Everything, everywhere is full of passion. It’s cheerful. Friendly. This is YEONJUN’s world.

You brought a book of poetry for the gift exchange you held with the other members for your holiday Weverse Live.

YEONJUN: I’m not a heavy reader but I got inspired after seeing some nice quotes and poems on social media. And I thought it would be nice to show them to those who are having a hard time around me. I think I’m good at using wordplay in my lyrics but not so much at incorporating my emotions, so I thought poetry books might help.

The lyrics you wrote for the track “Farewell, Neverland” off the latest album are sentimental.

YEONJUN: And yet it wasn’t particularly difficult. I always watch a lot of movies and have a good imagination. My MBTI has N, after all. (laughs) I’ve had a rich imagination ever since I was young so I used to imagine myself as a movie character and act like one. I wrote the lyrics to “Farewell, Neverland” by picturing myself as one of the boys who wants to play with Peter Pan. They don’t want to grow up but they have no choice but to leave Neverland if they’re going to keep developing and moving forward. I wrote it from the perspective of resisting Peter Pan’s temptation.

Conversely, the lead single “Sugar Rush Ride” and the song “Devil by the Window” explore what temptation and giving into it looks like. I’d say you tried recording with some new vocal styles that you never used before.

YEONJUN: You know, if you’re tempting someone you don’t just say, (dryly) “Come here.” You have to say it in a sly and sexy voice. (laughs) So I went over the top for some parts, abandoning my normal self and getting into the role of the devil, then for other parts I really exaggerated my vocals and tried to make the expressions as strong as possible.

What was it like writing lyrics for “Happy Fools” (feat. Coi Leray)? I was curious to see if there would be a moment you give into temptation, seeing as you’re usually so hardworking.
YEONJUN: I really sympathize with the idea of wanting to have fun, so I kept that in mind while writing the lyrics. But, to be honest, even when I’ve had a hard time, the worst it ever gets is I can’t concentrate quite as well or I practice a little less. I never once completely gave up on anything.

So you’re saying you’ve always done everything you have to. (laughs) Don’t you ever feel like blowing everything off, even just occasionally?
YEONJUN: Even if I thought about it, I don’t think I could actually go through with it. It’s already such an inborn habit and just the way I work.

What if you magically had one day where you’re allowed to live life however you want—a day where you won’t get tired for tomorrow no matter what you do and it won’t have any effect on all the effort you’ve put in so far?
YEONJUN: (laughs) Could I have that? (After thinking it over) I’d probably just do something fun, I guess? Hang out with friends, go somewhere cool to listen to some music. But that’s not something I absolutely crave anyway.

Why’s that?
YEONJUN: I’m so ambitious and eager that it outweighs any inconveniences. This job is my pride and joy. I’m pretty easygoing but I also have a lot of dignity. (laughs) I want to keep feeling proud when it comes to my work.

It’s interesting to see your photos in that sense. You usually aim for perfection, even under pressure, but you look so natural when you have your picture taken—like you don’t even notice anyone’s looking.
YEONJUN: I always enjoy photoshoots. Today’s shoot for Weverse Magazine was no exception. I feel enough pressure on a day-to-day basis so I try to have some confidence when I’m doing a shoot. And anyway, it’s the real deal. It’s like how actors really try to become another person rather than just read lines from a script. It’s the same with me: When I’m doing a shoot or on stage, I’m not just making facial expressions and striking attractive poses—I’m usually trying to become the kind of person who fits in with the given mood.
That helped make the Daydream version of the concept photos for the new album memorable. Whereas showing off your bare chest and back could’ve been burdensome, you make it look like a breeze, and you stuck out your tongue in a unique way.
YEONJUN: I was okay with showing some skin. I think everything from the background to the outfits, hair and makeup were perfectly orchestrated to set the mood. I think they really helped sell the particular idea of dreaminess for the Daydream version. But I also worried that taking off my top would come across as leaning too hard into sex appeal. As I understood it, it was never meant to be like that. It should be really clear from how I’m sticking out my tongue, but it’s meant to be mischievous. Mysterious but mischievous. So I was trying to convey a mix of feelings.

You worked yourself very naturally into the atmosphere of your concerts during last year’s ACT: LOVESICK world tour and at Lollapalooza. You really couldn’t hide your excitement over the festival atmosphere at Lollapalooza.
YEONJUN: You’re right. It was a valuable time to reflect on why I do this line of work. I got started in this because of how much I love the stage.

Is there an area you want to explore more of? In an earlier interview in Weverse Magazine, you said you wanted to try writing more intense lyrics, and you said in a vlog you recorded while in the US that you used all your energy on the Lollapalooza stage and even said, “This is what a performance is.”
YEONJUN: We can’t do everything we want in the course of our everyday lives. There’s so many restrictions. But when it comes to the stage, I can do anything I want. So I think I want to do whatever I want to the fullest no matter what people say. That’s true for music, performing and photoshoots, too.

