Idol Reality Show | ② Kang Seungyoon
Editor: YG Entertainment’s, Kang Seungyoon, debuting with the rookie group, WINNER, is the new generation’s entertainer. His name was known through the national interest he gained during MNET’s ‘Superstar K2’. Even so, after he entered YG for another 3 years, he along with the other 5 members from ‘WINNER TV’ had to battle against the six-member ‘WIN Team B’ on a survival program for their debut. After being confirmed for debut, they are currently displaying their debut preparation process through the show, ‘WINNER TV’, which started last week. The trainee who has filmed three reality shows three years before his debut. Cameras follow him around almost 24 hours each day with each and every action under the public’s eye and criticism. All the songs they sing have been graded by the viewers like referees. However surprisingly, Kang Seungyoon views the pressure from those three reality shows as an opportunity for growth and a platform that allowed him to learn about confidence and responsibility. The cameras that followed him around for 24 hours changed one person’s life just like that. It was both an astonishing and rough ride.
Q: You were able to stand on Big Bang’s Japan Dome Tour stage right after being confirmed for debut. Wasn’t it hectic?
Kang Seungyoon: All of us are people who haven’t gone overseas a lot too. (Laughs) Even just riding an airplane is still interesting for us. Rather than it being hectic, it’s fun.
Q: Right after you’ve been chosen to debut, you’ve gotten the new mission of the Dome Tour. Don’t you feel nervous?
Kang Seungyoon: I think being able to stand on our Big Bang senior’s Dome Tour stage is a crazy opportunity for us. Rather than thinking of it as a mission, we just hope not to cause any trouble for our seniors. After being chosen to debut, I’ve felt an overlap of mixed feelings. I feel that if I went on stage with those mixed emotions, I won’t be able to show what I need to so I’m trying my best to focus with our practice.
Q: It must feel different to perform in front of people as a pro artist and not as an audition stage.
Kang Seungyoon: I still feel like the number of people (we’re performing in front of) is unrealistic. It’s the first time for me to see a stage with a scale that large and so even just seeing the seats was overwhelming. However, right when I got up that stage, I was really ecstatic. Fifty thousand Big Bang light sticks waving… Wow. (Smiles) The funny thing is, even though I thought that the members and I would get nervous, I actually started to feel tranquil. We were very nervous during WIN’s final missions stage. In any case, performing and breathing with the audience is what we love to do. But, (what made that stage nerve-wracking) was that rather than finishing the stage with a cheer we were burdened to hear the judges’ evaluations.
Q: After going through a survival battle, it seems you’ve found a peace of mind.
Kang Seungyoon: Now, my heart doesn’t beat so fast on stage and I’m more relaxed. (Laughs)
Q: The members mindset must have changed too.
Kang Seungyoon: It hasn’t changed, per se. Rather, all five of us have completely bound up as one team. We’ve all received a sense of responsibility with the name, WINNER. About teamwork, during WIN, we were close. However, with some people not being used to the broadcast and the fact that we were so busy preparing for the battles, we were mindless of what we said to each other then. But now as a WINNER member, we’ve all felt a sense of responsibility and are being more careful with what we say and how we act.
Q: The cameras are always following you around, has it had any effect on you?
Kang Seungyoon: In a way. I think that it’s difficult for rookies who haven’t debuted yet to get used to the cameras. But since we always have cameras next to us, I think it’ll become a great way to practice. One example of why it’s not good to have a show as a trainee: we used a mix of “cool” (Laughs) Japanese slang but since the cameras are always with us, we end up filtering both our language and actions everyday. (Laughs)
Q: During <WIN> Episode 2, Song Minho seemed to get a bit ahead compared to the other members. So, you two had a serious conversation apart from the others. Wasn’t it a burden to say those words in front of the camera?
Kang Seungyoon: Since it was a broadcast, it has to be fun. However, to us, it was a battle between life and death. I can’t not say what I need to say. And honestly, before that scene, we talked about a whole lot more things. But the production crew found out late that we were having a conversation and then they followed us. (Laughs) Also, usually when we’re joking around I tend to speak very comfortably but during serious talks, I don’t say unpleasant things. When we talk like this, I want to choose my words very carefully. More than caring about my image, improving the problems within our team was more important.
Q: It seems that you have a lot of responsibility.
Kang Seungyoon: Although I wasn’t the leader back then, I’ve always felt pressured about my own position. Since before the program started, YG mentioned that I was the only one that would release a solo album. So I thought that I had to do more for my team.
Q: You must have had a lot of worries about that. You were also one of the longest trainees amongst them, too. And now you’ve been chosen to debut.
