Just over a year ago, Tomorrow X Together was introduced to the world to begin a new K-pop legacy that will take a new, unexpected twist with the release of their upcoming album The Dream Chapter: Eternity.
From their “tense” demeanor at their debut showcase in Seoul to the “noticeable uptick in confidence” for their sophomore album release, Billboard has been on hand to witness the growth of the young boy band representing the pursuit of dreams and teamwork. While TXT’s core vision remains the same, the guys are now exploring the inevitable bumps that come along the road with their forthcoming release.
The new single “Can’t You See Me?” touches on the lonely and isolating feelings one can have even among friends — a topic particularly apt for today’s social-distancing climate — delivered in a satisfyingly quirky production mixing grungy guitar riffs and hooky whistles over a driving bassline. Elsewhere, Eternity standout “Puma” touches similar themes as the single while “Maze in the Mirror” marks their largest creative expression to date in a song with all five members contributing to the track co-produced by Beomgyu that travels back to their worries before becoming artists.
Billboard got to exclusively chat with Tomorrow X Together to look back not only at their first year together, but what lessons and messages they’re now trying to show as they take their next step. Read on for Beomgyu, Soobin, Yeonjun, Taehyun and Hueningkai’s journey so far.
Let’s take it back to when Tomorrow X Together was first announced. Yeonjun was the first member revealed, he became the top trend on Twitter in 10 minutes, and his introduction video got a million views in 24 hours. There was so much attention and you hadn’t even introduced yourselves, what was going through your minds?
Yeonjun: I was especially nervous because I was the first member to be revealed, but a lot of people showed me so much love and support — it was an amazing feeling.
Soobin: I was initially really nervous to see how people would react, so I remember searching to see what everyone thought. But I was also thankful to have so many people from all over the world be willing to check us out and cheer us on.
Beomgyu: It was finally time to show the world what we had been working on for so long. We were really thankful for the fans who had been waiting.
What kind of worries did you have when it came to debuting and what were you most excited about when it came to your debut?
Soobin: It felt like my trainee days would last forever so, when the time came, I was thrilled and couldn’t wait.
Taehyun: I still remember our first debut showcase as clear as day. We had rehearsed over and over again, so many times but my heart was still beating really fast. I was really happy about it.
Beomgyu: I felt almost like we had an important exam coming up. My heart rate was rising and I was just really hoping that people would like our performances.
After The Dream Chapter: Star was released, you came to America quite quickly for concerts and promotions. Reflecting on that time, how do you think it went?
Beomgyu: It didn’t feel real. We couldn’t believe that we had so many fans in the U.S. cheering for us. We tried our best then but we’re sure we could do an even better job now.
Hueningkai: Yeah, we really couldn’t believe it at first. Of course, it’s a huge honor to be able to hold a showcase overseas so soon, and we had been out as a group for less than a year. We were really excited about being able to perform in the States. We’re always excited to visit other countries to perform and meet our fans, and we definitely can’t wait to do more
of that in the future.
You had some delays before the release of The Dream Chapter: Magic. Can you open up a little about that time? Did you find out anything new about your team during this time?
Beomgyu: The delay actually made us even more eager to put on the best performance that we possibly could. We were very motivated to work even harder getting ready for that album. We think that was the key to creating something that all of us and our fans were very happy about. As a group, we’ve really become a team that respects and thinks of each other.
Soobin: Beomgyu is right. It actually gave us time to focus on preparing great performances and content. I think we were able to make our concept trailers and photos really unique. So, looking back, I didn’t think it was frustrating or difficult.
When it came to a second album, did you feel more or less pressured than at debut? I can imagine the pressure to live up to a successful debut but you probably felt more comfortable with your routines?
Taehyun: I would say it’s similar. Whenever we work on an album, we’d feel it’s our duty and responsibility to show our fans something that is even better than the last.
Hueningkai: We try to make sure that for every comeback, we can deliver. We want to put on a great show. It’s really exciting each and every time, and, in that sense, the nervousness or sense of responsibility doesn’t become less.
Tomorrow X Together also put out many music videos and special versions of album tracks. Was showing off many different tracks important to you as a group?
Yeonjun: I think that our priority as a group is to find our unique color as Tomorrow X Together. What we want to do is to show our audiences as many different sides to ourselves as possible, and a variety in genre is part of that.
Taehyun: This album [Eternity] also combines a lot of genres including funk-pop, dream-pop, trap hip-hop and alternative R&B, and I think this variety that we have is demonstrative of our colorful music style.
