YEONJUN mentioned MOA at the end of many of his answers. When he talked about the comeback, end-of-year performances, TV cameo, modeling, singing and dancing, too, he talked about the fans. When asked about communicating with his fans in The Essence of Dancing, his answer was simple: “Because that’s what MOA want to see.”
It’s been seven months since your previous comeback.
YEONJUN: I feel good and I get pretty excited whenever we make a comeback. It’s a shame we couldn’t see MOA, but I think about how they’re watching us from far away and I keep working hard.
You briefly met MOA in person during the FANLIVE event.
YEONJUN: MOA had to wear masks and couldn’t make any sound outside of clapping, which was too bad, but it was great just being able to see them. MOA even put on their own event in the middle. I cried, it was so touching. That was something they all worked on together just for us. They were so kind.
During the down time you made your acting debut in a cameo on the JTBC show Live On. How did it go?
YEONJUN: It was a great experience for me just because I got to try something new. It was like when I learned to dance for the first time—I was nervous because I didn’t know anything, but I loved the excitement of learning something new. And my lines felt like lines that MOA could get excited about, so I practiced to make sure they would.
You really made headlines when you were a model for ul:kin during New York Fashion Week.
YEONJUN: I wanted to do a good job so I lost weight fast. I ended up looking so sharp that I could take a photo from any angle and still look good, and MOA said I looked prettier, more handsome. Some people worried I got too skinny but I took good care of myself to make sure I would look good for MOA. When we were shooting, I changed into 10 different outfits while they kept taking pictures. I was taking pictures with real models who naturally were very professional so that motivated me to strike a greater variety of poses and facial expressions. Now when I do photoshoots the people there say I improved a lot, and I do feel it’s a little easier than before.
You did several cover performances at the end of the year. I get the feeling you’ve always been good at emphasizing details in cover versions. How did you feel about your cover of “Sherlock”?
YEONJUN: I look up a lot of videos so I can follow the original closely. I was always doing Taemin’s part. He’s always been talented and focused on details so I had to try hard to copy every part. I tried to follow the choreography, with all the gestures and details, as closely as possible, but I tried to add my own spin to the facial expressions to make them feel a little different.
You also danced to “Sriracha” during 2021 DREAM WEEK for the first time since you did it for your debut evaluation as trainees.
YEONJUN: I thought the choreography was really difficult back then, and it was difficult this time too. (laughs) Even though we only did one verse this time, it was still hard. It was a full three minutes long when we first did it and we stayed up all night practicing. I got a bit emotional remembering how determined I was back then.
What’s different between now and back then?
YEONJUN: I feel like I’m way better at dancing and I think we tightened up the gestures we used to express ourselves in the song. And when I come in to rap—when we were trainees, it was really cute, but now it’s more like—cool-ish? When I was a trainee, even the gestures were decided in advance, but now if I feel like changing something on the day of, I can change it. They’re small things, but when they come together it makes a big difference.
The members were trainees back then but they’re adults now. When TAEHYUN commented on your message congratulating him on becoming a legal adult, he said, “The things YEONJUN writes now are touching in a different way. I know because I grew up with him.”
YEONJUN: I’ve known TAEHYUN and Huening since middle school; BEOMGYU couldn’t really see his parents while training because he came up from Daegu; SOOBIN started training when he was in high school too; and I did as well, but we all pushed through training at a young age. I’m proud and I admire how much trouble they went through while so young but I also feel bad about how hard it must’ve been.
How do you feel when you think back on yourself during your trainee days? I heard people mistook you for being intense.
YEONJUN: I guess it was hard for other trainees to talk to me because I was always frowning from how tired I was back then. But they said that once they got to know me they thought I was silly and soft. (laughs) And I was short in middle school, I still had my baby fat, and my voice changed late, so I always heard people saying I was cute like a baby, and that made me want to look a little strong and cool, but now that I’m grown up, when I hear people say that, I don’t feel bad. (laughs) So I just said, “Everybody has their own thing,” and moved on.
I saw you had black hair as a trainee in the behind-the-scenes video for “Sriracha,” and now you finally have black hair again.
YEONJUN: I seriously forgot how I looked in black hair. It’s been a while since I last did it so it still feels different when I look in the mirror and it still looks nice even after a few months. Like black hair is the best because it looks natural. (laughs) I always dyed my hair with loud colors and had to wear a hat whenever I went out, but now I can chill out and go out without a hat on.
Your black hair was revealed in the concept trailer. And the video was very cool. (laughs)
YEONJUN: So there’s a part in the choreography where the members slow down and I lean back. I actually couldn’t do it at first. But since I was given that responsibility, I figured I better do it right. So when I had time in the evenings I put down a mat and practiced bending my back and eventually I got it. I guess I realized once again that I just have to try. (laughs)
How did the shoot for the concept photos go? You had to pull off a few different concepts.
YEONJUN: I had said in another interview that I wanted to try wearing a skirt, then I wore something like a dress when we shot WORLD and it was pretty awesome. I thought it was great I could try that so it ended up being my favorite of all the concepts. We shot YOU in Pangyo, which is an area of Bundang in Seongnam City. And I’m from Bundang. The friends I still keep in touch with are from Bundang, too. It was great filming on streets I was so familiar with.
There’s one scene in the music video where you steal the keys to a car and drive away. Were you actually driving?
YEONJUN: I got my license specifically for that scene.
Did you get it after one try?
YEONJUN: First time’s the charm. (laughs) I got it but I’m not great, so the other members were anxious and so was I. (laughs) I drove very carefully.
The way you first kneel in “0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)” featuring Seori and when you sing “say you love me” in your unique voice feels so sad.
