Credit
Article. Kang Myungseok, Kim Sooyun, Kim Minkyoung
Design. Jeon Yurim

I stand up to the world

Myungseok Kang: In the performance of “Future Perfect (Pass the MIC),” the lead single off ENHYPEN’s new album MANIFESTO : DAY 1, the hook—which starts with the words “Walk the line” and ends with, “You stay?”—plays a total of three times: in the introduction, before the second verse and again at the end of the song. The members of the group start the song off at the back rear of the stage, then divide into three groups—two, three and two—on the second and third repetitions of the hook, using the full width of the stage, and finally come all together at the end to form one long line side to side as they run out toward the audience. Even with the same melody and same rap flow, the second part of the song uses more of the stage to show off even bigger, more intense dancing. When JUNGWON opens the song, the other members dance in place, their arm movements restricted and their feet together, while during SUNGHOON’s part that comes soon after they all split up and extend their arms as they dance.

 

As with the prechorus (from, “I wanna stand on my own feet,” to, “You and I, you and I will have become us”), even the later parts of “Future Perfect” where the melody and beat are repeated almost verbatim from earlier parts of the song feature more powerful vocals and instrumentation. The bass lightly nudges the song along despite the repetitive beat, subtly but unmistakably elevating and expanding the track. The visuals of the choreography more dramatically reflect the changes and in more minute detail. The most awe-inspiring moments of the performance are those where the members sit together all at once in a small circle or where they slowly and subtly bring change to the song by gradually bringing in their arms and legs without moving from their spot. Thanks to these carefully thought out and executed movements, “Future Perfect (Pass the MIC)” replaces the usual tension of drill music with catharsis on the stage. And this is likely part of the future of K-pop.

 

The biggest change to the music behind the slow, weighty, ever-expanding performance for “Future Perfect” comes during the chorus. In place of the song’s earlier, ominous riff, the chorus introduces one closer to a trumpet signaling the start of war. This change is made plain in lyrics like, “I realized / We ran together,” and, “Put your hands up”: It’s an awakening. This awakening, and the major change it sets in motion, makes for even more intense energy because of the slow but inexorable  process of change—an energy where, for the first time, ENHYPEN, who had been defined by the passive tag “given & tamed” (a combination of their songs “Given-Taken” and “Tamed-Dashed”) and even “swept up” until the chorus, are now trying to take active control. In “Future Past,” the actual words that ENHYPEN declare in their manifesto are second to the steps they have taken to get to the point that they’re able to make a declaration at all. It may be a slow process, but they vigilantly arrive at self-awareness and finally reach the ability to use the active voice.

 

“ParadoXXX Invasion,” the next track on the album, is full of the same kind of energy BTS channeled in some of their earlier music like “Boyz with Fun” or “Attack on Bangtan.” They throw shade at older generations (“‘back in the days,’ throw it away”) and show a readiness to take on the world (“We are free / Illogic is logic”). While ENHYPEN’s previous dance hits, like “FEVER” and “Go Big or Go Home,” showed an unusually cynical attitude toward the world and anxieties surrounding love, “ParadoXXX Invasion” rushes forward without hesitation. Getting to this level took admitting what they were like before that realization in “WALK THE LINE” (“But it eventually caught up with me / bound me, knocked me down, / and forced me to walk along it like running in a wheel”) and then making a declaration (“Future Perfect”). Work on MANIFESTO : DAY 1 started by reflecting on the group’s thoughts and feelings following the success of the platinum-seller DIMENSION: DILEMMA. ENHYPEN made their debut through an audition program, and the continuous rise in album sales proved their popularity. Ironically, it took until their fifth album before they realized what they wanted to say to the world. This is the moment their relationship with the world changes. The vocals that mark the start of the song “TFW (That Feeling When)” are clear and dominant, but as instruments are introduced, those vocals gradually become indistinct as they get swept into the background. When you realize what attitude you hold toward the world, you’re finally able to feel the joys it’s able to offer you. ENHYPEN used to cautiously distance themselves from love in what sounded like sweet songs like “Polaroid Love,” but here, they feel the “melancholy summer sea” and “sunset-tinted wind,” accepting their feelings without hesitation (“I want to give you this funny feeling”). The next track on the album, “SHOUT OUT,” is another pledge to “shout out” into the world, but not a dark, heavy or complicated one. Moving beyond their anxiety surrounding competition, their cynical view of the world and their attitude to keep within the limits set for them, ENHYPEN now make clear their intention to see others and the world around them from their own perspective. Declaring the intention to tell their story through song may sound high-flown, but the first day of a new era has begun. Though the competition and anxiety may persist, DAY 1—a day when they say what they want to the world rather than follow it—has come.

The borderline of youth

Sooyun Kim: Every ending represents a turning point and leads to the beginning of a new journey. Two words jump out prominently from ENHYPEN’s 2022 logo trailer: “END HYPEN.” The phrase foretells in no uncertain terms that the group is through with the confused meandering of their hyphenated era and will move instead toward a new beginning. From the BORDER series in their early days to DIMENSION: ANSWER, their most recent album, ENHYPEN was crossing a border into a dilemma in search of answers. The hyphen—a symbol of the group identity, and which up until now had been featured in the title of every lead single (“Given-Taken,” “Drunk-Dazed,” “Tamed-Dashed,” “Blessed-Cursed”)—is nowhere to be found on their new album. As its title, MANIFESTO : DAY 1, suggests, the album is the first act of a declaration to draw their own lines and not be limited by any boundaries set by the world around them.

