NCT 127 Talk Upcoming 'We Are Superhuman' Album, Bringing K-Pop to the World & Group Dynamics
Just days before The Avengers saved the universe from a devastating finger snap in Endgame, K-pop boy band NCT 127 premiered their new song “Superhuman” on Good Morning America on April 18. A bright complextro track, the single is all about thinking positively about oneself, and fronts their upcoming album We Are Superhuman, set to release on May 24.
It’s “about how everyone has the potential to be their own superhero, and each and everyone of us is a superhero,” according to Johnny. One of the group’s two members hailing from North America -- he’s from Chicago, while Mark’s family resides in Vancouver -- Johnny and eight other members of NCT 127 are spending much of April and May making their way across the continent, bringing their 2019 Neo City: The Origin world tour to cities across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Their first world tour marks a new stage of the team's career, and their name reflects their goal to bring music from South Korea to the rest of the globe: “127” is Seoul’s longitudinal demarcation, while “NCT” is an acronym for “Neo Culture Technology,” a term used by South Korean company SM Entertainment for its experimental approach to its latest K-pop act, which is a larger NCT grouping broken down into smaller units; along with NCT 127, other NCT teams include NCT Dream and NCT U.
The concert series and the inspirational single, as well as NCT 127's aim to become "Superhuman" representatives of the K-pop world, are closely linked together: though they premiered it on GMA, NCT 127 only performed a partial version of “Superhuman” on the ABC morning show. Instead, they waited until they were in front of their NCTzen fans at the first U.S. show of their tour to share the single in its entirety. It was one of three new songs the act introduced to fans that night (April 24), each one a surprise to the audience that elicited shouts of approval from the green-lit crowd at Newark’s Prudential Center.
Ahead of the show, the nine touring members of NCT 127 sat down with Billboard. Check out some of what they had to say below, and watch the rest of the interview above.
You spent the past week in New York City, meeting with fans, going to interviews, hanging around the city, and a whole lot more. Do you have any fond memories?
Jaehyun: We did a lot of things. We took pictures with our fans, and we had a chance to perform in front of our fans very closely. We also went to a lot of places too. We went to the middle of the Easter festival.
Mark: We had our own bonnets, our hats.
You got up close and personal with fans, so was there any differences you noticed between your local U.S. fans versus your fans elsewhere?
Johnny: One thing that I noticed was that when people were singing our song “Regular,” they were singing the American version, the English version, and that really surprised me. We were just in Korea and they were singing it in Korean. And now they were singing it in English. We were like, “Wait, this is the English version!”
Do you think it’s important to sing in English for English-speaking fans then?
Mark: I feel like speaking in English definitely has a plus to everything, but that shouldn’t be the main focus or point. We’re K-pop, we’re not trying to be something we’re not. We’re just bringing ourselves to the world. Whether or not it gets accepted or not, we’re just being ourselves and having our own originality. K-pop is what we want to represent, and nothing else.
Johnny and Mark, you’re going to be performing in your hometowns. Are you excited to be performing at home for the first time with NCT 127?
Johnny: I’m actually very nervous, kind of. We’re performing at the Rosemont in Chicago, and I went there ever since I was a little kid. Being able to perform is very meaningful to me, and to have my members there as well. I can’t wait to perform with them at the place I’ve been to when I was little. Also, I hope to bring them to my house. Have some home cooked meals. I think that would be really fun as well.
Who have you seen perform at the Rosemont?
Johnny: I saw a lot of Korean artists, actually, because my mom would always take me to see them. I even saw Lee Seung Chul.
NCT 127: Wow, really?
Johnny: Yea, there are a lot of Korean artists that performed there.
You are a multicultural group with members from multiple different countries. What are some of the perks?
Jaehyun: I think probably the language. When we go to Japan, we learn Japanese from Yuta. He’s from Japan. Whenever we’re in Korea, there’s our Korean members. When we come to America, we have people who use English so it’s really good to interact with our friends more closely.
Who is the best at picking up languages?
Johnny: Actually, I think Jungwoo.
Mark: Yea, Jungwoo’s good.
Jungwoo: Oh, really? That’s right. It’s me. It was so easy.
Johnny: He learns it right away. He gets the way we say things. This time around, I kept telling him to tell our fans about his beautiful hair and he kept talking about it. It was just really cool to see.
Jungwoo: My best teacher.
Jungwoo: My hair, it’s always the best hair.
What do you think of your role in bringing more diversity to American media as Asian and Asian-American performers? Did you ever think it would be possible to get recognition here?
Mark: I think it’s in a way a blessing to be in this day and age where K-pop is getting more recognition in America and globally. I feel like to be part of that movement is itself an honor. While we’re at it, we just wish to be the best at what we’re doing. Having that kind of responsibility, we just want to show K-pop as much as it’s getting the spotlight. Whatever it may be, and however the path may go, we’re doing just whatever we can and doing what we love most.
