Get To Know K-Pop Sensation TEEN TOP

Image by TOP Media

Find out why one member “drooled” because he was so tired when filming a video

Perhaps the most surprising thing about K-Pop group TEEN TOP is that none of the members are teenagers anymore.

Such is the seemingly contradictory nature of one of South Korea’s most popular boy bands, who broke into the scene nearly a decade ago with their 2010 debut with Come into the World. But if Aaliyah taught us anything, it’s that age ain’t nothing but a number.

The K-Pop group returned on May 8 with their eighth EP Seoul Night, an energetic collection of bright, bouncy synth-pop stormers and melodic R&B grooves. It’s also their most artistically involved set to date, featuring writing and arrangement contributions from members C.A.P and Changjo. 

As the group has matured, they’ve only continued to hone both their sound and high-energy performance style. Now, at a time when K-Pop acts regularly impact the charts in places far from their own homeland, demand has never felt stronger for the group to go the distance and musically conquer the rest of the world. 

With a determination to stay true to the goals they set for themselves as trainees years ago, the boys-turned-men of TEEN TOP are still living out their teenage dreams. Here’s what they had to say when we talked with the recently about their new album, being more involved in production, and how to have a great night out in Seoul.

Seoul Night is the eighth EP since your debut, and your most personally involved yet, as Changjo and C.A.P contributed to the album’s writing and arrangement. 
As the years go by, we think harder about the type of songs that we should make. After multiple meetings, we finally decided to make a fun and exciting album that closely represents TEEN TOP. It was a process of self-reflection. The hardest part was to choose the right song from a number of selections that we thought the public and fans would like.

Was it important to the members to participate more heavily in the production? 
We’re doing our best to expand participation, and we’ll continue to do so for future projects. We know our music the best, so we believe it’s necessary to work on it on our own for better concepts and songs.

The music video for “Seoul Night” looked like it was one big party to shoot. 
Our favorite scene was on the rooftop of the building. The weather was perfect, and we had so much fun. Also, the final shoot was a scene where all of us took a bus ride through Seoul. It was incredible. We traveled all over Seoul so it was quite tiresome, but it felt really good because we got to visit all the tourist attractions. There was an immense amount of running around, which barely made the cut.

Changjo revealed in an interview that C.A.P "drooled" during the music video because the choreography made him so tired. What happened?
Changjo: C.A.P must be getting older. He had a runny nose during the dance. It was funny and sad at the same time.

For anyone who hasn’t visited, what would you recommend for a perfect night out in Seoul? 
C.A.P: If it’s rainy day, I’d recommend a Korean-style pancake and some traditional mageolli (Korean rice wine).
Chunji: There are so many places to eat! I would suggest a long trip. Make plans to eat different types of dishes.
Niel: I would recommend Namsan Tower to see the beautiful night scenery of Seoul. It’s a great place to take a walk and eat delicious food.
Ricky: Itaewon! I went there once, and it was an unique experience with many great places to eat. I highly recommend it.
Changjo: Seoul is an awesome place. You should plan a long trip and visit areas like Gangnam, Myeong-dong and Hongdae to see the streets of the youth.

You’ve admitted that because you’re so close, you fight—and even physically fought during your early debut days. How do you resolve the fights? Hopefully not with more fist-fighting.
We have small to big disagreements, but we hash it out pretty quick. We know and understand each other so well now that sometimes we resolve it without even talking about it.

Your band name Is TEEN TOP, and you recently said in an interview that even though you’re no longer that age, you still make music with the mindset of teenagers. What kind of music and message do you think connects best with today’s youth?
Messages about hope and dreams always connect well with teens. We all went through the teenage years, so we can sympathize with them and understand some of the hardships that they might be going through. We want them to think about the bright future ahead, and we want to encourage them not to give up on their dreams. 

Are there songs or artists from your teenage years that inspire you to return to that teenage time in your mind?
Artists like Michael Jackson, Usher, and a Korean group called g.o.d really bring us back to our teenage years.

In a competitive space like K-Pop, what sets TEEN TOP apart from other boy bands?
Our biggest strengths are live performance and engaging with the audience. We always like to have fun-filled performances with our songs.

You recently toured Europe. How was that experience? 
It was really unfortunate that the visit was so short due to our schedule. Next time, we’d like to visit more places and explore the local cities. Also, we all decided to study the language to communicate better with our fans.

How do you connect with audiences that may not speak the same language?
We do our best to learn different languages, but it’s quite difficult. But even with the language barrier, we believe our music, dancing and eye contact helps us connect with the audience. 

Now that Korean pop is enjoying more success than ever internationally, do you have interest in expanding abroad?
We’ve been doing overseas promotion, and we’ll continue to do so. We’re so happy to see that many fans around the world love K-Pop. It pushes us to make better music. We want to meet all the fans who are waiting for us.

Are there more group or solo activities planned after this latest comeback? 
C.A.P: Personally, I would like to share the songs that I’ve worked on myself.
Chunji: TEEN TOP is scheduled to have a Seoul concert after a long time.
Niel: I’m getting ready for a musical in August, and I want to do more variety shows.
Ricky: We’re planning to come back with another TEEN TOP album as soon as possible.
Changjo: This year, we’ll be focusing in our team activities, but all the members are planning to do musicals and other activities here and there, so please stay tuned!

What does the future look like for TEEN TOP after Seoul Night?
We would like to try different types of music, and plan to see our fans more often. We’ll strive to bring better music for as long as possible.

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds



Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.