ZEROBASEONE (ZB1) is one of the first milestone groups to facilitate the untapped potential of Fifth-Generation K-pop, and after its inconceivable formation on the Mnet survival series Boys Planet – we’re certain that this electrifying new wave of talent is more than capable of emulating excellence.
During their lengthy time on the high-stakes series (which barely wrapped in April), nearly 100 aspiring artists simultaneously entered the arena to tirelessly battle to secure a spot on the final ZEROBASEONE roster for months before the final selection was solely determined by global viewers. Accumulating millions of votes worldwide, each driven member of the final ZB1 lineup (consisting of SUNG HAN BIN, PARK GUN WOOK, KIM JI WOONG, KIM GYU VIN, HAN YU JIN, SEOK MATTHEW, RICKY, KIM TAE RAE, and ZHANG HAO) justifiably claimed their spots through extensive weekly challenges – all building up to a satisfying finale filled with the nine members’ tears, laughter, and most importantly, gratitude for the remarkable love they’re currently experiencing so soon into an untouchable rookie debut.
Even while disregarding the prophesied hype associated with the birth of a publicly formed group, there’s never truly a guarantee that success will follow. Fortunately for ZEROBASEONE fans, every ounce of the group’s individualistic and cumulative charm (via Boys Planet and Camp ZEROBASEONE) has already proven that ZB1 is much more than a concept group during their quest to seize next-level stardom. In fact, before the group’s first mini-album managed to drop a single audio snippet, YOUTH IN THE SHADE scorched an overwhelming record by exceeding more than a million units in pre-orders in under a week. And within two days of its release, it moved more than 1.2 million copies in South Korea, making it the biggest debut in the history of K-pop.
By the time we received our first glimpse of ZEROBASEONE’s final form in the shape of their ambitious introductory film Back to ZEROBASE, (a precursor to the album) prospective listeners became even more certain that they’d be witnessing the first chapter of a magical industry story. Throughout the short film’s productive runtime, viewers explore the unit’s diverse strengths and expressive concept potential as one, teasing an assortment of superb sounds along with an inspiring narration that ushers the group into an ambiguous future filled with limitless possibilities.
As they move on to their highly-anticipated and extraordinary debut mini-album YOUTH IN THE SHADE, the introductory track “Back to ZEROBASE” achieves absolute bliss with a synthy 80s surge of adrenaline, effectively passing the torch to each other before diving head first into their hit title track “In Bloom” – exercising some of those aforementioned thematic into track qualities to become an anthem that’s as powerful as the group itself. In the trenches of “New Kidz on the Block,” a more nostalgic hip-hop production, we organically witness the first real display of confidence from the newly formed group, staking their claim as uncompromising 5th-gen kings before you can even conclude this fascinating six-track journey.
Though like any strong selection of music, ZEROBASEONE takes a breath to scale their excitement back and appeases a more modest mid-tempo showing of their talents on “And I” as well as the celebratory nature of “Our Season” before leading into the final soulful solo track “Always” from Boys Planet first-place winner ZHANG HAO. So by the time the dust settles and you’ve reached the end of the group’s Youth in the Shade expedition, you’re left with complete faith that ZEROBASEONE has what it takes to spearhead the next major era of K-pop.
Now, as our new digital cover artists, the nine equally talented members of ZB1 discuss their unique origin, debut sensations, and their hopes for the future of this game-changing group.
After witnessing the dedication you each displayed during the Boys Planet process – it’s so exciting to meet the hardworking lineup of ZEROBASEONE! Now that you’ve had time to process that incredible win, what would you each say is the most meaningful thing you’ve learned from that experience?
SUNG HAN BIN: The experience made me think once again that I have to set my direction and goals clearly to approach my dreams faster. And I realized how important the power of “thinking” is. Even the most subtle differences can completely change the feelings or atmosphere it gives. Since I get to monitor myself more now, I can see better what emotions I feel when I’m on stage. So nowadays, I try not to hide my feelings, and just accept them as they come!
KIM JI WOONG: First of all, I think I got to know myself more deeply. When I spot my strengths, I try to make them more evident. When I spot my weaknesses, I devote myself to turning them into strengths as fast as I can. I indulge in a range of emotions as I try to turn them into mine completely.
ZHANG HAO: Everything from being one of the 98 trainees on Boys Planet to being a member of ZEROBASEONE is a new experience for me, so every step I take and every challenge I face takes courage. Instead of thinking about where my limit is, I just dove in. Looking back, I think I have already accomplished so much.
SEOK MATTHEW: Being a part of ZEROBASEONE is a surreal experience for me, we all often think about how grateful we are to be a part of this amazing team. I would say the most meaningful thing I learned was to always be humble and give my best.
KIM TAE RAE: As I’ve taken part in various performances, I’m learning how to carry myself on stage and how to deliver my emotions. Also, I’ve been feeling that all nine members of ZEROBASEONE are truly becoming a team gradually.
