I heard a good expression the other day: patience is not a virtue. If you need to have patience about some opinion, that patience comes from not having a 100% understanding. If you truly respect something, you don’t need to be patient. That’s what I think. Hopefully there won’t be too many things I have to be patient with in most situations.
Usually when people say they hope they don’t have to put up with too much, what they really mean is they’re going to do whatever they want, but you understand that it’s not really possible for people to completely understand your views from within their own world.
MINGYU: I think I only have the thing I’m talking about with the SEVENTEEN members. That emotion and sentiment are only possible because we’re on the same team. The other members have been like family to me ever since we debuted. Just because you fight with family doesn’t mean you never talk to them again. Even though I fought with my mom a ton of times (laughs) she’s still the most important person in my life. And my relationship with the other members is just like with family: we respect all of each other’s choices and feelings, and when we have something upsetting to say, we say it.
What did you have to go through before you reached that kind of respect and understanding?
MINGYU: I think you have to know to respect everyone and make time for that respect. The 13 of us lived together in one small home when we were younger, so sometimes we fought a lot. But we learned to understand each other more as we grew up, and we all ended up with more alone time as our home got bigger, which I think that had a positive impact.
That reminds me of the vlog you put out after the release of “Bittersweet” where you were furnishing your home.
MINGYU: It’s hard to shoot anything outside right now with everything going on, so I recorded us decorating our home instead.
I was impressed by all the empty space you had around your bed in the vlog. I found the tastes of a person who chooses a simple bed and arranges their bed such that the space around it is totally empty curious.
MINGYU: The bed’s still like that, and the rest of the room was already finished, too. I kept the bed frame simple—I bought one that only has space for a mattress and nothing else.
Why do you like that style?
MINGYU: I think I would feel overwhelmed if I come home to something too flashy after a day out and about. When I get home, I just want to lie on my bed without a care in the world.
If that’s so, you must have to keep your home as sparse as possible, and only get things when you need them. But then you’d have a hard time deciding every time you had to do that.
MINGYU: I think I just get stuff I need whenever it’s needed. For now I’ll start with decorating my home as minimalistic as possible. It took a long time to decorate my living space the way I wanted it.If I feel like it’s too dark one day while I’m sleeping or there’s some kind of light I want, I’ll buy it then. There aren’t too many times in my everyday life where I’m 100% in control of what I can choose. We have to be understanding and considerate of one another, after all. But in my personal space, the choices are 100% mine to make and reflect my feelings alone.
You brought a robe with you went you went on a retreat in one of the “TTT” episodes of GOING SEVENTEEN. It seemed like you’re certain about what you like, even for when you sleep.
MINGYU: I want to maximize the feelings I get in certain moments. I need the feeling I get in the moment when I eat good food to be the happiest moment I can experience. I love it when I can set up the right environment for that to happen. When I slept with that robe in “TTT,” I felt more complete. You have to do it that way if you want to immerse yourself and make it memorable.
You manage to make the moments you want. Is that because you want to draw a line between your work and your life at home?
MINGYU: So I don’t even turn the lights on when I’m home. I’ll leave one light on, or when I’m in bed I usually light just one candle. I think I instinctively think of outside activities as being overly complicated. I need time to calm down and make myself whole after I get home.
You must experience a moment of happiness when you walk into your home and you’re alone.
MINGYU: Yes, I do. When I’m home, I feel very safe surrounded by everything I arranged just the way I left them.
What kind of life are you trying to lead by living that way?
MINGYU: I want to make every moment of my life more meaningful. I want to be able to feel the importance of the moment more when we do concerts, and when it’s over, I want to show the crew more appreciation. That’s how to make it more memorable. Otherwise all those precious moments will just come and go—but I want to hold onto them.
How does that compare to the past? A video came out revisiting SEVENTEEN’s early days just before your comeback.
MINGYU: I cry a little when I think back to that time. Sometimes when I want to cry I watch a video from our debut. If you look at us back then, our dreams were absurd. It was only a week after we debuted and we’re saying we’ll become world-famous singers. I still want to talk about my unattainable dreams like we did back then, but my thoughts are focused on everyone staying healthy and us staying together for a long, long time. I even feel a little sad that our dream came true.
That reminds me of the movie Soul—finding your life’s spark when your dream has already become a reality.
MINGYU: Even though I achieved my dream, I want to keep my spark shining. I want to have a bigger dream, but I keep thinking about reality, which makes me feel bad. Probably because we can’t hold a concert due to the current situation. The whole reason I want to be an idol is to hear CARAT screaming for us. As a singer I want to perform in bigger and bigger venues, but at this point any venue would do.
Where do you find the strength to keep practicing despite your worries?
MINGYU: From the other members. I might wander if I were alone, but the members are my life spark. When I’m with them, it’s like we’re burning bright together. And sometimes someone will take the role of the log to keep the fire burning.
What dream do you want to aim for with the other members?
MINGYU: I’m sure everyone has their own individual dreams. As a team, we still have that pure desire to become the best in the world. Although, if I’m being realistic, I’d say, I hope nobody gets hurt. (laughs) Sometimes it can be exhausting when there’s so much to do with the others, but deep down, I always feel the same. It’s not going to work out [for us], then? No, of course it will.
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