First things first: a round of applause for Ateez.
In late October, the eight-member K-pop group was in New York, having wrapped their year-long “The Fellowship” world tour just a few weeks earlier. Each member claps at mention of the tour’s culmination, which kicked off in Seoul in early 2023 and took them across Asia, Europe, Africa, North America and Latin America.
“Ateez is really good at energy and crazy passion, and we can do any job,” says San, seated next to his fellow group members at the Sony headquarters near Madison Square Park.
The group had recently arrived from Korea, and was relishing rare downtime before heading to the Prudential Center, where they would headline the first Stateside “KBS Immortal Songs: Live Concert.” “Yesterday, we did nothing,” says the group when asked what they’ve been up to since touching down in the city.
A well-earned nothing — and very short-lived. In November, Ateez won two awards at the MAMA Awards (similar to the Grammys, for the Asian music industry), where they also debuted the lead track from their new album, “The World EP.Fin: Will.” Released in early December, the album debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart, marking Ateez’s first number-one spot on the list. Shortly after, Ateez teased their next world tour for 2024, “Towards the Light: Will to Power.”
“With every release, we have to show a new side of ourselves that’s different from the previous albums, so there’s a larger amount of time and effort that has to be input into preparing for a release each time,” says Mingi.
“Ateez as a group has connected everything since debut with one overarching storyline,” says Yeosang. “There’s a lot of emotions I’d like for listeners to feel with these new songs and just as I dance. Even if others aren’t, I hope our listeners gain the courage to challenge what they want to do with an unwavering spirit.”
Ateez recently marked their fifth anniversary as a group. They’ve since amassed a dedicated fanbase, known as “Atiny,” and extensive musical repertoire. They maintain a robust online presence, posting often to their social media profiles, and this past summer launched a dance challenge to engage their fans further. The focus is on keeping things fresh for their fans watching and listening.
“These days many K-pop fans not only listen to music, they want to see more when we’re on the stage or music video,” says group captain Hongjoong, who has also cultivated a relationship with Balmain this year. “Our fans and audience want to see something new. That’s why fashion is important for K-pop.”
Personal aesthetics within the group range from “very simple” (Jongho) to “clean and modern” (Mingi) and “unique” (San). “I would describe my style as chameleon,” says Hongjoong. “We each have our own styles that’s so different every time, but when we’re on the stage and the differences are combined together, the synergy is crazy.”
“We do the same movement when we’re dancing, but the clothes change and [creates] a different vibe and feeling,” adds San.
Each of their accompanying music videos are cinematic and slickly choreographed, with a sartorial theme to match. For their last album, the throughline was “outlaws,” and their video hit “Bouncy” cast them as cowboys and boxers. In their latest video, “Crazy Form,” the group dons red Napoleonic-era jackets for the main dance sequences. Asked about their aesthetic approach for “Will” and the upcoming tour, the group loops back to an overarching description: new.
“We’re not afraid to try new things and take on new challenges, as we work to create Ateez’s own style. I think that’s why we’re able to show such a variety of genres of music and a vast range in style,” says Seonghwa. “This forward approach in taking on new challenges doesn’t apply to just music, but to all aspects. We want to give the fans a new feeling through every detail, and this includes trying different fashion styles, makeup and hairstyles.”
“We prepared a lot for the next year,” adds Hongjoong, asked what fans can expect for the year ahead. “We’re going to show our next step to our fans, Atiny: A new Ateez.”