RICKY: The most meaningful thing I’ve learned from Boys Planet is to keep a calm and stable mindset and focus on what I’m doing. During the program, there were many ups and downs, and my emotions were like a rollercoaster. From that experience, I learned to face things in my life with a more stable and calm attitude, and also not to get distracted even when things take an unexpected turn. Be wise, focus on what you’re doing. Even in the worst situation, don’t lose your confidence, trust yourself, you’re gonna make it.
KIM GYU VIN: What I learned from this whole process was that effort pays off. We all tried our best, and we got the best results too.
PARK GUN WOOK: Since we take on many different challenges, I feel my confidence rising and also getting assurance that I can accomplish anything.
HAN YU JIN: I learned that we as a team need to keep each other up and help each other out to keep going and enjoy what we’re doing.
It’s clear that you each managed to connect throughout the program, but it’s a little different when you’re working as a group instead of competing as individual contestants. Since joining ZEROBASEONE, have any unexpected or unique bonds developed amongst one other?
KIM GYU VIN: As we prepared our debut album and filmed our reality program, we got to spend time together much more and naturally we got to know each other better. During this time, I feel like I got to know RICKY better.
RICKY: During the program, about 100 people had the same goal of getting one of the nine spots, so competition was unavoidable. But now that we’ve met as members of the same group, we all have a new common goal, which is to reach the top of the new generation together as ZEROBASEONE. Our goal keeps us connected and makes our bond tight. And surprisingly, our members know each other more than I thought. There’s an interesting chemistry among all nine members that we’re waiting for ZEROSE to find out.
Separately, you’ve each partaken in several iconic stages during Boys Planet, but as a complete group – we’re finally getting to see the potential of ZB1’s matchless chemistry! Now that you’ve joined forces, what are a few characteristics that feel exclusive to ZEROBASEONE?
SUNG HAN BIN: I have pride in our team’s visuals. It’s not just about their physical appearance, but they know how to present themselves in a more charming and attractive way. And I think it takes talent to do this. But our biggest standout characteristic is that we keep our discussions constructive because many of us are positive and calm.
PARK GUN WOOK: Our biggest characteristic and strength is that each of us has his own set of qualities. We needed some effort to harmonize as we all come from different backgrounds and trained in different environments, but we’re bonded with the eagerness to grow. Please look forward to us.
Every week fans watched you pursue your passion for music, and that essentially made people feel extremely connected to you before you even debuted! How has that fresh, immense love from fans changed or even enhanced your relationship with music today?
KIM JI WOONG: Because of their love, my musical expression has reached another level of depth. I’m grateful that I can express the feelings I get from music more vividly now. Not only am I thankful for being able to do music like this, but I doubt that there is anything more exciting and happier than finding new inspiration from the emotional bond we have with ZEROSE.
RICKY: At first I simply loved music. But now that there are fans who love our music, their love brings great happiness and power, and it boosts my confidence. I also feel a little more pressure than before because people are waiting for us with a certain expectation and I can’t let them down. But my love for music has not changed a bit.
Generally, a group’s introductory period is also a time for discovery, and there’s an indescribable magic that comes attached to a rookie debut! Going into your first release, did you have any conversations about what statement you intended to make? And what changes or skills did that mission statement require?
ZHANG HAO: The nine of us became one team as we worked on our first album. We want to move forward together with ZEROSE. We now go by a new name ZEROBASEONE, and we’re also about to begin new adventures. We may not be perfect yet, but we will keep going our way with passion and courage.
KIM TAE RAE: Our debut album encapsulates our story. We had both our ups and downs until we ‘bloomed’ the dream of debuting. And I think it will be the same with other remarkable moments that we’ll experience in the future. We put a lot of thought into expressing all of this through our music and performance.
Let’s dive into your music a bit! When you first listened to the demo of your title track, what parts were you most eager to tackle and make your own?
SUNG HAN BIN: I wanted to sing the part “Despite how in the most beautiful way / You radiate over the whole world / They say nothing is eternal / In the end, all will fade”. It could be interpreted in many ways, but I think it could mean that we should appreciate the present, which is why I found it relatable and also very touching.
KIM JI WOONG: Actually the parts I have right now are the ones I wanted in the first place. Thankfully I get to sing those parts, so I’m giving my best in delivering them.
ZHANG HAO: For me, it’s the hook. The part where it goes “Oh oh oh oh” makes me visualize the nine members of ZEROBASEONE running forward together.
SEOK MATTHEW: I would have to say one of TAE RAE’s parts (“Despite how in the most beautiful way / You radiate over the whole world”) and my part (“Tomorrow is yet to come / So I won’t think about it”). The reason is that those were the parts that gave me the chills.
KIM TAE RAE: I wanted to deliver the pre-chorus because it has a strong start with a high note. I got to sing that part.
RICKY: I’m actually pretty excited to share this story. When we first listened to the demo, I was hooked by the pre-chorus part (“I would even change my destiny”) because that’s where the song suddenly goes from upbeat to a slow vibe. I like how that part stands out. I actually said this right from the start, when we first heard the demo. I was very happy when it ended up being my part, and I also think the lyrics suit me well because of the meaning.