So you must’ve been really energized while interacting with MOA from so many different countries.
YEONJUN: It meant a lot because I’m the kind of person who wants to experience everything. I was especially amazed how the mood and energy differed between cities. I was impressed how calm and extremely focused on the concert itself they were in Japan, and then Southeast Asia they sang along really passionately to the songs and were jumping up and down. In the US they sang and danced in front of us however they wanted without feeling self-conscious. After Lollapalooza, I really thought I just want to be a massive rock star. (laughs) So I tried writing songs that everyone could dance to and have fun and just enjoy themselves to.
You continuously contribute to the music and lyrics of the songs on your albums. Can we expect to hear some songs that are about your personal stories?
YEONJUN: I still want to work on it a bit more before I reveal anything to MOA. I’m the type of person that cannot show if I’m not confident or if I’m not fully ready. (laughs)

You’re quite the perfectionist. (laughs) Because of the nature of your job, though, it’s always the case that you have to have something to show by a specified time. How do you deal with that? I’m thinking especially about how you have to play many different roles, like when you performed “Lonely Boy (The tattoo on my ring finger)” at 2022 MAMA last year and the dance covers you did at 2022 SBS Gayo Daejeon.
YEONJUN: In my personal opinion, none of those performances were perfect. I just tried to put on performances that were as close to perfection as possible. I just practiced as much as I could until time was up. I didn’t want to feel anxious right before I got up on stage and worry about whether I could do a good enough job. In the end, I tried my best and did it all without any mistakes. (laughs)

I’m surprised someone with such a strong stage presence is so hard on himself. You garner a lot of attention, too: You earned the nickname 4th Gen It Boy and now have over 12 million followers on Instagram.
YEONJUN: I do love myself and have high self-esteem, but apart from that, I’ve never felt fully satisfied with myself. I’m always finding something I could be doing better. Aside from the title you mentioned, I trained for this job long enough that I always feel like I need to be doing better.
That makes me think of the lyrics to “Tinnitus (Wanna be a rock),” which you helped write. Do you ever feel like you’re “just a rock” after spending so much time thinking and putting in the effort?
YEONJUN: I’m sure every artist has that feeling at some point. As an artist, I’m always following a big dream when I work, but sometimes when I see myself I feel like I’m not good enough and I feel useless—like I’m nothing. That’s what I was thinking about when I wrote those lyrics.

So you’re always aiming higher.
YEONJUN: I want to be a role model and to be able to have a good influence on people. My friend told me a really good story yesterday. Apparently, a friend of a friend is my fan. When that MOA saw I had written “study hard” when I signed their CD, that was enough to get past being bullied, study hard and make it into the university program this friend wanted. I just wrote that short message. When I heard that, I thought, I’m at a place now where I can change a person’s life. What about this job could be more rewarding than that?

You don’t hold any prejudices and you respect everyone for who they are. For example, you wore a skirt and made a post saying boys can wear skirts too, and when you first saw iced tea with a shot of espresso and confirmed that that person ordered it that way on purpose, you responded, “Okay then, no problem.”
YEONJUN: I try not to hold prejudices. I fell into some preconceived notions in the past, but the world keeps changing and there’s still a lot more that needs to change. So I took a careful look at myself, didn’t really like what I saw and thought I better not let myself get stuck in those mindsets.

Are you always fully conscious of what’s happening around you? I recall on Weverse Live when HUENINGKAI was feeling camera-shy because of his messy hair but MOA really wanted to see him and you carefully smoothed over that situation.
YEONJUN: I try but I don’t know if I’m doing a very good job. (laughs) I try to organize my thoughts by priority at least. I start by talking about what needs to be taken care of immediately and wait a little to bring up other things when there’s an opportunity. I also take each of the members’ styles into consideration. They’re all very different. (laughs) I felt a lot of pressure last year to get us more in sync and practicing more when we had to get a lot of performances ready in a short time because I tend to be ambitious about wanting to do a good job. But it takes some time for everyone to get on the same page and that’s just the way it is. So I talked about the most pressing issues first and waited to talk about the other parts till the next time and we got in sync that way.

I imagine spending so much time together during the world tour must have made it a major turning point for the group, too.

YEONJUN: We definitely had more of a chance to talk. Things have always been good between us, but we got even better at being open with each other than before. I think it can actually be harder to be open with someone the more time you spend together and the closer you are. I tried to be more open, too, and we all tried really hard on the things we felt were important or necessary. That’s how we got better.

In an interview with GQ last year, you said, “We have to try harder so we can be extremely good.” That seems to be your default attitude toward both the other members and toward MOA.

YEONJUN: I think you can always do better, no matter how good you already are. I know I have my weaknesses but I can always do better despite that. I think, if you have your thoughts set on some specific standard, you’re done for. And I’m always YEONJUN from TOMORROW X TOGETHER before just YEONJUN. I couldn’t have done any of the things it took to get me to where I am today on my own. The label helped and because I have the other members and MOA with me, we can all shine brighter.

Is that why you’re always showing the people around you how grateful you are? You shared the heartfelt messages you wrote to the staff you work with on Weverse and you even got snacks for hosts Jjoonijjoon and the rest of SBS’s Inkigayo staff.

YEONJUN: I think it’s really important to be grateful. I really hate when I take things for granted. I think I’ll fail as both a person and as an artist the moment I start taking others for granted. We’re going to get more and more the more we grow, and I never want to forget that I can’t take those things for granted. I think I need to be a person first and an artist second.

Personally, the lyrics to “Tinnitus (Wanna be a rock)” made me think of the movie Everything Everywhere All at Once. If you could pick one version of yourself from the multiverse, like in the movie, which YEONJUN would you choose?

YEONJUN: Me? I’m just … I’m happy the way things are now. (laughs) I hope I would be a happy YEONJUN. If it’s good, it’s good. (laughs) I want the YEONJUN who lives in a world where everyone’s happy and worry-free.

I wonder if that happy YEONJUN is doing the same work that you do.


Article. Kim Rieun
Interview. Kim Rieun
Visual Director. Jeon Yurim
Project Management. Yoon Haein
Visual Creative Team. Jung Sujung, Rakta, Choi Yoonsuk(BIGHIT MUSIC)
Photography. Pakbae / Assist. Choi Mijin, Yang Junhyeong , Gu Hyekyung
Hair. Kim Seungwon
Makeup. Noh Seulki
Stylist. Lee Ahran
Set Design. HA I I HWA
Artist Protocal Team. Kim Daeyoung, Kim Jisoo, Shin Seungchan, You Juekyung, Ko Youngwook, Koo Sanghoon