ENHYPEN Explains the Meaning Behind New Mini Album, 'BORDER : CARNIVAL'
The K-pop boy band is ready to show music fans a new side of themselves.
Following an electric debut, rookie K-pop group ENHYPEN is finally back with a new mini album titled BORDER : CARNIVAL. The seven-member group, consisting of Jungwon, Heeseung, Jay, Jake, Sunghoon, Sunoo and Ni-ki, debuted in late 2020 under BELIFT LAB, a joint venture between CJ ENM and HYBE (formerly known as Big Hit Entertainment). Truly a product of the digital age, the septet collected several “Rookie of the Year” awards within months of debuting, while amassing millions of followers before their first release. Already launching their sophomore mini album, ENHYPEN has secured the highest sales record of groups that debuted in 2020 and among boy group comebacks in 2021.
While their debut album BORDER : DAY ONE was a solid presentation of their youth with dark undertones, BORDER : CARNIVAL exhibits even more experimentation and musical growth. In conversation with the ENHYPEN members, they’re fully aware of their pop culture power and are even more ready to show a new side of themselves to the global music scene.
Speaking on their new album, leader Jungwon explains, “The first thing that comes to my mind when hearing the word ‘carnival’ is a festive atmosphere. The word ‘carnival’ itself makes me imagine people putting everything aside and enjoying themselves, which is quite contrasting to the rather profound theme we dealt with in “Given-Taken.” While the story continues with this new album, some of the dark, mystical themes are traded for something brighter and more party-like. “After experiencing our lives as artists, we definitely felt confusion as well as excitement, which fell in line with the subject of this album, carnival.”
The lead single, “Drunk-Dazed,” speaks to the confusing emotions the artists must navigate together post-debut. The metaphor of the carnival likens to the musical playground they now get to explore alongside the talented producing team at HYBE, but there’s a plethora of other meanings to the word “carnival.” “When I think of a carnival, I imagine an occasion where people gather in one place to have fun. As we have recently debuted, I feel like ENHYPEN is currently in a hectic yet magnificent environment, which fits perfectly with the concept of BORDER : CARNIVAL,” Heeseung says inquisitively. For Jay, “A carnival reminds me of a dizzying and disorienting festival. It seems to fit our situation where everything is new to us.”
“You can disguise your true identity behind a mask and genuinely enjoy yourself. I think the fact that we’re enjoying this carnival-like world that we entered after our debut perfectly fits into the concept of the album,” Jake adds. Sunghoon has a slightly different interpretation, “A carnival makes me imagine myself among a big crowd enjoying a festival where everything seems upside-down. After the release of BORDER : DAY ONE, as I passed the border and experienced a whole new world as a professional artist, I felt like I was watching a magnificent carnival, being carried away by the festive atmosphere.”
Insert yourself into the music video for “Drunk-Dazed,” and the members’ thoughts make even more sense. The rock-infused song gives perfect room for the massive party shown. “A carnival reminds me of fun festivals and parties. If we had been standing at the border for our debut album, the more intricate and diverse emotions we felt beyond that border were well suited for the theme of our second EP,” Sunoo says. Youngest member Ni-ki rounds up the carnival talk with his take, “’Carnival’ makes me think of a crazy festival. I think the title of the album BORDER : CARNIVAL perfectly suits the next phase that came after our successful debut.”
The boys are still extremely young, with members ranging from 15-year-old Ni-ki to 19-year-old Heeseung. Despite being a Gen-Z group, their dedication to perfecting their craft is palpable. We asked the group to think back on the lessons they’ve learned since becoming one of the most promising acts to emerge in the fourth generation of K-pop. Thoughtfully, Sunghoon shares some advice for the younger version of himself: “I would tell myself that whatever my parents tell me is the right answer. I would also tell myself to always lead with confidence and certainty.” Looking forward to what he wants to remember from this present moment of his career, he says, “Five years later, I want to remember the joy and happiness I felt the moment our debut was confirmed.”
Jake adds on, “I would tell myself to have more conviction and confidence. I hope to remember the memory of November 30, 2020, the date of ENHYPEN’s debut, even in five years.” Ni-ki echoes this sentiment, “ I would tell myself to do my best and work hard in all my endeavors.” When it comes to what he wants to remember five years from now, his answer is a little different. Rather than their debut, he focuses on his love of performing and interacting with fans: “What I want to remember after five years is the touching moment we had meeting ENGENEs at our very first fan meeting in February.”
When it comes to the visual element of the group, we naturally asked unofficial fashionista Jay to take the lead. On his dream stage outfit and their current concept, he shares, “I’d like to try more hip hop-inspired streetwear. I personally liked the ‘HYPE’ concept of our BORDER : CARNIVAL album the best. It well represents the free state of mind of not being bound by anything.” Freedom for self-expression is a recurring theme for the boys, who have already dabbled in a handful of genres across the two mini albums they’ve released.
Naturally, the members have various personal tastes when it comes to their music. Jungwon, Jake and Ni-ki cite “FEVER” as their favorite B-side on BORDER : CARNIVAL. Heeseung and Sunoo agree on “Not For Sale,” Jay prefers “Mixed Up,” and Sunghoon points to “Intro: The Invitation.” Genre preference is even more varied. While Sunghoon, Jake and Ni-ki say R&B and hip-hop are their favorite genres, Jungwon likes pop and PBR&B, Heeseung favors alternative R&B, Jay loves pop rock and contemporary R&B, and Sunoo rounds his favorites up to pop, K-pop, new age, ballad and indie.
The boys then open up a little further about their mental process amidst such a fast rise to stardom. Heeseung shares, “I am most proud of my creativity, but at the same time, it’s the thing that I’m most afraid of losing.” Meanwhile, Sunoo’s pride and joy are none other than their biggest supporters. “I’m most proud of our ENGENEs, but I’m also afraid that they could one day leave us.” We doubt the dedicated fanbase they’ve earned would ever leave, but their care for the fans is touching and showcases their humbleness.
Despite everything the group has accomplished in such a short time, they’re still just a regular group of young people chasing a dream. In the end, Jungwon admits, “I’m sure most artists can relate, but especially as a group that has debuted in the pandemic era, our current No. 1 item on our bucket list is, of course, to perform in front of our fans in person.”
Ashlee Mitchell is a US-based freelance writer with a focus on Asian and Black pop culture. Her work can be found in Teen Vogue, i-D, Dazed and others. You can connect with Mitchell on her website and Instagram.