KIM GYU VIN: The first time I heard this song, I was obsessed with the pre-chorus section where it goes “To not lose you, I Chase”. I think that part is amazing.
PARK GUN WOOK: I like the last phrase of MATTHEW’s verse. I like how the mood heightens, and the vocals are great too.
HAN YU JIN: I think the first melody, the first phrase is important in any song because it decides what kind of impression the song gives to the audience. That’s why I wanted to do the opening and set the mood.
Since a mini-album offers extra room for artistic expression and individuality – what would you each say was the most satisfying track to listen to when everything was finalized?
SUNG HAN BIN: I really like the topline of “In Bloom”, but the lyrics are what I like the most. The words are not used that commonly and the language resonates with my personal thoughts.
KIM JI WOONG: My favorite is “In Bloom”. There’s a line that goes “I open my eyes / Hunched flower comes to bloom” which I personally connect with a lot. Everyone struggles at some point in life, but if you don’t give up and keep dedicating yourself until the end, flowers will eventually bloom.
ZHANG HAO: My favorites are “And I” and “Always”. “And I” brings you comfort and it also has an addictive melody. I sang “Always” by myself and it’s very unique, a style that I’ve never tried before.
SEOK MATTHEW: I would say “Our Season” because it’s a genre I’ve never sung before and I was able to show some of my rap. Not sure if I did good enough though, but I really hope ZEROSE like it because it brought out some new colors from me.
KIM TAE RAE: I like “New Kidz on the Block” the most. It’s very catchy and I really enjoyed working on it, so I think ZEROSE will be able to feel the joy in it.
RICKY: I would say it’s “New Kidz on the Block”, I had more room to express myself in terms of vocal techniques. And I also like the playful vibe of the song.
KIM GYU VIN: I like “Our Seasons” the most. I love how the lyrics are about shaping our own season and the melody as well.
PARK GUN WOOK: For me, it’s “New Kidz on the Block”. It feels very fresh from the first listen, but the more you listen to it, the more you’ll like and enjoy the song. I hope ZEROSE will also listen to it often and appreciate it.
HAN YU JIN: My favorites are “Back to ZEROBASE”, “In Bloom”, and “New Kidz on the Block”. The melodies of all three songs are easy to remember and I got addicted to them quickly.
You’ve all had time to adapt to live performances, but music videos are an entirely different ballpark! How did that experience compare to your initial expectations?
SEOK MATTHEW: At first I was worried, but as the filming progressed it made me want to do better. It was definitely a unique experience and I can’t wait for our next one, please look forward to my acting scenes in our music videos!
HAN YU JIN: The music video really brings the concept of our debut album to life, so I didn’t find the filming tiring and gave it my best. In the beginning, it felt a little awkward, but the set design was so nice that acting and dancing in front of it was a whole new experience. We had to shoot repeatedly but it wasn’t exhausting. We worked hard for the music video, so I hope ZEROSE will enjoy watching it.
Obviously, you’re still in the middle of your debut era, but looking into the future, what are a few things you hope to accomplish during this ZEROBASEONE adventure?
SUNG HAN BIN: ZEROSE are cheering for us from all over the world, so I hope we can meet them in person and show them our performance in as many places as possible. I’ll try my best to have our music reach different parts of the world, and I’ll continue our journey with gratitude to bring that dream to life.
ZHANG HAO: I want to visit many different places in the world on ZEROBASEONE’s adventure, and I also want to establish our own identity in different fields including music, performance, fashion, and more. When we look back to this time, I hope that our journey can be a proud moment in the lives of our nine members.
KIM JI WOONG: ZEROBASEONE’s everlasting friendship, ZEROSE’s endless happiness. We will all get to embrace a huge flower in our arms.
In closing, if you were going to pick one quality about yourself that you hope fans will recognize even a decade from this moment in time – what would you choose?
SUNG HAN BIN: I can say with confidence that what I can show you is limitless. With my strength in dancing, I’ll continue to choreograph to many kinds of music, and my dancing style will become a one-of-a-kind. My strength is my duality, and that I never stop.
KIM JI WOONG: I love ZEROSE a lot more than they think.
ZHANG HAO: “ZHANG HAO was born to be on stage.” That’s the compliment I’ll pursue as an idol, and I hope that even 10 years from now fans will have that pride before they watch my videos on stage.
SEOK MATTHEW: My jawline, I hope after a decade I still have it [laughs]. No, but if I was being serious it would be that people know me for being real and that I stay honest with my fans.
KIM TAE RAE: My attitude on stage and my singing!
RICKY: For me, my confidence and faith are what keep me going even in difficult situations. I keep doing what I do until I change my fate.
KIM GYU VIN: I only have one thing to ask for: don’t ever forget my love for you.
PARK GUN WOOK: I would choose a humble mindset. I’ll have this same mindset 10 years from now, and I hope my fans will help me keep it and acknowledge it.
HAN YU JIN: I hope they know that I keep challenging myself with new things.