Kang Seungyoon: When we first started, YG CEO said this when we were all gathered (Imitates Yang Hyun Suk’s voice) “Since Seungyoon will be releasing a solo album, do your best.” (Laughs) In a way, I must’ve become the “bad guy” amongst all 11 of us. Because someone could have thoughts like even if I lose, I could still debut. I felt so apologetic to them about it that as I went on with the broadcast, I tried to lower myself. While doing the broadcast, when I think that I really had to say my own opinions, I say it, but I tried to listen to the members more.
Q: Did you learn what kind of position you held to yourself after <Superstar K>? Actually, isn’t <WIN> kind of like <Superstar K>’s “SUPER WEEK” done in 10 weeks.
Kang Seungyoon: During <Superstar K>, I only had to take responsibility of myself. Of course, since I’ve gotten closer with the other participants, I was upset when someone would get disqualified. But, it was still a 1:1 battle. I only had to take care of myself on broadcast. I only had to show myself and my own individuality. However, with <WIN>, if we got disqualified, we would be disqualified together and if we won, we would win together. It wouldn’t work out if I were to only succeed on my own. Also, since the members’ personalities and colours were all so different, if we were to only focus on ourselves, our songs would be ruined. With my experience after surviving an audition program by myself, in a way, I’ve thought of ways of how different people can blend together without sticking out.
Q: Around when did the team’s colours start to form as one?
Kang Seungyoon: At first, our individual respective opinions were strong and each of us only took care of our own selves. Then, around the second battle, the members knew this wasn’t going to work out. We thought that we should start supporting the leader’s thoughts and put our own views as one. Coincidentally, I was changed into the leader and I was lucky with that. The members pushed their feelings aside and followed my opinions. Even though they didn’t completely agree with my views, they first believed in me. Whether the outcome would be good or bad, it was the first time we gathered up as one.
Q: And so for 100 days, you and the members gathered your strength as one and prepared for the stages. Did you feel that you all developed individually?
Kang Seungyoon: Since the results were made between tension and pressure, the members adaptation to situations became much better. In reality, we will all be very busy with our lives as singers. So since the members can adapt to new situations well now, they are also able to quickly master anything such as recording songs whether it be a song they made themselves or a song given to us. Also, we wonder if we’ll be able to perform in many venues with a large audience such as the the final battle stage we stood on before debut. After experiencing a performance like that, I think we have gained control of our singing and dancing; as well as the power to capture the audience. We were trainees preparing our stages then, but now we are artists who sing.
Q: After partaking in reality shows, the keys to survival included self-composed songs, choreography, and producing. What other remaining experiences do you think the team needs to go through?
Kang Seungyoon: I previously didn’t learn how to self-compose. After trying my hand at it and listening to a few credible music, I was able to slowly make my own. It’s not because you sing well or dance well but as you continue to make progress, you’ll be able to do it at a certain level. At first I thought these things weren’t the role of an artist who sings, but as I experienced it, I’ve developed a lot from it. Above anything else, the fact that we’ve made it from the very start to the very end, we feel more emphatic towards it. It’s a lot more enjoyable because we’ve developed an attachment and a sense of responsibility towards our songs. We are able to go up on stage with a more focused mind.
Q: Following that, ‘GO UP’ was very memorable. The song was composed right before the final stage but it still contained an outburst of your sincere feelings. At the time you were called ‘WIN A’ but I felt that was when WINNER completely became one team.
Kang Seungyoon: When I composed that song, I really thought about it at the last minute. However, it was a situation where we didn’t know what the outcome would be. So, we couldn’t make a song expressing our joy of winning or a song expressing our anguish of losing. Because of that, I thought that we should make a song holding the meaning that there were no losers among all 11 of us. So as we kept looking for the keyword for the song, we listened to our Epik High hyungs’ song ‘UP’. I thought of the phrase ‘GO UP’ through that song. I started to write the song about going up right at that moment, all 11 of us rising, and to throw our worries away. We felt that we were all too uneasy so we should quit worrying and just have fun.
Q: It’s exciting because ‘GO UP’ goes from an electronica dance song and changes into a rock feel.
Kang Seungyoon: Originally, I thought of making that song as a house genre. I considered starting with an acoustic guitar and throwing in a house beat in the latter half. Maybe it’s because I’ve always done rock music for a while that the melody line starts to slowly come back to a rock genre. (Laughs) However, after going into YG, I’ve learned music like pop, R&B, and hip-hop. Because I’ve done those rather than my own style, I feel that something that we could call our own came out instead. It’s not intended to be sung like a rock song but when I sing it, it starts to sound like it.
Q: Back then, I was just joking around when I said the rhythm would match a person’s heartbeat but in a way, it ended up taking that course.