 

A line is a double-edged sword: as soon as you draw it, a boundary dividing your side from the others’ is set down, but at the same time, it can foster a sense of unity among those grouped on the same shared side. For ENHYPEN, that line was once a source of confusion and conflict, and a nightmare forever chasing them. But, having agonized over and grown up inside the boundaries it provided, the boys took what was once a source of evil to them and expanded its meaning to encompass something that connects, rather than traps, them. “WALK THE LINE” is meant to serve as a manifesto that strikes through the song of the same name off their debut album. In it, ENHYPEN declares, “Erase the lines that cage me,” and, “Draw a new line, my own path.” On “ParadoXXX Invasion,” they express their determination to break free of convention (“The world drew the line / I’m wrecking it”), building up the will to challenge it (“Crash into it again and again”), and they show their adventurous spirit, striving for change, on “SHOUT OUT” (“shake the world together”). ENHYPEN faced a turning point, after which they grow up and are able to act according to their own will and passion, singing a story of solidarity: “I who walked along the line, am now drawing the line … and within that world … We will connect all of us.” In “Future Perfect (Pass the MIC),” the group “bring out my real voice” to independently lead their generation to their vision of the future of youth. The latter half of the album sees the group seeking to share all of their emotions (“TFW (That Feeling When)”) and, confident in the future they’ll have together, ask others “to follow me along my path” into their world (“Foreshadow”). It’s the beginning of a journey where two people come together as a team.

 

Pain and joy, desire and discord, blessings and curses: To date, ENHYPEN has found answers through endless wandering and soul-searching, coming up against countless boundaries where different thoughts crisscross and clash. Their period of transition is now over, and what was once a time of anxieties has now become a self-defining turning point. From here on out, the winding road ENHYPEN takes will be of their will and conviction as they turn away from living life on a straight and narrow street. And here they depict another form of solidarity: one that crosses borders and leads to a link—one that says it’s dangerous to go alone and to stick together instead. Now the hyphen, which had at once been a binding border around the boys and a dimension of contradiction, has become a ladder leading them to a new world. Their voice resonates there and is the beacon guiding the way to listeners of their generation who need to draw lines of their own as well as the voice cheering those listeners on with deep sincerity. ENHYPEN now asks a critical question of young people teetering on a precarious border as the group passes them the microphone: Will you join us on our journey, or will “you stay still?”

Into lawless time and space

Minkyoung Kim: The D, J and M versions of the visual concept teaser photos for ENHYPEN’s new album, MANIFESTO : DAY 1, reflect the way the boys are now moving forward with a language all their own. Waking up and not knowing whether it’s night or day, identity crisis at sunset, facing “Day 2” with no outside help: After a period of anguish, the seven boys have filled the universe with their dazzling colors and broken free of the black-and-white paradigm that held them down (“END HYPHEN”). ENHYPEN’s teasers had previously always been fantasy-like images, such as a luxurious dinner scene, a room decorated with a golden chandelier, frolicking on a sandy beach at sunset or a dreamy meadow, thick with fog, as they fly paper airplanes. MANIFESTO : DAY 1, however, is rife with a sense of ENHYPEN’s personal agency—a reality where, though unhappiness casts a pall over it, they (M) can fight back against the world (J) and succeed (D). 

 

The D version, the first to be released, shows ENHYPEN opening a new world as they “stand on my feet” in a line like the one drawn by the flying bird in the “WALK THE LINE” lyric video. In the new concept film, in contrast to the old “days of being chased,” ENHYPEN doesn’t hesitate to run into dark spaces, leaving footprints behind them and spray-painting a line through the word “REAL.” In the same way they come to accept the topsy-turvy, once unfamiliar world as a part of themselves, their jewel-encrusted fangs in the concept photos represent the confidence they find after seeking an answer to the question of whether they should “go big or go home.” ENHYPEN take the personal territory they staked out with smoke bombs in the D version and expand it into the real world in the M version, dribbling a basketball as they work their way through a crowd of people dressed in black or casually stand in their way to break up the “outdated logic” of the older generation. In line with the bold, fearless attitude of the lyrics to “ParadoXXX Invasion” (“My new thang that’ll shut you up … It’s more dope than the real world”), ENHYPEN once again reveals the determination they previously exhibited in “Blessed-Cursed” (“I’m making my own history”) but with less tension than before. While the D and M versions of the concept trailer focused on ENHYPEN proving themselves in the chaotic space between two worlds, the J version shows the group as the voice of a generation. Though the members spend their time in everyday places that anyone their age would, like convenience stores and gyms, once they come out, they come face to face with endless cameras, just like when they first broke out of the egg. In their previous chapters, BORDER and DIMENSION, ENHYPEN underwent the kind of changes that their generation experiences and showed the gap between reality and idealism. Now, the group grabs hold of the microphone and shouts out, “Let’s go to our world” together (“Foreshadow”).

 

From their first steps on the BORDER, to their encounter with a vaster DIMENSION, and now with their MANIFESTO to face a brighter tomorrow, ENHYPEN has constantly been up against tasks asked of them by the world ever since their debut. The world places young people into fierce competition, demanding they prove their worth. ENHYPEN have faced similar situations themselves: On their albums, they had to endure the restrictions thrust upon them during the turbulent transition from boyhood to adulthood; in real life, they had to prove themselves through an audition program on TV. On their latest album, however, the group confidently declares, “Kill the past / Just get lost,” with all the defiance and rebellion of the new generation, and stirs up emotions by singing, “I’ll pass the mic.” When it’s time to bring DAY 1 to a close, it will bring about an end to nights saddled with unanswerable questions, and all that will remain will be the faith—faith that they will eventually spread a new light—of those positioned to sprint forward through life. And that’s even though the change that comes about when the puzzle is complete may seem daunting, and even though where we’re going it’s pitch-black. ENHYPEN used to chase after an unforeseeable future but has finally corrected their course and found their way forward. All they had to do was shout out.