SUPERM / Do you know what it's like to be unmade?

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Opening onto an expansive wasteland, a camera pans over miles and miles of red desert. Seven figures exit a large tunnel into blinding light, a futuristic scene that quickly reveals each individuals’ hidden powers. Nope, what we’re experiencing here is not the newest Marvel flick or the arrival of a super species. Rather, this galactic intervention is the first in a series of music videos for new K-pop supergroup, SuperM, whom fans have coined ‘the Avengers of K-pop’. Debuting in October of 2019, SuperM burst onto the scene in unprecedented fashion as their self-titled EP hastily hit number one on the Billboard 200, making them the first Asian artists in history to top the US album chart with a debut release. And hearts worldwide? Well, they shattered with joy. 

The supergroup is the creation of Korean powerhouse entertainment management outfit, SM Entertainment, and American recording company Capitol Records (whom you may know for having released records with another super group of sorts: The Beatles, among others), met with a curation of unbridled talent across the spectrum of titanic self-expression that is K-pop. The standout members from K-pop groups like EXO, NCT, SHINee, and WayV, exemplify the “Super” in the formation’s name, which alludes to a unique synergy within the members. The“M”, naturally, stands for ‘matrix’ or ‘master’.  

And like the autumnal feast that is their first full-length album, Super One, which dropped in late September, each of the seven members—Taemin from SHINee, Kai and Baekhyun from EXO, Mark and Taeyong from NCT, and Ten and Lucas from WayV— bring something new and different to the table. In fact, this particular ensemble of members was an unexpected choice for the formation of SuperM, and one that certainly surprised the respective groups’ hardcore fanbases. The formation saw certain backlash from fans who worried this might undercut their existing groups, not to mention reservations as to whether this unexpected combination of artists would be able to pull together a cohesive group performance.

But SM knows best, and fears melted away as the group amassed and convinced the naysayers with their unquestionable performance capabilities. In fact, SuperM puts across a dynamism like that of a well-oiled machine, one that could only achieve success after years of practice and hard training. But, unlike previous groups that have come before them, SuperM spans four generations of K-Pop within the ensemble. Group leader Baekhyun testifies, “It’s the combination of the senior members’ expert ease and junior members’ incredible energy—while we are new and have the ‘freshness’ of a rookie group, our performance and presence on stage is strong and stable as that of a group that has been performing for a long time. I think this is what makes us unique as a group.”

And it’s true. Each performance is a cohesive and dynamic event, working in synchronicity. In combination, they make an unstoppable team that maintains the individual strengths of the members while maintaining that signature ‘SM Music Performance’ (SMP) style that has become a staple in the K-pop world. Each member stands out with exceptional talent in vocals, rap and dancing, creating an energetic group that will continue and learn from each other as they progress.Their excitement is contagious, and the members of this group are like family to each other.

Super One arrives at a time when the world is in chaos and a moment of rebirth is needed. For group members, this feels appropriate as music has always been a conduit for comfort, joy and an opportunity to heal.  It’s a universal message that encourages positive energy and unity in an era of widespread isolation. So, without further ado, read below responses to a few questions asked of every member, followed by individual interviews, and witness that the conduit in question demonstrates the sky’s the limit. 

What is unique about your chemistry that you don't experience in your individual groups?  

Baekhyun: With SuperM, it almost feels like I’m back at school with close classmates and friends. SuperM feels like a close-knit group of upper and lower classmen at school who share the same passion and goal to put together and achieve a big project altogether. And being with the guys reminds me of the good old days when I was younger. Every day is so much fun and as time passes, we are learning more about each other and becoming closer every day. 

Kai: SuperM is a new group formed by members of different existing groups so the chemistry between us is somewhat different and unique in its own way. You can feel the young energy and freshness of a rookie group but at the same time, the members’ individual experience and expertise as artists who have experience performing, definitely shines on stage. I think this is a huge part of SuperM’s charm.

Taemin: I’ve always been one of the youngest until I joined SuperM, where I found myself as one of the senior (older and more experienced) members of the group. Taking on this role allowed me to discover myself more. They bring out a different side of me that I wasn’t really aware of before. And though we are all very different, we’ve become very close. Everyone has a great sense of humor so when we’re together, there is always this bright, happy energy. I’m always having a great time when I’m with the guys.

Taeyong: There is not a huge difference because I feel comfortable in both groups but when I’m with SuperM, I tend to follow the lead of the older/senior members because they are great at setting the mood and making sure that there is always this positive energy whenever we are together. 

Ten: With SuperM, the laughing never stops. As the leader, Baekhyun is the mood maker and brings the team together. We’re laughing together all the time so we receive positive energy from each other. I’m especially thankful for the older guys because they are always making sure that we, the younger/juniors, feel comfortable by joking around with us. You know the families you see in those comedy sitcoms? That’s us in real life.  