You are now coming with the The Dream Chapter: Eternity. In your own words as a group, how does this album complete the first chapter in TXT’s story and why was “Can’t You See Me?” the lead single?
Group: The Dream Chapter: Star, our debut album, was about the “happiness and excitement of meeting that special someone.” The Dream Chapter: Magic was about our magical adventures that we set on as a group of friends. Our newest, The Dream Chapter: Eternity carries on that story — our group of friends hits a wall as we confront reality. We think that “Can’t You See Me?” really carries the whole penetrative theme of the entire album. It’s our title track [lead single] because it’s about the confusion and loneliness that the boys in our story feel as they collide with reality and discover conflicts in their friendship. The song delivers both a sense of resentment towards friends and a desire to be saved by them. It’s a very unique song with unique sounds that follow turbulent emotions.
I’ve noticed you get asked a lot about contributing songwriting or producing in your albums. Can you talk about creative input you’ve had in this album?
Yeonjun: The fourth track of our newest album is “Maze in the Mirror.” It’s our first official release that has been co-written by all five members. We’ve all contributed to song and lyric writing, and Beomgyu even co-produced the track. And this song is about our own experiences as trainees. It’s very honest and sincere. I’ve also contributed to the rap making
of “Fairy of Shampoo,” which is a remake [of the song by Light & Salt]. I’d like to say that this album speaks to our musical scope and growth as a group.
Beomgyu: We also chose the title ourselves. I’m sure all the members agree but, personally, I had been under a lot of pressure to do well because I joined the company later than the other members did. What I felt then was, as I was practicing singing and dancing, I started to see somebody else from my own reflection in the mirror. It didn’t seem like the “me” I used to know. I felt like I was trapped in a maze. That’s how “Maze in the Mirror” came to be.
Soobin: When we were trainees, we were all anxious and worried about our debut and we put these complex emotions into a song. The song was first written by Beomgyu, and we all added our thoughts to the lyrics and melody parts and combined the best of everything. We really enjoyed working on it and we hope our fans will as well.
Your first three albums have focused on the idea of dreams. Has Tomorrow X Together achieved their dream as a team?
Soobin: I think we have! Our first goal was the Rookie of the Year award, and Tomorrow X Together won it. My goal now is to always have the absolute best time we can when performing on stage.
Yeonjun: I’ve managed to achieve everything I’ve wished for last year. I have new goals now and I hope to achieve them step by step.
Taehyun: I would definitely say that my first dream came true because Tomorrow X Together won the Rookie of the Year award.
Beomgyu: My dream was to debut as a singer and perform in front of our fans, so in that sense, I’ve already achieved my dream. And I couldn’t be happier about it.
Hueningkai: We’ve been aiming for the Rookie of the Year award since even before our debut. And now, thanks to [our fandom] MOA, we won it! Amazingly, with all thanks to our fans and everyone who has supported us, we won ten rookie awards. We’re all very thankful and feel honored that more and more people support us each day, and we want to express our thanks with better music and better performances. It was a special moment for everyone, for us and for our fans.
What goals do you have in your second year as Tomorrow X Together? Have BTS shared any advice about how your second year will go?
Beomgyu: We hope that people will be able to think of Tomorrow X Together when they hear about a perfect performance or a well made, high-quality album. Also, we want all members to stay healthy and we wish for as many opportunities to meet our fans as possible!
Soobin: Moving on from “new artists” we want to show the world what we’ve got as sophomores. Last year, our priority was to make our name known as a team, but from now on, we hope to really show ourselves and everything about us.
Yeonjun: BTS told us that we need to give it our all; that we must show the audience everything we have on stage. They said that, above all, the most important thing is our attitude about music and performance.
Taehyun: On the same note, they said we need to think about why we are on this stage. We need to perform with confidence to show everyone exactly who we are.
Since we are looking back on your first year together. How have you seen yourselves grow and change in this first year?
Beomgyu: Honestly at first, I think I had my hands full just singing and dancing on stage. I constantly felt that I had to make the absolute most of every opportunity. But now, I feel I know how to enjoy myself more on stage and in front of the camera. I guess now, as a team and as an individual, I feel more responsible and think I’ve become more professional.
Taehyun: I think all the members have become more emotional and capable of expressing a diverse range of feelings. In our previous albums, we didn’t really have to express various emotions such as sorrow or melancholy. But for this album, I got to express different types of emotions. While filming the music video and concept trailer, I think I got better at acting compared to last year. We’ve all evolved and will continue to — I hope you can look forward to Tomorrow X Together’s new look.