As in his debut interview, SUNGHOON was relaxed as he softly spoke about himself. What was different this time was the way he spoke in a somewhat excited voice about his own personal changes.
You must have a lot of friends to work out with now.
SUNGHOON: I used to work out by myself but I have a lot of friends to exercise with now. (laughs) I usually work out with my personal trainer or the other members but I became closer with the members of TOMORROW X TOGETHER while we were doing the collaborative performance together so now I exercise with them as well. It's easy to lose the will to keep going when you work out alone since you can’t find the energy but it’s more fun when we do it together and we end up working harder.
It can’t be easy to keep a consistent exercise schedule with how busy you are.
SUNGHOON: I guess I have a goal: to be really in shape. Because if you clearly don’t look too skinny and your body’s well-defined, your outfit looks more sleek on you, and you have to be healthy to work really hard. I work out whenever I get the time to and I’m trying to take vitamins regularly, too.
Are you still eating steak these days? (laughs) I heard the other members are getting tired of it, but it seems like once you’re into something you stick to it.
SUNGHOON: I just had it yesterday. (laughs) I can’t understand how anyone can get tired of steak. With something like songs, too, when I’m into one, I always play it first when I’m listening to music. But I’m trying to move a little bit away from that sort of habit lately.
SUNGHOON: Action used to be the only genre I liked, so I didn’t watch a wide variety of movies. But I’ve been watching new things lately, like The Great Gatsby and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I find it’s important that you experience a variety of media to develop an eye for it. I’m looking for something that will stir up my emotions in particular.
You don’t seem very sentimental judging by the MBTI review you did on V LIVE. Are you specifically trying out something new?
SUNGHOON: That’s about right, I think. I’ve been looking up things related to MBTI lately, actually. I like the way I come across now, but I think I can achieve my ideal image if I add some different aspects to myself as well. For example, I think it’d be easier if I could make decisions on the fly just from whatever comes to mind without preplanning anything. And this is something I started to feel from being in the world of entertainment, but I think I need to come off as sort of bubbly and boisterous. I think ENGENE would like it if they could see me be firm now and then in addition to my tendency to think things through carefully.
Maybe you’re so determined to show a new side of yourself that you actually end up changing.
SUNGHOON: Right. I used to always do the same things and found it a little difficult to try anything new, but lately I’m trying to just jump right in. Like today—doing the photoshoot, wearing so many accessories like this and getting all dressed up—is pretty much a first for me. I haven’t done anything in this style much so I was worried what would happen if it didn’t suit me, but I think the photos look pretty cool, so it’s all good.
It must’ve been a nice change of pace playing with models and taking dynamic shots for the NO version of the concept photos for the repackaged album.
SUNGHOON: That style was slightly challenging since it was different from what we normally do. I never did a photoshoot with model buildings before, so it took a bit of time to get comfortable, but I tried to follow the director’s directions and look chic and rebellious for the theme.
You seem to be getting better at expressing yourself in photographs. Did you pick up some tips?
SUNGHOON: I usually go with my gut instinct, but I’m always thinking about how to pose and angle my head to make myself look cool while I’m doing it. But I have this habit of always doing what I’m familiar with, and when I just end up doing the same thing there actually aren’t any good shots a lot of the time, so I think the most important thing is to be daring and not get trapped in a box. Sometimes I’m worried that what I come up with in my mind isn’t very good, and sometimes I feel shy and can’t do it, but I’m trying to ignore those things and just do it.
I feel like the lead single, “Blessed-Cursed,” is a chance to try being daring since it’s powerful and cynical at the same time. Your voice is fairly soft, so how did you approach the song’s rock sound?
SUNGHOON: I got into the mood of the song by picturing myself defying my parents and rebelling against the world. So when I sing the song, I try to sound less airy and make my voice a lot more gravelly. I thought it would be good if my voice was bolder than normal, so I’ve been practicing singing with the lower part of my voice a lot.
