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SF9 Is Shaking Up The K-Pop Scene With Their Multifaceted Sound And Performances

You could say their music is K-pop ~fantasy~ level.

It's hard not to be constantly laughing when you're in a room with SF9, a nine-member K-pop group with a dynamic stage presence, experimental sound, and silly sense of humor (I'm looking at you, Dawon).

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I caught up with them while they were in NYC for their Unlimited USA tour the day after I saw their show and I was surprised to witness how well their chemistry translated from charismatic performers to just nine cool dudes casually bantering about their favorite concepts and dreaming up music video ideas.

The members are quick to point out who they think fits their current ~sexy~ concept the best, which kicked off with "Now or Never" and more recently with their single, "Enough."

FNC Entertainment / Via, FNC Entertainment / Via

Dawon voted for the youngest member, aka sleeveless-shirt-wearing (as Inseong points out!) Hwiyoung, while Hwiyoung nominated main dancer Taeyang — to which Dawon clarified, "Not Big Bang's Taeyang. Our Taeyang." (Yes, got it. He's not the Taeyang that made me first fall in love with K-pop — 'cause I would've blacked out — but in a way, he led me to other groups like SF9, so that's kinda beautiful.)

Inseong offered up Youngbin because of his "flaming hot" and "sexy" red hair, which Youngbin says is his favorite hair color so far. Even though Inseong and I match with our lovely pink hair, I gotta say, Youngbin's hair makes the biggest statement for this era. Taeyang seconds Youngbin and says, “I was stunned after watching Youngbin’s ‘See You Again’ cover and inspired by his rapping.” Bold red hair *and* giving Wiz Khalifa a run for his money? Ok, I see you!

Their powerful and mesmerizing music video for "Enough" stood out to me because it was inspired by Narcissus, a figure in Greek mythology, so I asked them what it was like to film those mirror scenes.

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Rowoon: “The concept of the song is based on narcissism (the album's name is also Narcissus), so we had a lot of scenes where we see our reflections through mirrors. Usually I have low self-esteem, but during the shoot I personally felt handsome and good about myself." 💁‍♂️💕

Hwiyoung: “We were told by the director to keep touching the mirrors and I thought that concept was a little off and weird.” 🤔

And my take? I'm more than ok with seeing multiple of each member — that's a wonderful thing, tbh.

When I asked them which SF9 song or concept represents them the best, they spoke very fondly of "Now or Never," so I hope their other songs don't feel ~jealous~.

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(If you don't get that reference, you better listen to the song ASAP.)

Jaeyoon: “It showed a lot of our potential and talent as a group, and it personally fits me well."

Rowoon: "I personally think 'Now or Never' was a bit different than most K-pop songs, and it gave us a great chance to make the color of SF9 stronger and more accurate."

Inseong: "It was the first time we’ve tried a sexy concept. Since then we’ve been heading in that sort of era, so next time/comeback we’re gonna have a similar kind of music."

Since I wanted to get a peek into their ~creative~ sides, I asked them what their dream music video would look like if they were to direct it, and Inseong's answer gave me flashbacks of a classic K-pop concept: the matching school uniform look.

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Inseong: “I’d make an acting scene where all nine members are schoolmates. We’re in the same room and we’re all protecting this one girl who is named Fantasy (the name of their fandom).”

Rowoon had grander plans, noting he has "thought about this very seriously."

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Rowoon: “If we have the budget to do so, I would like to have individual members shoot their own scenes in different countries. And for the ending scene, I’d like all the members to get back together in Korea and do a group choreography.”

They filmed "O Sole Mio" (above) in California while they were around for KCON LA, so all they have to do is cover eight other countries. Rowoon said he'd like to film his scene in Spain, so it's really down to seven now!

Besides lighting up the stages with their killer performances, the SF9 members also participate in songwriting and composing. I'm always curious about where K-pop stars get their inspiration and Zuho said his lyrics directly correlate to his "current situation" and mood.

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Zuho: "If I’m going through a hard time, I write about overcoming it. But when I was making 'Life Is So Beautiful,' I was extremely happy. And after a song is done, because I made it with my members, I feel very achieved."

Taeyang, who choreographed that song, happily pointed out that they created that whole stage together — so "Life Is so Beautiful" in particular shows the members' strong bonds.

Anyone familiar with K-pop knows that it's a tough industry to break into and takes years upon years of training and hard work to even snag a *chance* at debuting. Knowing all that, I had to ask who inspired them to chase the K-pop idol life.

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Chani: "After I saw Shinee sunbaenims, I wanted to become an artist."

Rowoon: "When I was in preschool I saw g.o.d’s performance. It didn’t necessarily make me want to become a singer, but I thought it was a very charismatic job."

In every K-pop group — while roles can be a bit fluid — there are designated vocalist, rappers, dancers, and even visuals, but sometimes those roles aren't determined until later on — case point: Zuho sang in his audition and became a rapper, while Rowoon rapped in his and ended up as a vocalist.

Mnet / Via, Mnet / Via

Zuho: "I sang Justin Bieber’s 'Never Say Never' with the guitar in front of our CEO, and decided never to become a vocalist *laughs*."

Rowoon: "I rapped Dynamic Duo’s 'Guilty.' Now I’m a singer and Zuho is a rapper. We auditioned for the opposite!"

But now that they've debuted over three years ago, they're definitely rookies no more, so I asked them about pivotal or proud moments in their careers thus far. Leader Youngbin immediately shouted out their fandom, Fantasy.

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Youngbin: "The pivotal moment where I felt like, 'Oh I am actually a celebrity and musician' is when we first solidified our fanclub name, Fantasy [that we all voted on]." (SF9 even dedicated a song to their fans called "Dear Fantasy.")

There's no doubt that SF9 is a rising K-pop group — they literally won the "Rising Star" Award from the 2018 Asia Artist Awards — and they shared their thoughts on why they've gained popularity overseas, especially in Central and South America.

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Rowoon: "Everyone has their own distinctive charms and attractiveness. Nine members, nine colors."

Taeyang: "Because our songs are being upgraded, more sophisticated, and following the right trends, our fans are liking them more."

Rowoon: "Our sincerity. Because we’re always working hard through their music and performances, whether it be on an iPad or TV, I think our sincereness shows. We’re not always together with our fans, so I feel like that translates and relates to all of our fans globally. Love you, Fantasy."

But, true to their hardworking nature, SF9 still has ambitious goals to achieve. Some are easier to measure, like winning #1 on Korean music shows (Rowoon), releasing another album in 2019, and having showstopping performances at end-of-year award shows (Youngbin).

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Other goals are longer-term and focused on the continued success of their careers, like "showing our underlying talents as a group" (Taeyang).

And Rowoon believes that "when each member has improved a lot at their favorite activity and or whatever they want to pursue" (for instance, he and Chani both act), that they'll be at their "pinnacle" or "very best."

If you're just learning about SF9 (lucky you!), you should definitely check out their entire discography, starting with their hit singles — as per their personal recommendations!

FNC Entertainment

The guys listed “Now or Never,” “Enough” (English version), "Mamma Mia," and "O Sole Mio." Inseong also added a b-side called “Play Hard" and said, "you can kind of play along with us and get some positive vibes from it!"

Oh, and as a bonus treat, we had the boys play a quick game of "Who's Who" with us:

Thanks for chatting with us, SF9! We wish you all the success and exciting adventures ahead!

Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Check out how BuzzFeed is celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!

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