There’s power behind SEUNGKWAN’s sincerity—a power which proves all his consideration and compassion isn’t for show, but truly sincere.
How did it feel to host SBS’ “MMTG Great Songs That Should Make a Comeback Special”?
SEUNGKWAN: Ah, I was so embarrassed. (laughs) I can’t believe I cried … I’m really serious when it comes to those memories. Watching those old performances made me think of that country bumpkin kid Seungkwan who liked to eat tangerines. I was so grateful that After School were the ones saying thank you to me. I can’t explain exactly how I felt—I just got all choked up.
Meanwhile, you also sometimes host Boo Seungkwan’s Castella instead of Professor Boo’s We Remember K-pop.
SEUNGKWAN: Looking back now, I did more V LIVEs last year as Professor Boo than episodes of Boo Seungkwan’s Castella. People might think I was keeping busy, but the way I see it, I wasn’t doing nearly enough. I couldn’t sleep one night, so I got on Weverse and started talking with CARAT, and I said, “I’ll be back soon. I’m coming back as SEUNGKWAN.” I’m really grateful to be known as Professor Boo, but I need to have time sending love to CARAT as the real me, too.
You talked about the time you had your “first proper vacation.”
SEUNGKWAN: Actually, all us SEVENTEEN members are similar—even when we have a break, the first thing we usually think about is what the next thing we have to work on will be. Because I used to worry like that before taking a break, I couldn’t properly enjoy any vacation time. But I met a friend from my hometown around that time and they gave me the book The Sun Will Rise Tomorrow, but What About Tonight? by Yeon Jeong as a gift. The book doesn’t give any answers about how to deal with your problems; it just shows little snapshots of good times and bad times instead. And it’s full of beautiful words and comforting expressions. I was reading the book up on the roof, and it made me happy because I realized I was enjoying myself in the moment for the first time. It was cold up there, actually … but I thought, “This is like a dream come true, though.” (laughs)
It’s important to be able to relax like that. (laughs) While you were preparing for your comeback, you also made appearances on SBS’ “MMTG Great Songs That Should Make a Comeback Special,” the TVING original Idol Dictation Contest, and Channel S’ JOB DongSan.
SEUNGKWAN: I haven’t been able to write in my diary for four days. Wow, this week was seriously a blur. But what’s interesting is, if I fall behind with my diary, I fall behind in my whole routine, too. Honestly, this whole week I’ve been behind, and forgotten things, and it’s just been so hectic. A few days ago I stayed up all night practicing before going in to shoot JOB DongSan, but when I see the kids talking so energetically like that, I’m suddenly wide awake and wondering how I ever felt tired. (laughs) And Kang Ho Dong is so professional that I wake up the moment I see him. It was an honor to work with him.
It was impressive watching the kids on JOB DongSan treat you like one of their friends.
SEUNGKWAN: You don’t realize how naive you are when you’re that young. (laughs) I decided not to shatter their innocence. And I try to talk at their level. But when I watched the behind-the-scenes video, I realized I was basically baby-talking to them. I’m trying to act cuter than them, like, “Oh, ree-eally?” So I thought to myself, “Ugh, what’s wrong with me?” (laughs) I just recently finished recording the last episode for JOB DongSan. We always had fun in the recording studio. I had a great time. I’m going to miss it.
How was preparing for the comeback album, Your Choice?
SEUNGKWAN: There were a lot of details that had to be worked out for the lead single, “Ready to love,” like our pronunciation and emphasis. There’s a part where I sing, “My heart by your side forever.” When I tried singing it, my pronunciation wasn’t as clear as I thought. I honestly recorded just that one part something like 100 times. I remember walking home by myself after recording all that. There are times when I’m doing okay, but once I go into the recording studio, it doesn’t sound so good anymore; or sometimes I record a good take and decide to try it one more time, but then it doesn’t sound like I expected. This is my seventh year but recording is still hard. (laughs)
Seven years is hardly a short amount of time, but you’re still giving it your all.
SEUNGKWAN: I was practicing choreography with the other members last night, and we consoled each other by saying things like, “We’re seriously gonna become overloaded.” It’s already been eight months since our last album, so we’re all feeling really ambitious. I was also really worried because even the choreography for “Ready to love” is less of a clear-cut story or idea and more about subtly conveying a train of emotions. We modified the choreography any time it felt lacking and all the members practiced up on their gesturing a lot, too. I think our whole image is that we do everything ourselves, so I couldn’t just let anything go. Sometimes it’s challenging, but I’m just thankful we have the opportunity to do work like this, so I think we just have to stay strong and move on.
It’s great how you keep dancing tirelessly in this performance even while ad-libbing the high notes.
SEUNGKWAN: Actually, I think there’s some difficult parts in both the singing and the dancing. For example, usually there’s a part where I have to step back from the group to do a high-pitched ad lib, and sometimes the camera misses the main action because it’s focused on me instead. But I’m hoping that the other members all get an equal amount of time doing their parts on camera in those cases. And if I step out from the group choreography, the dance lineup has to be changed. So I think the arrangement for this performance is better.
You’ve been showing off your singing skills with a steady stream of cover songs. I remember you said you wanted to combine your recent cover of Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license” with the story of how you got your own license. (laughs)
SEUNGKWAN: It sounds fun, right? But I’ll probably keep thinking Why am I doing this? while I make it. (laughs) And sometimes I’m a little worried I’m doing too much. But I told my sister about it before, and she said, “That’s what makes you a jack of all trades.” So I figured I’d better sing with sincerity and act with sincerity when I’m on variety shows.