The performance uses a lot of elements of hip hop, which you’re into. The whole dance requires a lot of energy overall, so you need to be physically fit to pull it off.
SUNGHOON: It’s really exhausting. (laughs) There’s no downtime and there’s a lot of downward movements so it’s kind of hard on the legs, too. There’s no option but to practice, really. I wanted to make the dance look cool. There’s a lot of cool moves, like kicks and things like putting up your guard before a fight. I usually focus on making my dances look elegant thanks to my influences from ballet and contemporary dance, so it’s nice to have a chance to use hip hop like this and dance in a sort of different style. Because I think then I’ll be able to show a different side of myself to ENGENE.
What did you do to try and put your own spin on the performance when you all have to dance perfectly in sync?
SUNGHOON: I was trying to strike a balance between a clean dance that would make for good photos no matter which move I’m doing when they’re taken and going hard when the dance called for it. The goal during the hook in particular is to get peoples’ eyes on me and really make an impact.
Given how well you’ve come to understand your body, did it feel any different covering BTS’s song “FIRE” again on KBS Song Festival after you did it once before on I-LAND?
SUNGHOON: I was thinking I better show how much I’ve grown because people would compare it to back then, but I actually practiced like I was testing myself rather than for what I was going to show to others. That way, when I watched in the mirror, I could see I was way better than I was back then. I guess I did better with it than before. (laughs)
I guess you must have learned a lot about performing from covering such notable songs by artists from previous generations.
SUNGHOON: That was my first time dancing to “Growl.” You really have to get into the beat and it’s full of highlights. I found out it’s really fun to do that style of dance and that it suits me. I had to analyze the performance properly to take it in and find dance styles that suit me as well, so I followed along to EXO’s video a lot and tried to focus on keeping the feeling of the original. It feels like the foundation of the dances for those songs from earlier generations is all about the basics, and I think doing the dances helped me to go over those basics one more, too.
Didn’t it feel weird entering to the intro of “Come Back to Me” by SE7EN on Heelys?
SUNGHOON: They definitely felt different from the inline skates I wore last year. But the foundation’s similar to figure skating, so I already got a feel for it after a few hours of practice. My goal was to keep SE7EN’s style while putting more of a pretty boy spin on it, and I worked hard to emulate old-school gestures like this (reaching out and twirling finger) to try and keep as true as possible to the style of the era.
Your experience with figure skating really helps a lot in your performances. You showed off some freestyle figure skating on EN-O’CLOCK not too long ago. And you pulled off some amazing tricks. (laughs)
SUNGHOON: That was all impromptu, so I honestly just did, you know, whatever came to mind. (laughs) But the other members and the staff told me it looked really cool so I felt sort of proud. (laughs) I didn’t even show off half my tricks, but I thought it’d be nice to show off some techniques other than just skating around so I just gave it a whirl. (laughs) It wasn’t like before, doing it practically every day like it’s a job. It was way more fun getting out there and enjoying myself on the skates for the first time in a long time. And it was wild using our music as the background music.
That reminds me of a line from an encouraging post left by a figure skating fan, saying, “Seeing SUNGHOON smile when he was a skater and out on the rink was a rare occurrence.”
SUNGHOON: Oh, I think I saw that, too. I don’t know if it’s because I was going through puberty or what, but for some reason it was hard to laugh back then. I didn’t have many friends my age, so I didn’t laugh or chitchat much, either. I had to at least smile when I was on stage, though. (laughs) But ever since becoming an idol, I’m no longer alone—I’m with the other members, so I look more relaxed and it’s easy to smile on stage, too.
But now you don’t just smile a lot but you’re called the “master of facial expressions.”
SUNGHOON: I think I have I-LAND to thank for that, since I had to break out of my shell and show a new side of myself every time there was a test. So even when I thought I couldn’t do it, somehow, I would push through it—I acted my way through and slowly improved that way. I feel awkward watching videos from that time but it makes me feel I’ve grown a lot.