Kang Seungyoon: That’s one thing I’m thankful about YG. YG’s fundamental basis is hip-hop. Since I liked rock, if I had to listen to hip-hop, I also had to listen to Jazz, Punk, Pop, Ballad, and even R&B. Also, if the trainees used rock music during the monthly evaluations, you couldn’t convince them easily. That’s why I couldn’t just stick to my music in order to survive between the trainees. Even though I didn’t want to, I had to learn other music trends. Then, I also brought my own music colour. In the process of all that, I was able to learn music and artists that I wasn’t aware of before. Because of that, I am now able to compose songs with a different diversity.<
Q: Is that why you learned dance, too? I heard that you couldn’t dance before going into YG. You’ve really developed those past three years.
Kang Seungyoon: When I debuted from YG, I knew that I would get in as a trainee and that my own skills weren’t competitive. Thee’s so many people in the world who do well, and I was still lacking. So I decided to train under YG in order to practice and gain approval for my skills. I’ve been self-composing before but I’ve only done it because being a singer songwriter was great. After a while, I was able to properly put in my own stories with the songs I composed. About dance, there’s one thing that YG CEO said to me. ”Rather than you practicing what you do well in order to cover it up, you should practice what you can’t do well to be able to get over any obstacle. You’re able to keep your own music colours like rock and punk. But you will be able to do a diverse set of things if you practice singing or dancing with a genre you haven’t challenged before. That’s how you can become a singer who will last for a long time.” I was so thankful for those words that I threw my body into dance whether I could do it well or not.
Q: Because of that process, you seemed to become more confident. It’s impressive for you to make a new song within 10 days and having to stay up for days at a time.
Kang Seungyoon: I’m thankful to the company about that too. In the end, it’s the company that allowed me to believe in myself during very pressured situations. Now I can just work through anything without worrying about how much time I have or what situation I’m in. It’s possible to just sit down all night and come up with something. In that way, I was able to believe in myself. That’s why when I sing, I’m more comfortable. Rather than worrying about making songs or making a mistake, I have nothing to fear for because the members and I can trust ourselves.
Q: You must’ve watched the final performance again, how was it?
Kang Seungyoon: It was great. I definitely had some off-key singing or a mistake in the choreography. But as I looked at the members one by one, In that moment, I saw how fully immersed we were with the stage even though it was a difficult time for us. I got goosebumps seeing at how much the members have continuously developed and fell for the song’s emotions. The members’ expressions looked really happy.
Q: After finishing that stage, you were chosen to debut. How was it?
Kang Seungyoon: I thought I would be crazily happy but it wasn’t like that. Of course, I felt sorry for our dongsaengs. And after waking up the next day, I felt a bit empty. I was very happy becoming the WINNER but it still hasn’t hit me. I woke up at 3 PM the next day and i felt that I had to prepare for our mission and go straight to the practice room. In a way, I felt kind of anxious.
Q: Anyhow, you had to film for ‘WINNER TV’ right away.
Kang Seungyoon: I wasn’t burdened since it wasn’t a war but rather a process of our debut preparations. We only have to show our hard-working process and just enjoy it. I think it won’t be too entertaining if we just show you guys us practicing. (Laughs)
Q: During an unreleased clip from WIN, you kept saying “Fruit salad, fruit salad” in front of the camera cutely since fruit salad was coming your way. Will we see those kinds of things on ‘WINNER TV’, too? (Laughs)
Kang Seungyoon: Actually, I was really shocked when that video was released. (Laughs) That scene appeared with the title of the video, “Seungyoon’s Day”. Honestly, the cameras followed us 24/7 during WIN. It’s just one of the things that they edited out from what they’ve filmed. In a way, I’ve been edited out with ‘Seungyoon’s Day’. (Laughs) I didn’t mean to be funny, but I just become a bit crazy sometimes and I do it out of the blue. By putting it in a montage together, I really came out strange. (Laughs)
Q: WINNER TV is your third reality show. In that time, 3 years has passed. How have you changed through all that time and experience?
Kang Seungyoon: 3 years ago, I thought I was mature. However, now that I think about it, I was really still an immature young kid then. Back then I didn’t know much about broadcasts and was just immersed with the show. Now, I feel that I’ve gotten a lot more responsible. Responsibility gained from the time I’ve worked hard. I want to become a person that won’t let my hard work go to waste.
Q: You’ve shown yourself to the public from SUPER STAR K to WINNER TV. And with their choice, you’ve come this far. Do you have anything you have to say to those people?
Kang Seungyoon: I don’t think I’m right. I just think that I should always try my best in order not to disappoint those who have waited for me, my mother who believed in me, YG CEO, my members, and the people who I’m thankful for believing in me. As I think of that, I’m able to believe in myself, too.
Interview: Kang Myungsuk
Translated: Jeni @onewomansubs