ENHYPEN arguably had the most anticipated K-Pop debut of 2020. That level of buzz is no surprise considering fans from all over the world spent 12 weeks glued to their screens watching dozens of idol hopefuls compete for a spot in the group on I-LAND, the high-profile reality show backed by Big Hit Entertainment. Through the competition, ENHYPEN built a fanbase before they were even officially a group. The band debuted in its final form on Nov. 30, and their first EP, BORDER : DAY ONE has fans excited to see what they're all about. One thing fans should know is the lessons ENHYPEN learned on I-LAND (and from their mentors like BTS and TXT) will stay with them throughout their career.
To understand the level of hype ENHYPEN had behind them from the get-go, you have to understand how huge I-LAND was. The show, which aired from June 26 to Sept. 18, saw fans from 181 countries and regions worldwide voting to keep their favorite performers safe. The competition was so intense, 43 million people tuned in to watch the finale. In the end, HEESEUNG, JAY, JAKE, SUNGHOON, SUNOO, JUNGWON, and NI-KI won the highly-coveted seven spots in the band.
While they turned out to be everyone's favorites, the guys had no idea how the public really felt about them until the show ended. "During I-LAND, I didn’t have access to my phone or TV, so back then, I wasn’t aware of what was going on," NI-KI tells Elite Daily. JUNGWON agrees, saying, "The hardest part [about filming the show] was that I couldn’t know if I was doing well."
That's why, when ENHYPEN finally saw all the love they were getting from their already-thriving fanbase, they were overwhelmed. "We could not imagine all this during our trainee days," HEESEUNG says. After the members' official stage names and social media pages were revealed on Sept. 19, the group accumulated 700,000 followers on Twitter and 630,000 followers on Instagram within two days. Now, both accounts have over 1 million followers, and ENHYPEN is gaining new fans every day. The outpouring of love only motivates the group more. "We will continue to stay humble and work hard moving forward," HEESUENG adds.
ENHYPEN is most grateful for their time on I-LAND because it taught them all about the hard work that goes into being performers. "The best part [of filming] was that I could solely focus on practicing, which helped me grow in a short span of time. Gaining experience on stage was immensely helpful as well," JUNGWON says. He also says working with others made the process less daunting. "The overall experience taught me a lot about music, but also teamwork. I realized that things can’t be completed alone."
Getting a taste of teamwork on I-LAND proved useful. Since the members come from different backgrounds and cultures (four members hail from Korea, while JAKE, NI-KI, and JAY are from Australia, Japan, and the United States, respectively), learning to connect was important. "There are moments when we can feel [our] differences, but we try to understand and care for each other," JAKE says. "Our connection is strong because we bonded together since day one, lived together even after the show ended, and solved difficulties by communicating."
That connection can be felt listening to ENHYPEN's debut album, BORDER: DAY ONE. "It was our first ever recording experience, so it wasn’t all smooth sailing. However, we made progress day-in day-out," SUNGHOON explains. "As it’s our first album, it was an odd feeling to have ‘our own’ songs. The photo shoot for our album cover and choreography practices were the times when it struck me that we were really debuting."
Seeing their album finally come to fruition is so surreal to ENHYPEN that, in their lead single "Given-Taken," they seem to explore insecurities about whether they deserve their success. In the end, ENHYPEN learns to put all their doubts behind them to seize the moment. "Thousands of doubts behind me/There are tens of thousands of distrusts behind me/But I go now I follow my dreams," the group sings.
As ENHYPEN moves forward, they'll never forget what their predecessors BTS and TXT, who appeared on I-LAND to mentor them, taught them. "We looked up to BTS and TOMORROW X TOGETHER as we fostered our dreams of becoming K-Pop artists, so it’s very exciting and an honor to debut after them," SUNOO shares. "We learned a lot from their continuous hard work. We want to take away from them their humility and sincerity, as well as their consistency to become artists who don’t lose sight of where they started." As for JAY, he hopes to achieve the same versatility his seniors have mastered. "I want us to become a group that is not constrained by boundaries but has infinite potential for growth," he says.
Fans helped make their dreams come true on I-LAND, so ENHYPEN will never take them for granted. "I want to return all this love and support by constantly improving and connecting with our fans," NI-KI says. The group named their fans ENGENE to represent how they want to connect, discover, and develop alongside one another.
Once you hear ENHYPEN's debut project, BORDER : DAY ONE, you'll be part of the fandom as well.