The rise of K-pop boy band ATEEZ

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 14 2020 05:49 AM

The rise of K-pop boy band ATEEZ 1
South Korean boy band ATEEZ released their newest extended play last Monday alongside the music video for the single “Answer.” Photo from the group's official Facebook page

“Let’s cheers like a thunder / I’ll fill you up / ’Til you overflow.” 

That’s a line in the 8-member South Korean boy band ATEEZ’s latest single, “Answer,” a hypnotic and anthemic track that celebrates victories and overcoming obstacles.

For Ateez, “Answer” is a triumphant conclusion to their “Treasure” series, which started with the band’s debut last October 2018, and spawned four EPs and one studio album.

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In just two days, the song’s music video amassed more than 10 million views on YouTube. The EP, meanwhile, reportedly took the top spot on iTunes’ top albums chart in 36 regions, including the United States.

In a highly competitive music scene, where nearly a hundred groups are introduced each year and debuting does not guarantee immediate success, what makes ATEEZ one of the most promising acts in K-pop?

METICULOUS PLANNING

What made ATEEZ and the “Treasure” series so impressive, was how everything — from the concepts, music and music videos — felt meticulously planned, thus achieving coherence.

When “Answer” was released, for instance, fans were surprised to learn that the opening lines were the exact same ones sung by member San during the last 12 seconds of “Beginning of the End,” the outro track from “Treasure EP.Fin: All to Action,” the previous album which at the time was the presumed finale of the “Treasure” series.

With this, it turned out that “Beginning of the End” merely teased, as its title suggested, the beginning of the song that marked the end of the “Treasure” series.

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ATEEZ have also been consistent throughout the “Treasure” series, establishing a signature sound characterized by strong vocal moments (mostly delivered by main vocalist Jongho), atmospheric chanting, gripping pre-choruses, hard-hitting rap verses, and elements from a variety of genres such as EDM, trance, and tropical house.

Even as the group took on different concepts — from the dark and dizzying “HALA HALA,” to the feel-good “Wave,” to the epic “Wonderland” — ATEEZ stuck to their signature sound without making each new song feel like a platitude.

Besides the preparation, such consistency was also the product of having the same set of music-makers at the helm. In ATEEZ’s case, most of their songs were written by EDEN, their label-mate at KQ Entertainment. The members, particularly rappers Hongjoong and Mingi, also participated in the songwriting process.

In an interview with MTV News, Hongjoong, also the band’s leader, also stressed on the importance of making songs with messages.

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For the “Treasure” series, ATEEZ have fashioned themselves as pirates aimed at helping fans, called ATINYs (pronounced as “A-teeny”), find their personal treasures. It’s still unknown whether this treasure quest will remain a theme in a future release.

GROWING FAN BASE

Part of what makes ATEEZ’s burgeoning career interesting is how the band is growing its fan base.

At a time when many K-pop groups are created through reality TV shows, which give them the advantage of gathering fans even before debuting, ATEEZ are growing their following organically. 

While several members of the group, known at the time by their pre-debut name KQ Fellaz, joined the 2018 survival program “Mix Nine,” their participation in the show barely helped, with the boys even failing to reach the finals.

Instead, ATEEZ — composed of members aged 19 to 21 — took on the more traditional route by constantly putting out content on social media, most notably dance practice videos on YouTube. When the band debuted with “Treasure EP.1: All to Zero,” the record reached No. 7 on Korea’s Gaon Album Chart.

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ATEEZ have also attracted a sizable overseas following, which landed them a deal with RCA Records and allowed them to play several shows in the United States, Europe, and Australia.

Last June, ATEEZ bagged their first win on a South Korean music chart show, beating senior acts such as Lee Hi, VIXX’s Leo, SF9, and Stray Kids. This feat had some netizens raising their eyebrows as they were unable to believe that a relatively new group from a minor label could beat more established performers in just a short time after debuting.

Last year, the octet also won the Next Generation Award at the Golden Disc Awards, the Worldwide Fans' Choice Award at the Mnet Asian Music Awards, the Best Korean Act at the MTV EMA Awards, and the Best Performance Award at the Soribada Best K-Music Awards.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ATEEZ(에이티즈) (@ateez_official_) on

HIGH EXPECTATIONS 

The band acknowledged its success toward the end of “Answer,” when they sing “Can you see us? / The burning eyes / The swallowing shouts / Rings throughout the world,” which defy the earlier lines “Call, call, call us right now / So they can see from anywhere in the world.” It’s as though they were saying they no longer need to be called because they have already arrived and made themselves known to the world.

ATEEZ have truly raised expectations with the conceptual portrait that was “Treasure,” which is why there is an inevitable anxiety about how their transition to a new concept (if they do decide to switch things up) may not be so smooth. 

Fans and critics are anticipating what the band will do next and whether or not they would be able to sustain the popularity they enjoy.