What is a superhuman talent or skill that the person sitting beside you has that is unique to them?
Johnny: Yuta has the super power of making people happy around him. He has the ability to make people smile. He has an ability called “healing smile.”
Yuta: Thank you.
Johnny: That felt good saying that too.
Yuta: Doyoung has a beautiful voice. He has the ability to make people’s ears melt.
Doyoung: Because Jungwoo is very cute, people will forgive him for anything he does.
Does he cause a lot of trouble?
Doyoung: A little, but he’s cute so it’s okay.
Jungwoo: Mark is a very kind boy and has a beautiful voice.
Jungwoo: He has the ability to be positive and I get a lot of energy from his encouragement.
Mark: Taeil, I’m actually very jealous of this ability. He has the ability to sleep at any place and any time. This is a very, very good thing. When the schedules are tight, you’re tired but even though you’re tired it’s hard to sleep sometimes because it gets uncomfortable or something. But that does not affect him at all. Sleeping is always charging, you know? It’s always good for the body.
Taeil, about Taeyong: He’s charismatic and cute. He has everything.
Taeyong: He’s a strong player, especially in sports and on stage. He has a nice face, and good smile. [in Korean] How do you say dimples? [In English] His dimples are cute. He is cute. My brother. All my brothers.
Jaehyun: Am I getting red? [laughs] Haechan-
Haechan: Show me what you got.
Jaehyun First of all, he’s my roommate and I love him as my brother. His ability is that he’s really good at memorizing any choreography so quickly. I think he knows the most choreography of all. Any K-pop dance, or any moves he’s good at memorizing.
Haechan, about Johnny: All of the super abilities go into his arms, and that’s why he wins at arm wrestling all the time.
Do you guys arm wrestle a lot?
Johnny: It comes up once in a while. Who is the strongest.
And Johnny always wins?
Johnny: I mean, I don’t try. [Members laugh]
Haechan, you recently recovered from an injury. How does it feel to be back?
Haechan: I was very upset at not being able to participate in the first concerts that we held, but I feel much better now and I’m happy I can join the tour now.
You recently shared your new single "Superhuman" with the world, and it seems like you kind of change your sound up on it versus your past singles. What do you want listeners to take away from this new side to NCT 127?
Mark: When it comes to genres, we always love to challenge ourselves and to do something new. “Superhuman” was definitely one of those songs where we felt that it would be the right song to try and experiment. When it comes to sound and performance and everything, “Superhuman” was the song was thought was very unique and something the fans would not expect but it would have our color in it as well.
Doyoung: The most important thing is that we love the song very much, and because we love the song so much I think that we’re going to enjoy performing it that much more. I think all of our fans are going to love it.
Johnny: We’re actually performing a few new songs tonight, which we’re very excited for. I think the fans are going to love it.
What other songs from the album are you excited for fans to hear, excited to perform tonight?
Taeyong: All the songs.
Jungwoo: Maybe “Jetlag.”
Taeyong: I’m really excited because today we’re going to be showing a special video of “Highway to Heaven” to our fans at the concert.
Johnny: "Highway to Heaven" and "Jetlag.” We're showing them, premiering them today to our fans and we're just very excited. And we just can't wait to show off our music because we love the songs. We’re curious what they’re going to think about it. We know they’re going to love it, but we want to see their reactions.
Does the idea behind “Jetlag” come from experience? Does anyone in NCT 127 get really bad jetlag?
Johnny: I think maybe Taeyong? He takes a long time to get used to the jetlag.
Taeyong: I’m usually a person who likes to sleep late and waking up late, but after coming here the jetlag’s kind of been good for me because I’m sleeping earlier and waking up earlier. Good routine.
When jetlag, or just anything, keeps you up at night, what do you do?
Jaehyun: We usually do a lot in one day so usually when we go to bed, we just go to sleep right away. There are no worries.
Mark: It’s like an off button.
Taeyong: I look at Billboard charts, YouTube channels.
Jaehyun just mentioned how your days are really busy, so what do you guys to stay level headed and unwind at the end of the day?
Yuta: I’ll take a panshinyuk [반신욕].
Johnny: I actually looked panshinyuk up in English the other month for some reason. It’s a half body bath. He used to do that a lot in Japan as well. It’s like you go into the tub, and you have the water right above your bellybutton or so. It’s just warm water.
Mark: I don’t think America has that a lot.
Yuta: It’s not weird. Being Japanese, it’s a very normal thing.
Johnny: It gets the blood flowing up and down. It’s very healthy. You guys should try panshinyuk. Half body bath.
This interview was conducted intermittently in both English and Korean depending on the question.