Lucas: The members are all very bright and cheery—when we are together in the same room, there’s a lot of positive energy. In the beginning, I was a little nervous about working with the senior members because they have so much more experience than I do, but they were so warm and welcoming, and we bonded quickly. Also being on the same team with them allowed me to mature as an artist. I learned so much from them and I’m very grateful for this opportunity and experience.  

Mark: The way we came together initially was because of the individual talents we had, and what we could bring and the synergy we could create together in one group. The older members are artists that we always looked up to—like mentors—and to be on the same team as them in itself is an honor, really. Everyday with them feels special because I see each day as a precious experience that I can learn from.

Why does this moment in the world feel the right time to drop an album as a super group? 

Baekhyun: While I’m really sad that we can’t meet our fans in person, I want to give them comfort, joy and a chance to heal through our new album, ‘Super One’ even as everyone is spending more time at home. We prepared this album wanting to be like Santa Claus (haha), bringing joy and happiness to our fans during a difficult time. 

Kai: Music itself has a bigger meaning and purpose for us as artists—people listen to music for different reasons, because there’s always the right music for your current mood and situation. And our new album contains a message of hope, which is how we want to comfort those who listen to it, because we feel it’s much needed in the world right now, especially as many people are feeling down and uninspired. Through our music, we hope to lift our fans’ spirits and refresh their minds with positive energy and joy. This is our main goal for this album so it’s very meaningful for us to drop it right now. 

Taemin: Although it’s difficult to go outside and do “normal” things due to the pandemic, what’s great about music is that you can also enjoy it wherever you are. Music is a part of everyone’s daily lives—kind of like their own unique background music—and can have a big big impact on their moods, the environment and how they start and go about their days. With this in mind, we hope listeners can find healing and strength to help overcome these times through our music.

Taeyong: We put a lot of thought into how we can create a better album during a difficult time like this. We felt it was especially important to deliver a message of hope, dreams and positivity through each track in the album. Our hope is for all our fans around the world to stay strong during this time. 

Ten: Music in itself is healing—like the others said, we hope people from all over the world can find joy through this album. We want our fans to know that we are all in this together and we hope our music can lift their spirits. 

Lucas: I can’t wait for the day when we meet our fans in person but as of right now, we want our fans to know that we are always thinking of them and will do what we can in the current situation to encourage them with positive energy. Music is what we do best so we felt it was the right time to release new music and we hope our fans can feel our love.

Mark: The main theme of this entire album is based on what’s going on in the world right now. We wanted to use the power that we hold as SuperM and as artists, through the best tool—our music—to comfort and encourage everyone. This was the motivation from the beginning, not just with this album but with all that we do since we came together last year.

How would you describe SuperM’s energy and charm? How is it special? 

Baekhyun: The super synergy that we create as SuperM is a combination of the senior members’ expert ease and junior members’ incredible energy. While we are new and have the “freshness” of a rookie group, our performance and presence on stage is strong and stable as that of a group that has been performing for a long time. I think this is what makes us unique as a group.

Kai: SuperM has so many different charms. We each have our own strengths, talent and musical styles that shines even more when we are all together. This makes our performance especially fun to watch because you can see elements of all groups (WayV, NCT 127, EXO, SHINee) that create the powerful ‘SM Music Performance’ (SMP) style.

Taemin: I think SuperM’s biggest strength is our performance. The members are outstanding artists with their own exceptional talent including vocal, rap and dancing and we also each have strong characters and personalities that helps create that super synergy on stage.  

Taeyong: Even though we all come from different groups, we are able to achieve perfect synchronization in terms of choreography and performance. All the members are incredibly talented so I feel like we have endless possibilities when it comes to trying new things on stage. 

Ten: When you look at us individually, we are all very different. To be honest, when I first heard who the members were, I was a little worried about how we would look as together as a group because it was such an unexpected combination of artists. It’s been really cool to see our chemistry and energy come together as a group. It couldn’t be a better combination of artists together because of the special energy we create on stage, which is very uniquely SuperM. 

Lucas: When you combine 7 different personalities and talents, you have this super synergy effect which is really powerful—each of us are unique, but that’s what makes us such a great group. We have a lot of respect for each other because each member has something different to bring to the group with their own set of skills, personalities and experiences. This takes our performances to a whole new level.  

Mark: SuperM is not your average group—we have 4 different generations of groups within one team which is not common. On top of that, we also have this amazing group chemistry that I find really unique and special. It almost feels like we were destined to be together in this  group. We each have different backgrounds and experiences but when we come together, there is a synergy that can’t be felt anywhere else. 

Kai wears GUCCI sweater, jeans and shoes. ISABELLA ETOU necklaces.

Kai wears GUCCI sweater, jeans and shoes. ISABELLA ETOU necklaces.

