The Korea Herald


Hybe's &Team takes first global step with 'Firework'

Japanese boy band holds global media showcase in Tokyo before flying to South Korea

By Choi Ji-won

Published : June 18, 2023 - 17:49

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Boy band &Team performs Boy band &Team performs "Firework" at a media showcase for the band's second EP, "First Howling: We," at Roppongi Hills Arena in Tokyo on Sunday. (Hybe Labels Japan)

Japan-based K-pop boy band &Team held a global media showcase event on Sunday, following the release of its second EP, "First Howling: We."

The event, held at Roppongi Hills Arena in Tokyo, was livestreamed via YouTube for overseas media. The nine bandmates spoke mostly in Japanese with Korean, English and Chinese mixed in between.

"First Howling: We," which released Wednesday, marked a return from the boy band just six months since its debut under Korean entertainment company Hybe in December.

&Team consists of seven Japanese members Taki, Maki, Jo, Harua, Yuma, Fuma and K, Korean member EJ and Taiwanese member Nicholas.

The group was put together through two TV competitions, "I-Land" and "&Audition - The Howling," and launched in December under Hybe's Japanese subsidiary, Hybe Labels Japan.

With the new album, which includes two Korean-language songs, the rookie group is making its first excursion outside of Japan. Next week, the group officially embarks on its promotions in South Korea.

"We're taking our first step as global artists with this album and I'm looking forward to everything," Harua said. Jo added, "Since our debut in December, we've gained lessons, experienced and found new desires. We hope to show more of us in the future."

EJ, the leader, said, "We talked with each other a lot. We try to make time, even if it's really short, to talk and get to know each other, and our teamwork has become stronger."

Driven by the urge to show themselves, &Team returned Wednesday with the six-track package "First Howling: We," with lead track "Firework."

The new album moves the story's focus from "me" to "we," as the bandmates finally meet that loved one they had been desperately searching for in the previous album.

"This album draws out the journey and growth of the nine boys on their way to finding 'you' -- whom we had become aware of in our debut EP -- and the moment we finally meet 'you,'" Taki said.

"Firework" highlights that decisive moment when the band finds "you," and compares the emotional crescendo to the lights exploding in the night's sky.

Hybe's founder and executive producer, Bang Si-hyuk -- as known as "Hit Man" Bang -- teamed up with producer Frans for the song. &Team's K took part in making the choreography.

Boy band &Team poses at a media showcase for the group's second EP Boy band &Team poses at a media showcase for the group's second EP "First Howling: We," at Roppongi Hills Arena in Tokyo, Sunday. (Hybe Labels Japan)

"All the members felt our tension heighten when we first heard the song," Fuma said. "After finishing the recording and hearing it, I felt so overwhelmed that I cried in the car."

Fuma said he was especially moved by his part in the song. "I sing of lighting the wet fuse with love for you, and it overlapped with my own situation. I met &Team when I was about to give up, and with the group, I was able to race forward again," the band's subleader Fuma said.

"As we depict the intense happiness we feel at finally meeting 'you,' the performance is very powerful. When we first practiced, we all collapsed after only the first verse. We honed ourselves hard, training and monitoring, to complete the moves," K said.

The album also includes "Road Not Taken," which the group performed live at the media showcase Sunday. The band also performed "Firework."

About "Road Not Taken," Nicholas said, "We move around a lot in the song, so teamwork was the foremost factor as we practiced. And the choreography itself is complex and includes difficult acrobatic moves, so we couldn't lose our focus even a moment to prevent any accidents."

The band's first drama original soundtrack, "Blind Love," featured on Japanese TV drama "Dr. Chocolate," is also included on the band's second EP.

"It's our first drama OST and we also starred in the series as well. We treasure the song very much," Harua said. "In the song's last part, Jo sings of our definition of 'love' with his part."

"The Moon is Beautiful," another new Japanese song on the album, is an anthem dedicated to the band's fans, known as Lune.

"The song limns out the inexpressibly blissful emotion of love for the special person," EJ expounded, to which Maki added, "There are many lyrics about the moon in this one, and I imagine Lune singing them."

The album also carries the band's first Korean songs, with Korean versions of "Firework" and "Scent of You," a track off the band's debut EP. With the songs, the nine-piece act is set to promote its new album in South Korea for three weeks through various activities, including TV music programs and online variety shows.

With its release, "First Howling: We" landed atop Oricon's daily album ranking in Japan and soared to No. 2 on South Korea's Circle Chart's daily retail album data.

Boy band &Team holds a media showcase event for the group's second EP, Boy band &Team holds a media showcase event for the group's second EP, "First Howling: We," at Roppongi Hills Arena in Tokyo, Sunday. (Hybe Labels Japan)

Speaking in Korean, K, said, "I'm usually the more worried type, but right now, I feel ready to show what we have prepared. I'm excited to show ourselves on more various stages."

Also speaking in Korean, Jo said, "We'll be starring on Korean TV and holding various events in both Korea and Japan. ... In September, we celebrate our first anniversary of the group's formation, and we are currently planning something for Lunes to look forward to."

&Team is the first Japanese idol band launched by Hybe, one of the biggest entertainment companies in Korea, housing multiple successful K-pop groups, including BTS and Seventeen.

Touted as a group with "Hybe Success DNA" by the company, &Team gave their own definitions of what it means to be a Hybe artist.

"I think it refers to the strong will for growth to show better music and performance that could move the people's hearts regardless of the limitations of language and regions," Taki said in Korean.

EJ, the Korean member whose real name is Euijoo, said, "Being born and raised in Korea, I've grown up watching BTS spread K-pop as a culture to the world and hoped to become like them. As a Hybe artist, I hope to make music that everyone around the world could empathize with."

Asked how the band would define its music, Fuma answered in Korean: "I hope listeners define what genre our music is. I grew up admiring K-pop for its captivation of the world through music. &Team's music centers on diversity and compassion, and we hope to connect with global listeners through music and performances of various genres."