What happens when you put together an Avengers-style K-pop group, featuring the top talent from some of South Korea's biggest boy bands, and unite their individual bands' fan bases? The boys of SuperM—Mark (from NCT and NCT 127), Kai (from EXO), Ten (from WayV and NCT), Lucas (from WayV and NCT), Taemin (from SHINee), Taeyong (from NCT and NCT 127), and Baekhyun (from EXO)—started that journey a year ago and made history.
With their first, self-titled EP, SuperM became the first debut K-pop act to reach #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Nearly a year later, their first full-length album Super One is newly released—and very much influenced by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has stalled most musicians' plans for touring and performing for fans. Songs like "Together at Home" poignantly touch on it, with lyrics focused on finding the silver lining and embracing little pleasures.
Taemin tells ELLE.com that the boys want Super One to bring joy to their fans, known officially as SuperM Supporters, and a sense of unity as the world goes through this period of quarantining and social distancing. "We want our fans to know that despite the distance, we are together in spirit," he says. "We created this album wanting to give back to our fans who give us unconditional love and support. Hopefully through our music, they can feel the positive energy and find happiness and hope to help get through this difficult time together."
Below, the boys discuss the album with ELLE, along with insights into how their friendship changed during their first year as a group, their experiences quarantining, and what their group Halloween costume has to be.
How has it felt to watch K-pop, C-pop, and J-pop take off in the West over the past couple years, and be part of that moment?
Taemin: As a K-pop artist, I am very proud. From performing in Paris and L.A. for the first time to having fans recognize me when we were taking photos along Abbey Road in London, these moments don’t seem that long ago, but it’s amazing to see how quickly K-pop has become popular around the globe. I am proud to have been a part of this movement and I’ll continue to work hard to help take K-pop to greater heights.
Last October, you made history as the first debut Korean act to hit #1 on the Billboard 200 with your SuperM EP. How did it feel taking that in? As a group, what is your dream to accomplish in the U.S. music scene?
Baekhyun: To have our first debut album hit number one on the chart was an incredible honor and the happiest, unexpected surprise. This is all because of our fans and I am so grateful for all the love and support they have and continue to give us. This just made me want to work harder to create a better album and provide more amazing content that brings joy to the fans. As for my goal in the U.S. music scene, when everything gets better, it’d be a dream come true to perform during the Super Bowl Halftime Show!
You’ve all known each other for years before working together. What were your first impressions of each other?
Mark: Before coming together as SuperM, I always looked up to them as role models. It was a cool feeling to see them all when we first had our meeting. I was thrilled and really looking forward to being on a team with them. And so, getting close to them as a brother and as a person was a good transition from just knowing them as senior artists. They all have their own brother-like personalities and I’m really happy to be able to see that side of them and have them accept me as a brother too.
Kai told Billboard last October that there was "nothing new to learn" about each other since you’ve all been friends for years. But what has working together as a group on this album taught you musically?
Taeyong: All the members are great artists and performers—each with their own unique, individual charm. Put them together and you get this amazing synergy onstage that’s been fun to show our fans. There are so many lessons I’ve learned from being part of SuperM but I would have to say the older members’ leadership and their ability to empathize with others inspired me to become a better leader for NCT 127. They really listen to what you have to say and always give great advice so I try to be the same for NCT 127 and help bring out the best in each member. I still have a lot to learn but I’m always trying to improve and working with SuperM encourages me to do so.
Ten: I learned so much from all the members while working on this album. They give the best advice, especially the senior members. Taemin gave me great tips on how to better express myself on stage and Baekhyun helped me a lot with my vocals. Outside of work, we can have deep conversations about anything. We all began our career at a young age so they really understand what I’m going through and how I feel. I can always count on them when I need someone to talk to.
How has being bandmates changed your friendships over the last year?
Kai: In the beginning, because we mostly knew each other as juniors/seniors within the industry and label, it was slightly awkward. But once we started to get to know each other, we were all able to connect with each other within the older/younger brother dynamic, so now they really feel like brothers to me. And I want to keep it that way going forward.
What has been your favorite moment from your first year together?
Baekhyun: One of my favorite moments would have to be when we filmed the reality show together. It was fun to do “regular” things together like cooking, playing games, and doing challenges. Everyone has a great sense of humor so we laughed the entire time. It was a great opportunity for us to bond and we had a blast.
Kai: I’d have to say when we were touring around the world together—and more recently, when we got to shoot our own reality TV show. Each of those moments brought us much closer together.
Taemin: When we made our debut as SuperM, and held our very first showcase at Capitol Records. I remember thinking, "This is another new beginning for me" and it brought back old memories of when I auditioned for SM and debuted as SHINee. It felt like another new path was created for me and I remember feeling all kinds of emotions throughout the day.