Kai (카이)

You have a background in ballet. Does that ever come through when you’re performing with your group?  

Growing up, I performed at many different ballet competitions and this has definitely helped me throughout my career, starting with my debut as a K-pop artist. Personally, I think ballet is the foundation of all dance genres so when I learn a new style of dance, I’m able to understand and learn each movement faster. Also, my dancing style has a distinct character and personality that was greatly influenced by ballet background, and it really shows on stage. 

You are the first male Korean celebrity to become a Global ambassador of luxury brand Gucci. Can you tell us about your experience with Gucci, and your impressions of how music intersects with the fashion industry? 

I’m really honored to become the first Korean global male Ambassador for Gucci eyewear for two consecutive years. I enjoy fashion and like trying different looks and styles for both formal photoshoots and on a daily basis. Gucci is a trend-leader in the fashion industry and the brand is very creative in their designs so I’m always eager to know more about their work and it’s a great joy for me to be their ambassador. In my opinion, fashion and music are very closely related. Fashion plays a very important role in conveying the concept and message of any song. 

How do you find new dance moves or inspirations? What is your creative process like when working on new dance moves? 

First, the music itself would be the biggest inspiration. The dance style and direction depend strongly on the music and the image that comes to mind when I listen to the song. When I get that image in my head, the choreography naturally follows. Most importantly, I try not to look up dance trends or watch other people’s choreography because I think it’s important to focus on the emotions that I feel through music and not think about what others have done. If you watch too many videos, it’s hard not to think about them or see the moves in my head, so I always try to focus solely on the music and the emotions themselves, rather than rely on outer resources. 

Taemin wears SAINT LAURENT coat, top, pants and belt.

Taemin wears SAINT LAURENT coat, top, pants and belt.

Taemin (태민)

I know you’ve recently been working more on your solo career, what’s it’s like to work within a group again?

I feel more at ease when I’m with the guys because I have them to rely on. With busy schedules, there are times when I feel tired and uninspired but to have other members cheer you on and work towards the same goals is a blessing. I’m very grateful and happy to have them by my side.  

You debuted at age 14. What has it been like to be involved in pop/fame at such a young age and what have you learned from this experience? What would you change if you could revise history? 

From debuting at such a young age, I definitely learned a lot. Compared to others around my age in their late 20s and early 30s who are just starting off their careers, I’d say I’m more knowledgeable about “the real world” because I started so early. If I could turn back the clock and give advice to my younger self, I would say don’t put too much pressure on yourself–take the time to enjoy the moment. When I think back, I was always in a rush to move forward but now I realize that as long as you have a goal and stay determined, it’s fine to just take it one step at a time.

What is your process like when you write a song? 

I first listen to the demo and if I really like it, I keep it as it is but most of the time, I to change it up a bit. After discussing my vision with the producer or songwriter, I make the changes, edits and add a topline. I like doing this bit by bit, not all at once, because as I work on the song I’m also thinking about and envisioning the performance. When there is a change to the performance, there is also a change to the song to match the performance and vice versa. When the song is completed to some extent, I record the song, work on the choreography and finalize the performance details.  

Ten wears SAINT LAURENT pants, belt, shirt, blazer and necklaces.

Ten wears SAINT LAURENT pants, belt, shirt, blazer and necklaces.

Ten (텐)

What is the biggest challenge you have faced being in the industry? 

There is a lot that you gain from working in the entertainment industry but there’s also a lot that you have to give up. For me, accepting this fact and finding the healthy balance/middle ground was a challenge at first. Also, trends are always changing so fast within the industry—so another challenge we all face as artists is to be sensitive to even the smallest of changes, whether that’s in music, dancing/performances, fashion, etc. I can’t help but to feel like I need to always be one step ahead before these changes happen. 

You are a member of WayV. Have you experienced any differences in culture between Korean and Chinese pop preparation and performance? 

I don’t think there is a big difference between the two because if you truly love music, it doesn’t matter what language or what country the music is from, you learn to appreciate and enjoy it all the same. And it’s in those differences where you find music to be special—because they’re all so different. Music also has the power to bring people of all cultures together so no matter where I am, I’m the same passionate artist and have no problem interacting with fans from all over the world.  

What is your favorite song off the new record and why? is there a story behind it? 

I love all the songs from the new album but if I had to pick one, I would choose ‘Better Days’. It is a retro sound ballad song with a message of warmth, comfort and empathy to get through difficult times like this. I hope our fans can feel the emotions we tried to convey through it. 

Lucas wears OFF-WHITE yellow t-shirt, POLO RALPH LAUREN orange button-up shirt, KENZO coat, WOOYOUNGMI pants, ISABELLA ETOU necklaces.

