ATEEZ talk exploring their “sexy side” on ‘ZERO : FEVER Part.3’ and the return of MINGI

The boyband also spoke to NME about ‘Kingdom: Legendary War’, and what they learned from senior groups like BtoB and iKON

For ATEEZ, 2021 has been all about expanding their repertoire. Known for their powerful and dynamic presence, the group have been exploring different themes and concepts – they say new single ‘Deja Vu’ is a showcase of their “sexy side”. But not only through their music releases as the boyband have proved through their show-stopping performances on reality TV competition Kingdom: Legendary War, where they came in third place against seasoned boybands like BtoB, Stray Kids and more.

The eight-member act – comprising members HONGJOONG, SEONGHWA, YUNHO, YEOSANG, SAN, MINGI, WOOYOUNG and JONGHO – seem to have dedicated their career so far to relentlessly hitting milestone after milestone, and their recent release is no exception.

The boyband’s new mini-album ‘ZERO : FEVER Part.3’ marks the boyband’s debut appearance on the Billboard 200 chart and is also their best-selling record ever in South Korean. It’s a triumphant achievement for the group, and all in time for the return of dancer and rapper MINGI, who had gone on hiatus late last year due to health issues.

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Shortly after the arrival of ‘ZERO : FEVER Part.3’, NME caught up with ATEEZ to chat about the new release, MINGI’s return and what they learnt through Kingdom: Legendary War.

ateez zero fever part 3 interview deja vu eternal sunshine
ATEEZ. Credit: KQ Entertainment

Hello ATEEZ, and congratulations on your recent comeback with your seventh mini-album ‘ZERO : FEVER Part.3’! It’s been about half a year since your last comeback, how does it feel to be back?

SEONGHWA: “I am very grateful to the fans who have waited, and with the return of MINGI, the eight of us got to make a comeback together, so I’m very happy and I think we will be able to make lots of good memories.”

WOOYOUNG: “It’s our first comeback after Kingdom, and we worked hard to prepare as much as [our fans] ATINY waited for us! I want to show you how we have improved from the last album!”

Can you tell us more about your new title tracks, ‘Deja Vu’ and ‘Eternal Sunshine’?

HONGJOONG: “‘Deja Vu’ is a song that expresses the longing for existence that was seen in a dream. ATEEZ has performed a lot of songs with various moods, including powerful and refreshing songs. This song ‘Deja Vu’ seems to have a more dreamy and sexy feeling than the songs before, and we worked hard to show those aspects of us which suit the atmosphere of the song.”

SEONGHWA: “I think there are a lot of positive messages [in ‘Eternal Sunshine’]. It’s a little different from ‘WAVE’, but it has a bright energy. I think it’s a song that expresses the passion of youth very well.”

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SAN: “‘Eternal Sunshine’ contains positive content and we tried hard to incorporate the literal meaning into it, and I think it’s a song that can melt the hearts of many people with our brightest energy on stage.”

Prior to the release of ‘ZERO : FEVER Part.3’, fans voted between ‘Deja Vu’ and ‘Eternal Sunshine’ on which to promote. Why do you think ATINY ended up choosing ‘Deja Vu’?

SEONGHWA: “Since ATEEZ’s musical style has been very intense, I think the fans liked ‘Deja Vu’ a little more, which has a strong impression among the two songs. And it also shows the sexy side of ATEEZ that was not usually seen from us, so I think ATINY preferred this song a little more.”

This isn’t the first time ATEEZ have gotten fans to vote in such a way. What made you decide to approach your releases this way?

YEOSANG: “The biggest reason is ATINY. We talk a lot about how ATEEZ and ATINY are always on the same journey together. We keep the voting system because by choosing [which song to promote] with our fans, we get to actively communicate with them, and rather than creating a stage solely by us, we wanted to make a stage that we form together with ATINY.”

