GOT7 Reflect on Latest U.S. Tour, Artistic Ownership & How They Thank Their Fans Through NYC Takeover
The morning of July 10 was an early one for GOT7, kicking off a packed media day that most U.S. celebrities would drool over, with the members of the five-year-old multinational K-pop boy band keenly aware of something special brewing during this New York visit.
Not only were the septet about to become the first K-pop group to play Brooklyn's Barclays Center arena -- and sell out its 19,000 seats -- but JB, Mark, Jackson, Jinyoung, Youngjae, BamBam and Yugyeom were taking over town with fan-demanded TV appearances, surprise store visits and sign-wielding supporters no matter what time of day or where the guys were popping up. The band's situation acts as a stark difference from their first NYC visit that included playing the PlayStation Theater, a 2,100-capacity venue, and few media looks in 2016. Just two years later GOT7 and their fans made sure to make the most of the band's time in the Big Apple by kicking off their NYC journey with an appearance on Good Day New York, the local morning show that's been notable for its ratings outperforming some national morning shows. A fan-generated hashtag #BringGOT7toGDNY got the attention of show anchors and producers, and earned such a great reaction that the show announced a 30-minute special dedicated to the band coming next month.
"We don't have chances to show up on U.S. television and this isn't even a small TV show -- it's big," GOT7's BamBam reflects with Billboard backstage after about an hour of filming for Good Day that included the guys performing the choreography to a snippet of latest single "Look." "It's an honor to be here and it's all thanks to the fans. I hope later on we can go on another show too -- we have a lot more to do! Like the Ellen Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, there are a lot more."
GOT7 leader JB notes that it's ideal timing, saying, "K-pop has gotten a lot bigger since 2016 and we want to take advantage of this opportunity here to spread K-pop," before adding, "We're really determined this time and want to meet the fans' expectations."
While the guys' biggest concern is their fans, they add that this tour has surpassed their own initial expectations, particularly for Los Angeles–raised member Mark who says he never thought he'd play arenas in his home country. "We came here a year after we debuted for a fan meeting," he reflects. "It was pretty cool back then too, performing just in front of a few hundred people, but we knew that we wanted to perform for bigger crowds eventually. We didn't know it would happen this soon so we're really blessed."
It wasn't only the GOT7 members surprising themselves during this tour either. "You would expect a Korean-language act to draw primarily an Asian audience," Keith Sheldon, executive vice president of programming for BSE Global that oversees programming for the arena tells Billboard. "However we noticed great diversity both in terms of age and ethnicity. It really speaks to the growth of the genre and the vast cultural melting pot in Brooklyn. We were excited to welcome GOT7 as our first K-pop group at Barclays Center, given the explosion of Asian-pop in North America, and the subsequent success that GOT7 and similar artists have had, we were incredibly excited to host such a marquee event."
Still, youngest member Yugyeom notes that "our heart hasn't really changed. It doesn't really matter how many people are in the audience, if it's a big or small audience, from then and now, nothing's changed as far as our heart for performing for the fans."
GOT7 performed at Barclays as the final U.S. stop of their Eyes on You world tour, named after their March release that hit No. 2 on Billboard's World and Heatseekers Albums chart. But as the guys explain the creation behind their latest collection, the inspiration behind it all seemed to indicate it point them towards new, ambitious goals.
"Before we start making any song or preparing any album, we have a large meeting and come up with a keyword," BamBam explains of their initial creative steps. "This album's keyword was 'confidence.' So, that keyword is the main point for us and we use that keyword to start making stuff. That's how we came up with songs like 'Look' or 'Thank You.' So, the song styles all might be a little different, but if you look at the lyrics, all the songs are connected."
In fact, the band says they connect with and have a heavier hand in nearly all the new material released since their last NYC concert. The guys see the early-2016 release Flight Log: Departure as the first marker of finding their sound ("But the songs weren't that good," Mark says before deciding "well, some of them were") with last year's 7 for 7 representing a full artistic ownership ("That whole album was from us," says BamBam, "That's better than singing some song that someone made for us because we understand it more -- the style, the lyrics, the performance; it's worth it").
That point of view continues with Eyes on You in one of the best examples coming in the album closer "Thank You," a track written and co-produced by member Jinyoung and is collectively decided by the band to be the group's fan-dedication track -- "the best fan song so far," according to BamBam.
"When I listen to this track, I felt it was like a warm, love song," Jinyoung explains of the song and its double meaning. "Talking with my co-writer I thought, 'How can I write this song?' and he said, 'Let's try to talk about fans?' and I wrote the melody and lyrics. I think the lyrics are the most important part of my song because we don't have any fan songs [on this tour] -- before we have had it, but at this concert we didn't have one so I wanted to make it a fan song."
Marks adds, "I think it's perfect for this time because the fans did a lot for us so we just want to want to thank them for it."
Throughout their day of interviews and appearances, the guys answer multiple questions about what their fans mean to them but also their friendship, likening it to being brothers. And backstage in their green room of Good Day New York, some of these brothers are quietly relaxing on the couch, some are excitedly playing foosball with one another, some are giggling with a tour manager, but there's an undeniable sense of comfort with one another that comes through both on and off camera. "2PM shared with us that teamwork is the most important factor," Yugyeom says of the top lesson they learned from their senior label mates at JYP Entertainment. "Of course, being skilled in dancing, singing, things like that are important. But our teamwork, our friendship and being a family is first and foremost."