U-Kiss grows up after six months away in Japan

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U-Kiss grows up after six months away in Japan

The seven members of boy band U-Kiss had to adapt to new foods and a new language during their six-month stay in Japan, but the hard work paid off, as it often does for Korean performers there. U-Kiss’ first album released in Japan, “A Shared Dream,” and the EP “Forbidden Love” landed in the No. 2 and No. 5 spots on Oricon’s weekly chart, respectively, and the band successfully completed their first tour of Japan in March.

But in the fast-paced world of K-pop where dozens of groups come and go in a flash, six months can seem like a lifetime, and fans can grow impatient with their favorite stars.

“We are quite nervous about that. I heard some of our fans actually moved to other fan clubs,” said AJ, one of the members of U-Kiss. “But we can take them back. We also grew up while we were in Japan.”

Ilgan Sports caught up with the boy band members after they returned to Korea on April 25 to talk about the pros and cons of their time abroad as well as their new EP “Dora Dora.”

Q. When did you first realize your music was well accepted in the Japanese market?

Ki Seop: [The realization] came when the first regular album landed in the No. 2 spot on Oricon’s weekly chart [in early March]. Our Japanese agency Avex told us that it didn’t take long for us to gain ground in Japan, and I could see more and more Japanese fans at every concert we had there.

How many Japanese fans would come to a solo concert for your group if you held it today?

Soo Hyun: I bet we could fill the whole Super Arena in Tokyo [which holds up to 37,000 people]. In the countryside, we might attract around 3,500 people per each concert. We’re preparing for 15 concerts to be held in nine Japanese cities in July. Our goal is to attract a total of 45,000 fans.

How did you change your approach for Japanese fans?

Dong Ho: Most Japanese put distance between celebrities and themselves. They kind of admire entertainers, but we try to act like their friends. We also shook hands while making eye contact after each concert. This is how we approached Japanese fans. For this reason, they say we are like their family and friends.

Many new boy bands have debuted while you were away from Korea. How does this make you feel?

AJ: Looking at boy bands these days, they are perfect in so many ways. They can sing and are also very handsome. It makes us a little nervous. I heard some of our fans actually moved to other fan clubs while we were away. But we can take them back; we also grew up while we were in Japan. If we can show our newly gained depth to Korean fans, we still have a chance to win the game, I think.

What was it like to work with famed composer Kim Hyung-seok for your new EP?

Soo Hyun: He’s famous for ballad songs, so we were quite curious to know what it would be like to work with him. After we did, we all quickly realized why he has become the best in his field. He gave us masculine songs that also have mass appeal. He flied to Japan while we were having a concert in March to point out the strong and weak points of each member. I appreciate his hard work.

Tell us about the title track of your new EP “Dora Dora.”

Soo Hyun: We tried to become sexier with this song. Our choreography, clothes and even our facial expressions were all calculated to exert our sexiness. For example, we wear red see-through clothing.

Back in Japan, we listened to more than 100 songs to choose a title track. All the members and our management company agreed that this album is quite important to us. We chose this song after many nights of discussions.

Most management companies stop boy band members from going on dates. But all of you are now free to go on dates. How do you feel about this?

Hoon: The head of our management company told us that we’re now allowed to be in relationships but that we have to date in secret. [Laughs.] The ban was technically lifted, but it’s hard for us to go out and find girlfriends. I think we’re less popular than members of other boy bands.

It’s already been five years since your debut. Where do you see yourselves on your 10th anniversary?

Dong Ho: We hope to release an album that will celebrate 10 years together. A world tour would also be on our to-do list. If we could start a tour in Seoul and then travel to other countries for a year, that would be fantastic. I want to become like Shinhwa. The group’s recent tour just thrills me.

[Shinhwa is a six-member Korean boy band that debuted in the late 1990s. Unlike most pop groups which disband after five or six years, Shinwha is still together. The group recently released a new album and is on an international tour.]

What are your plans for the near future?

Kevin: We’re going to go to Colombia next month. We will represent Asian performers and share the stage with Shakira, Ricky Martin and Pitbull. I heard that Colombian fans are looking forward to seeing us, and we’re excited about that. I also want to see Shakira’s “hip dance” in person. I’ll barge into her dressing room and take a photo with her!

What would you most like to do in the next year?

Eli: I want to become No. 1 on a local music show. Many people associate U-Kiss with a couple of our tracks such as “Man Man Ha Ni” [“Am I That Easy”] and “Bingeul Bingeul” [“Round and Round”], but I want to impress people with other songs that could appeal to audiences regardless of gender or age.

By Um Dong-jin [so@joongang.co.kr]
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