Lucas wears OFF-WHITE yellow t-shirt, POLO RALPH LAUREN orange button-up shirt, KENZO coat, WOOYOUNGMI pants, ISABELLA ETOU necklaces.

Lucas (루카스)

Describe the experience of learning you were to be a part of Super M, and how did it feel?

When I first heard that I was going to be a part of SuperM, I was so happy. I was excited and nervous (in a good way) to work with such a talented group of artists who I have admired and looked up since I was younger. I also wanted to take this as an opportunity to challenge myself and try something new musically and on stage. I still find it to truly be an honor to be able to perform with such experienced and talented artists.

When do you feel the most invincible?

Ever since I was young, my parents have always made me feel invincible by telling me that I could do anything. No matter what I tried, they always had my back and cheered me on. They always told me to not worry too much about the results—that the most important thing is to have the courage to start and do your best. Because of them, I am not afraid of new challenges and I think this really comes through my performance on stage. When I’m on stage, I feel like the main lead of a movie who can do anything and everything. 

Taeyong wears TOM FORD leather jacket and shirt. GIVENCHY pants.

Taeyong wears TOM FORD leather jacket and shirt. GIVENCHY pants.

Taeyong (태용)

You are the leader of NCT 127, but within SuperM you’re one of the younger members. What’s that been like, being in different roles in these two groups?

When I’m with SuperM, I ask a lot of questions to senior members and always ask for their advice so that I can learn and grow as an artist. Most importantly, I share what I learn from them with the NCT 127 members so we can all grow together. After a day working with SuperM, it’s become somewhat of a routine for me to go home and discuss with NCT 127 guys about what I learned that day because with NCT 127, I feel like we have so much room to grow. Just like SuperM, the members of NCT 127 are very talented and we’re always thinking about how we can showcase this better on stage. The SuperM members have been extremely supportive by giving me great advice so I’m very thankful.  

Would you consider SuperM something like a family? How would you describe your bond?

Put simply, Baekhyun is Dad, Taemin is Mom, Kai is like an older brother and the rest of the members are like the close, younger brothers of the family. We are always laughing and having a great time.I didn’t expect our chemistry to grow to be as strong as it is now, especially within such a short period of time, but we’ve become so close now. Now, I can’t imagine my life without them. I think this bond was possible because we have so much respect for each other. I’m so happy to have gained another family in my life.

Baekhyun wears BURBERRY tops and pants.

Baekhyun wears BURBERRY tops and pants.

Baekhyun (백현)

What are the ideal circumstances for you to song write? 

I usually like to write songs at night. During the day, I’m always thinking about how to express the emotions that I felt throughout the day through my music. Also, If I come across a really good excerpt from a book or poem, I’ll keep it in mind, and I like to translate the emotions I felt while reading those excerpts into my music. I like to think about this at the end of the day, when I’m washed up and in bed. Ideally, when I’m actually working on my songwriting, I’ll be at a quiet and cozy space with dim lighting.  

What are the three things you absolutely need in the studio?

The three things I absolutely need are slippers, windows (to look outside) and a comfortable couch. In order for me to really focus on my music and work on it for a long period of time, it’s important for me to be comfortable in both mind and body. 

Mark wears STYLIST’S OWN striped top, WOOYOUNGMI pants. Special styling thanks to Wook Kim, Baekhap Lee.

Mark wears STYLIST’S OWN striped top, WOOYOUNGMI pants. Special styling thanks to Wook Kim, Baekhap Lee.

Mark (이마크)

What is something you've learned about yourself this year?

I learned that I’m starting to be more afraid of the speed of time (haha). This year, it dawned on me that time moves so fast. I don’t know if I like it or not but I wasn’t super-conscious about it until recently. It makes me want to try more new things and use the time that I have to the fullest. Every second counts and I don’t want to waste any of it.

Does other kind of media like literature, cinema, or poetry even influence your rapping? 

Yes, definitely. They all have a huge influence on my rapping. Movies especially seem to really hit me emotionally. After watching a film that deeply touches me, I’ll think about it for weeks. And this outside inspiration really helps to refresh my thoughts and emotions because sometimes you get so caught up in life that you forget to stop and reflect. Movies help me to pause and reflect, and delve deeper into what I’m feeling, which is necessary to get those creative juices flowing, especially as I write my rap lyrics. Recently, I watched The Irishman and the Before (Sunrise, Sunset, Midnight) trilogy and I felt like I was literally in the movie. I could really relate to all the emotions the actors were feeling within these films. 

Featuring Kai, Taemin, Ten, Lucas, Taeyong, Baekhyun, and Mark

Written by Julia Smith

Photographed by Yoonwoo Kim

Styled by Aeri Yun

Hair by Jung Ho Lim, Naejoo Park, Song Hee Han, Ji Seon Lee

Makeup: Jiyoung Kim, Yun Su Hyun