YUNHO: “I think it’s because they know ATEEZ’s style better than anyone else. It is ATINY who sees ATEEZ performing, so there are also advantages of knowing what they like and communicating with our fans a little more.”

MINGI, this is ATEEZ’s first comeback since your return from hiatus, we hope you have been well! How does it feel to be actively promoting with the group once again?

MINGI: “I’m really happy these days, and I thought a lot about how it’s really meaningful to be able to work with the members. On the other hand, I’m a little sad because I can’t wait for the day that we will be able to talk to ATINY again and show them our performances face to face. But I’m still very happy and enjoying our activities right now.”

JONGHO: “I’m glad that MINGI came back and [that] the eight of us will work together again. And now, I think it felt even more new because we practiced the choreography [for] the eight-member version.”

Earlier this year, ATEEZ also participated in Kingdom: Legendary War, where you got to showcase a lot of different styles and types of performances. What was it like, and what was the most enjoyable part of being on the show?

YUNHO: “I think we were able to discover what truly makes ATEEZ unique and it was nice to be able to show our own colour to the public. And I think I was happy to win first place in the experts’ vote in the first and second round.”

YEOSANG: “ATEEZ have been good at what we’ve been doing so far, but I think we’ve also shown how we can be good at very different performances too. The most enjoyable element was that I was able to learn a lot and broaden my view of performances while watching other seniors’ performances in person.”

ATEEZ were also the most junior group among all the contestants on Kingdom: Legendary War. What did you learn while competing alongside so many seniors in the K-pop industry, especially groups like BtoB and iKON, who have been around for many years?

YEOSANG: “Personally, I think I learned how to be more relaxed like the seniors who have gained that confidence by performing for a long time throughout the years. Instead of performing with the thought of ‘I should show my best’, I felt that much of their relaxed confidence was coming from them enjoying the stage naturally with all their heart.

ATEEZ have amassed a huge, passionate international following since your debut in 2018. Despite the growing popularity of K-pop overseas, it is not easy to garner such a huge international fanbase so quickly. Why do you think ATEEZ stands out so much among international fans?

MINGI: “I kind of analysed ATEEZ videos by watching them a lot, and what I thought was ATEEZ are a team with a very great energy. To be specific, I think the overflowing energy attracted the attention of the fans as we show and release so much of our energy especially during the live performances. I think this is ATEEZ’s strength.

“And, I think the choruses of our songs leave a huge impression but are very easy to sing along to. It’s very moving how the fans can feel our energy by watching our actual performances and enjoy them together by singing along.”

It has been a whirlwind of a year for ATEEZ, how do you think you have evolved since the beginning of 2021?

HONGJOONG: “A lot of things have taken place this year. We made a comeback at the beginning of the year, and participated in Kingdom: Legendary War. Soon after that, MINGI returned, and we made a comeback as a complete group of eight. Compared to the beginning of 2021, ATEEZ seems to have become stronger, and we feel more stable as eight members now.”

“Considering our performances alone, I think we’ve gained a lot of experience by learning a lot through Kingdom. I think we have become a team that can show more complete and sophisticated performances. In terms of our music and our minds, I think it was a year that we have all grown a lot. And this applies not only on-stage but also off the stage, where we continue to work and practice.”

Finally, what would you like to say to ATINY around the world?

YUNHO: “As much as ATINY wait for us and always look forward to us, we will always work hard and show you our improvements, so please look forward to ATEEZ in the future, and we will try to show you better and more diverse aspects of us as much as ATINY around the world supports us. I love you!”

MINGI: “I am very very happy that we are given meaningful love from ATINY and that we are receiving lots of attention around the world. To be honest, we haven’t been able to meet the fans in person for a while, it seems unreal. I hope the situation gets better soon, so that the day we can meet ATINY in person, show them a lot of our energy, which is our strength, and enjoy together will come soon.”

ATEEZ’s latest mini-album ‘ZERO : FEVER Part.3’ is out now.

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