Taeyong: If you think about it, a year is not that long, but we made so many memories together and I think that’s because we are all positive-minded people. In the past year, we spent almost half a year on a world tour and the other half practicing and preparing for our album. I’ve grown a lot both on a professional and personal level so I cherish every single moment!
Mark: I think it would have to be our debut showcase in L.A. at the Capitol Records Tower. We were nervous but it felt good that we were all nervous together. Sharing the same emotions with the members is a good feeling because you know we’re all in it together.
Ten: When we went on our world tour. Experiencing different cultures and meeting our fans worldwide was unforgettable. Also, we all got very close during the tour from being together 24/7. Because we come from different groups, this was our first time doing a tour together so we were able to really bond.
Lucas: Our first performance of "Jopping" in L.A. It was a great feeling to finally be able to show the world what we’ve been working really hard on. The audience’s energy, the city, and the overall vibe that day was incredible. I’ll never forget it.
What song on Super One are you most proud of and why?
Taeyong: I am most proud of "Together at Home." It’s a little more special to me because I wrote some of the lyrics for the song. I put a lot of thought into the messaging and wanted to say that even though we are not physically together, we can find new ways to be there for each other. With what’s going on right now, I feel like fans can relate to the message and find comfort knowing that no matter what, we’ll always find a way to reach them. It’s a feel-good song that anyone can hum along to.
LUCAS: I choose "Infinity." You can really feel our energy and our ambition "to go to infinity." Our title song, "One," is a hybrid remix that combines "Infinity" and "Monster" so it’s fun to hear the two tracks on their own and then hear "One" which has a completely different vibe. Each has its own charm.
Mark, you helped write "100" and Taeyong and Mark, you worked together to write "Together at Home." What do those songs mean to you? How has your songwriting evolved as you’ve worked on more music?
Taeyong: "Together at Home" [has] special meaning to me. When writing the lyrics, I tried to be as honest as possible with my feelings and thankfully, the team loved it, so I was very happy about that. Hopefully fans can also feel the sincerity of the message and like the song as much as I do.
Mark: It was fun writing both songs but I enjoyed "Together at Home" a little more because it really suits the current situation we’re all going through and I could really relate to it. Through this process, I realized how important it is to stay true to yourself. You can get inspired and get ideas from basically everything around you, but ultimately, you need to interpret them in your own way. Staying true to yourself differentiates you from other artists. This is what I always try to bring alive through my music.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
Taemin: I would love to collaborate with Jessie J one day. Her performances are very sincere and I can feel her singing from the heart. I admire her energy and passion onstage and she is someone I feel I can learn a lot from. I also think we would create great synergy together if we collaborated!
You all are incredible dancers. What song from Super One has your favorite choreography so far?
Kai: I personally like "Tiger Inside." The choreography is inspired by the movement of a tiger and fits perfectly with the concept and theme of the song. I like that the choreography has its own storyline.
Quarantine and COVID-19 have drastically changed every musicians’ plans for the year. What is a day in the life of quarantine like for you? What things have you done for self-care when the days have felt harder?
Ten: First, I do the basics like wash my hands often, take vitamins, eat healthy, and exercise. But, most importantly, I’ve been keeping myself busy at home relaxing, practicing my vocals and dancing skills, finding new hobbies, and trying new activities that I didn’t have the time to try before. I was actually surprised at how much you can do at home.
Is there anything you can tease for SuperM Supporters about what they can expect for your next tour?
Mark: When we are able to tour again, I can guarantee we’ll be preparing the best show ever. As much as we missed out on a lot of shows due to inevitable circumstances, when it’s safe and the next tour opens, we’ll bring everything we have for the fans, especially songs from Super One.
What Halloween group costume will SuperM do this year?
Mark: It would have to be The Avengers! And if I were to do it myself, it would still be a character from The Avengers. Maybe Spider-Man? It’s a character fans really like and I think it suits me really well.
What's an entertainment pick—TV show, music, movie, video game, book—you’ve loved in quarantine?
Baekhyun: I’m sure many people are already watching a lot of Netflix and YouTube videos at home. Rather than an entertainment pick, I think it’s a great idea to take advantage of the time we have and start a new hobby you can do indoors—like learning to play a new instrument. Everyone has something they’ve always wanted to try but never did. Now is a great time to start! If you're interested in learning a new instrument, there are many great books and tutorial videos online so you can teach yourself!
Taeyong: SuperM videos! We created a lot of content for you guys and they’ll definitely keep you entertained and make time go by faster. Hopefully they’ll make you laugh too!
What’s next for SuperM?
Baekhyun: Fans have already seen our powerful, energetic side through our performances. Now, we want to get closer to the fans and show them more of our "human" side—who we are off-stage. Of course, we’ll continue to bring great performances but at the same time, we want fans to feel comfortable approaching us and not feel so distant. Most importantly, I want fans to find comfort and positive energy in our music.
You Might Also Like