YEONJUN: I was trying to capture the feeling of when you lose your whole world, and you’re sad, and miserable, and have lost everything and want to be saved. I like to keep my dancing simple but I mostly let that go this time and shook my head like I was in a trance, and I used all the strength in my whole body to dance in the part where I had to dance intensely. Then the camera couldn’t even capture it fully, but I think it captured the song’s sad feeling better that way. When I first learned how to sing, I honestly hated my voice so much that I thought maybe I just shouldn’t sing at all. But the label emphasized the unique qualities of my voice and made it special so I practiced a lot to show off my uniqueness. Now I know how to put my own spin on whatever I’m singing so MOA often say my voice stands out, too.
I think your color shines through well when you rap, too. You performed the rap part for “No Rules.”
YEONJUN: Since it’s rap, I try to pronounce the words so they’re catchy rather than carefully pronounce everything. A lot of times I slur my speech and sometimes I rap so it doesn’t even sound like it’s Korean. I wrote all the lyrics to the rap in “No Rules” myself so it matches the way I rap well and my rapping stuck better on the beat.
In addition to “No Rules,” your name is on the credits for “What if I had been that PUMA” and “Frost.”
YEONJUN: I wrote the rap in “No Rules” and oversaw editing for “Frost” and “What if I had been that PUMA.” Hitman Bang, the producer, sent me the lyrics to “That PUMA” that had been completed so far and said, “YEONJUN, I think you can save this. See if you can edit the whole thing.” The lyrics you hear now came from lots of back-and-forth and changes. He took a look and said I did a really good job, so he left “Frost” up to me, too.
Which parts did you change?
YEONJUN: There’s a lot. (laughs) In “That PUMA,” for example, “My EXP’s still at zero (zero),” was originally all in Korean, but I changed it to “my EXP” in English because it sounded cooler, and “experience” is usually shorted to “EXP” in games anyway. And, “careful, it spreads out quickly,” used to be totally different but I borrowed some lyrics from our older “PUMA” song instead.
Which of the parts that you edited are you most satisfied with?
YEONJUN: In “Frost,” “Cross the frozen lake and follow the path / The stop sign way at the other end,” was originally, “Follow the path around the frozen lake / Look for the sign of destiny.” Crossing the frozen lake was more like a fairy tale that painted an adventurous picture than following the path around the frozen lake, so I changed that. Also, the Korean words for follow and wind rhyme with sign and flower. So, that part. (laughs)
You said you like the WORLD version of the concept photos, where you wore the dress, the most. You sure like bold fashion.
YEONJUN: I like to wear things that look like photoshoot costumes as everyday clothes. I bought some clothes that look like they have tattoos on them not too long ago. First of all, it’s fun to challenge yourself with something that’s not too obvious or typical, and to develop my own style from there. I’m trying out a lot of different things. It’d be great if people end up feeling I look good no matter what I choose to wear.
Speaking of self-development, I remember how in your last interview with Weverse Magazine you said you thought you should love yourself more so you decided to try to stop being so timid.
YEONJUN: Well, I am who I am. I have to love myself before I can love anyone else; I don’t think I can do anything at all if I’m unconfident. When I started out with this job I lacked confidence and self-love so I kept cutting myself down. That meant I always felt intimidated, but ever since I learned to love myself I’ve been more confident and relaxed and now I’m one step closer to accomplishing my goals.
I think one of the best videos that shows how relaxed and confident you are is The Essence of Dancing on V LIVE, where you take fan suggestions and do impromptu dances.
YEONJUN: Because that’s what MOA want to see. I thought it would be fun to dance to what they want instead of just what I like, and sometimes I see something and think it’d be fun to dance to, so I do.
When you were talking to MOA on V LIVE, one fan spoke to you informally and you jokingly responded, “How dare you speak to your oppa that way!” And it was amazing how quickly you followed up with, “How dare you speak to your hyeong that way!”
YEONJUN: Well, most of our fans are female, so I said oppa at first, but we have a ton of male fans too, so I said hyeong right after. We have a lot of male fans, too, but it feels like we’re excluding them. Even though they’re all the same.
In your interview with GQ you talked about how you want to fix your habit of daydreaming and how you really dive into details when you’re thinking.
YEONJUN: There’s a lot of times when I get lost in my thoughts or worries and can’t sleep, and a lot of times I get deep into my thoughts and feel bad, whether they’re good thoughts or bad thoughts. You could see it as being thorough but when it eats away at you like that it stops being good eventually. Even for this comeback show I kept filming the fancam till I was satisfied. It stresses me out, forcing myself to do better, but it definitely helps me grow. I’ve never been satisfied with myself and I still don’t think I’m good enough but I think it’s a good idea to have that kind of mindset. Because all of this comes together and brings me closer to the perfect performance.
You said on V LIVE that your ears didn’t become infected after piercing them because you never even had a chance to lie down and sleep properly. Were you up practicing so much because you felt you weren’t good enough?
YEONJUN: If you always get first place, you have nowhere to go but down if you don’t keep it up. So I felt a lot of pressure to hold onto that position. Like, even if I was first overall, I’d really lose my self-esteem when I got second in singing or dancing. I think that’s why I kept pushing myself harder.
I guess titles like BLT (Big Hit’s Legendary Trainee) or Best Trainee could be both a source of pride and a burden.
YEONJUN: Earning those titles helped me think the time I spent practicing was worthwhile. I’m proud I was recognized to some extent, but also, I think I can work even harder. After all, there must be a reason why I got those titles. First off, I think I have to keep working hard on dancing, singing and rapping, and expand on what I can do but keep being a singer. I want to try making my own brand later on and have one of the songs I make be a lead single.
It sounds like you’re doing it bit by bit.
YEONJUN: There’s so much I want to do, but I think I’m taking it all on faster than expected. I hope I can show off all my different artistic sides.
Unauthorized reproduction and distribution prohibited.