It’s a big change for you to be the host of Music Bank as well. How did you feel when you first started?
SUNGHOON: First off, I figured ENGENE would love it because they could keep seeing me during our hiatus, and I also wanted to do it because I thought it would help me speak more eloquently and benefit my personality. I feel nervous whenever I’m on a live show and feel pressured to do it without making any mistakes but I still think I’m a lot more used to it now than I was at first. I practice the script a lot since I find it hard looking at cue cards and not a teleprompter, and I make an effort watching videos of how other hosts do it, but I think I have to just get out there and actually do it to get better. So I’m trying to correct my issues one by one when I go out every week.
You must’ve been nervous talking with all your coworkers and the staff, too, seeing that you’re shy.
SUNGHOON: That part’s still hard, actually, but I think it’ll get better as I go along.
You summon up the courage to face things even when they’re difficult. I was impressed by the way you danced to “Rollin’” at the KBS Entertainment Awards yesterday. (laughs)
SUNGHOON: Ah, I felt so shy. (laughs) It was a little scary the way they suddenly told me to dance and the camera just slid right in (laughs) but I think it would’ve been better if I danced confidently and showed off my skills. I was being too shy when I danced. (laughs)
But you were so eloquent in your acceptance speech for the best couple award. (laughs)
SUNGHOON: Really? To be honest, I was really nervous being right next to people I’ve only ever seen on the screen, since it wasn’t a music awards show, so I purposely tried to look into the camera and not look down. (laughs) I was wishing the other members were with me at that moment, so I talked about them and ENGENE since I missed them all. Still, I felt really proud to be “ENHYPEN’s SUNGHOON” when I got the award.
I’m rooting for you to have new experiences and take on new challenges. It shows how you’re changing over time.
SUNGHOON: It used to be I felt a bit scared and couldn’t do it, but lately I actually kind of want to. I want to try something new on variety shows and I want to try a lot of new styles. Even now there’s times when I’m hesitant, but I don’t really have too many experiences where I tried something new and failed, plus I became a lot more confident trying one thing after another. And I feel my mind’s more relaxed. I think I actually change automatically when we’re promoting like this. Same for anyone with my MBTI. (laughs)
I imagine the members have been a big influence as well. Lots of times you’re really sneaky when you’re with them. (laughs)
SUNGHOON: I think my personal brand of humor is being shameless. (laughs) Honestly, if I were on a different show I probably wouldn’t be able to do it, but I’m comfortable with the other members, so I can. I’ve gotten to know each and every one of them better because we’re always together and now I think I can feel everything we have between us.
It used to be your goal to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics, but you’ve got new dreams now, working with the other members of ENHYPEN.
SUNGHOON: I actually still have a lot I have to work on. There’s lots of times I’m not quite satisfied with myself, and I see a lot of places I can improve when I compare myself to more established artists. On the other hand, it means I have a lot of room to grow in the future, so that’s nice, at least. I think performance skills like singing, dancing and emoting are especially important, and I want to work on those as one combined skillset, because I feel like, if I can look cool on stage, I’ll automatically do better with things like photoshoots and hosting. And they say you improve in general when you do concerts, so I really want to do one.
You must have felt that even more strongly when you saw your fans this year at the fan meeting concerts and awards ceremonies.
SUNGHOON: Just being with ENGENE makes me so happy and excited that I go overboard when I dance. I was really touched that ENGENE had a special event planned for us at the fan meeting. It made me feel closer to them. Actually, every once in a while I don’t know what to do when I meet fans because I haven’t been able to meet them much, but I think that’ll get better with time, too.
You’ve had a lot of different experiences this year, and grown up in many different ways because of them.
SUNGHOON: I’ve seen and felt so many things from all those experiences. I think I’m a little more mature now, too, thanks to them. I was often shy before and was kind of a baby. So I want to show people a cooler and more refined version of me with this new album. I’m expecting to do even better with all the growing I’ve done.