On Jan. 7, K-pop boy band SF9 released their first Korean LP, fittingly titled First Collection, and held a showcase event for fans at Seoul’s Blue Square IMarket Hall. Fronted by the smooth “Good Guy,” the full-length album arrived three years after the release of the nonet’s first single, 2016’s “Fanfare,” and seven Korean EPs plus several releases in Japanese and Chinese. Backstage an hour before bringing their first live performance to fans both in Korea and beyond via the concert and a livestream, SF9’s members were surrounded by a sense of nervous chaos, with some members calmly getting hair and makeup done while streaming their new album and some practicing, whether it was dance moves in front of mirrors or singing vocal runs while making sure their stage outfits -- classically-inspired suits -- looked just right.
Though K-pop as an entity may be big, as an industry it is relatively small and for every act that gets their name spread across the globe there are many others still waiting for their big break. The members of SF9 try to play off the anxiety, but members admit that they feel like the release of their first LP after so many prior releases is a make or break it moment for them. “There’s a lot of pressure,” says Zuho. “Until now, we only did songs that we wanted to do but for 'Good Guy' we put a lot of thought into what the public, the general audience, would like. I’m happy that the album came out but because we’re still waiting for the results that we need to achieve, I’m feeling a bit nervous.”
A few minutes later -- as Jaeyoon begins to discuss how “Good Guy” is a song that he feels “can easily be received by the public, as an approachable tune” -- someone runs into the room shouting, “58!” to cheers. It’s the ranking that “Good Guy” debuted on the realtime Melon music chart in South Korea, based on listens an hour after the release of their song. It’s the highest-ever a SF9 single debuted at on the chart. It, plus their first -- and later several other -- win on one of South Korea’s weekly music shows a few days later, are some of the results the members were hoping for. “In the beginning, results didn’t really matter to us,” says Zuho. “Now that we’ve been around for a while, I feel that it’s time for us to achieve a concrete, solid result.”