I see your point. A lot of people were moved by your composed and honest portrayal of emotion in your cover of “Love poem” by IU.
SEUNGKWAN: I’m really, really attached to my cover of that song. Not to mention the original’s music and lyrics are so good, too. And that was a really hard time for my friends when I recorded it. I saw what IU wrote about her song. After reading what she wrote, I realized that it was possible I could’ve made life even harder for my friend just by worrying about them. So I just kept on listening to that song, thinking about how I could be helpful. There’s some songs where just listening to them and singing along is all the practice you need, and “Love poem” is one of them. A lot of people said “I can feel how heartfelt you are” in the comments, and that made me think, “Oh, I guess I made the right choice.” It made me feel that the emotion comes across well when I don’t fake it and just sing naturally and honestly. So I was thankful.
It feels like you’re sincere whenever you sing, but also in everything you do—like how enthusiastically you recommend other artists’ song on Weverse, for instance.
SEUNGKWAN: I took this test about my mind recently, and it said I’m basically some kind of philanthropist. (laughs) I guess I really like to meddle in other people’s business a lot. I was really grateful when IU posted my cover of “Love poem” on her feed. I know that’s not easy to do. I always want to be that cool and collected, but also funny, established artist, but if I’m going to recommend someone else’s song like that, it has to be one that really captures my heart. And I’m pretty sure I’ll always be sincere like that.
You were also serious when you talked about the items in your pouch in #YourNameTAG on Elle’s YouTube. Now, when you type “Boo Seungkwan” into a search engine, “Boo Seungkwan moisturizer” and “Boo Seungkwan vitamins” show up as related terms. (laughs)
SEUNGKWAN: I think maybe I was overselling it. (laughs) But anyway, I meant all of it. CARAT know I’m very serious about taking my vitamins and all that, so it was me who suggested I talk about that. The only additional things I brought to show off that day were my diary and the volleyball. Seriously, everything I carry around with me is in that pouch already. (laughs) I spoke from my own personal experience, and even though I wasn’t exaggerating, it just naturally appealed to people, apparently. Although I can’t expect everyone to feel the same way, since everyone has different tastes.
In the “ONE MILLION WON” episode of GOING SEVENTEEN, at one point you said, “No one trusts me anyways. Why do I have to cooperate with them?” It’s just a show, but you looked really dejected when you said that. (laughs)
SEUNGKWAN: Because I did feel dejected. (laughs) I was a little sad that everyone was always suspicious of me, but I got over it by playing the game. I honestly kept going back and forth on whether or not to betray them, but I didn’t. I just kept it up right to the end. The members all said, “Can we please not do an episode that involves money?” (laughs) It almost got tense at points. We all said anyone who became a traitor would be “worse than a piece of plastic.” So, I mean, who would betray us after that? After shooting—after filming—when we go to the studio to practice, that member would be remembered as a traitor. (laughs)
I guess you could pull that off because the members are so close with one another.
SEUNGKWAN: I think that describes us well—we have fun when we’re together, we take care of everything without a problem, when we’re exhausted, we’re exhausted together. Everyone plays their part. We’ll get together and they’ll say something like, “SEUNGKWAN, you do the marketing.” Like that. Coups is in charge of social media; THE 8 and MINGYU are on visuals. (laughs) When we have a concern, we talk to whoever can take care of it. We never find a perfect compromise between all 13 of us, to be honest, since we all have different opinions. But for each area of concern, there’s a member who leads and members who follow along. WOOZI leads the music side of things, for example, while I take the lead when talking about marketing and content, and then I can compromise in other areas.
That all 13 people can all be so considerate toward one another and move forward together is amazing by itself.
SEUNGKWAN: No matter how well I’m doing personally and what opportunities come my way, I already know it never would’ve happened if not for SEVENTEEN. So the more I appear on variety shows, the more I end up focusing on the team. I realized that even my ability to be confident in anything I do when I go somewhere new is all thanks to my experiences with my team members and the chord we’ve struck together, like the way they laugh at my jokes and respond to my ideas. I didn’t set out to think that way; I just ended up thinking about it like that. Like, It’s all thanks to the other members. I have to try even harder for the team.
I think you, and SEVENTEEN, have been growing steadily in the six years since your debut. Still, it must feel awful not being able to see CARAT in person.
SEUNGKWAN: It’s so upsetting. But this whole time I’ve been looking on the bright side despite the current situation and preparing things for CARAT, so I don’t think this whole experience has been pointless. I’m sure we’ll meet again someday. I couldn’t believe it when this whole situation started, actually. I even wondered if it was the world’s way of trying to make me show gratitude, since it’s something I couldn’t control through effort or strength. It’s a painful, difficult time, but I’m trying to keep a healthy mindset and look at it as a time to be thankful for the things I used to take for granted.
The theme of SEVENTEEN’s project this year is the Power of ‘Love.’ How would you describe the love you’re trying to show CARAT with your new album?
SEUNGKWAN: This love is a way to repay them for their love. The love I have given to CARAT is still nothing compared to the love they have given me. I think this album is the starting point for returning that love. And I’ll continue repaying it. I went through that period of being a fan of idols, too, of course. Waiting for my favorite singers to make a comeback was both a wonderful time and a tough one. I’d get impatient waiting for their comeback and hope they’d do it soon while hopelessly returning to their performance videos over and over. It would exhaust me, and then, I’d fall in love all over again. It’s really not an easy thing to do. Then when an album comes out, you instantly forget everything you were feeling and go, Ah, that’s exactly why I love this artist, and then you feel delighted. It might not be much, but I look at this album as a present for CARAT, and a way to repay them for all the time they’ve been waiting around for us.
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