“Even though the members have said that [Lollapalooza] was the happiest day of their lives, I didn't feel the same.”
Not words you would have expected coming from someone who had just realized a dream few artists achieve, and yet words said by Soobin, the leader of group TOMORROW X TOGETHER all the same in the group's documentary Tomorrow X Together: Our Lost Summer.
Sobbin's self-reflections came after completed the five-member group had just just completed their first world tour ACT: LOVESICK and made history as the first K-pop boy group to play a major American music festival in 2022. To say that the group had become complacent would be a crime given all of the hardwork and vigour that the team had put in since their 2019 debut. For those on the outside looking in: it was as if 2022 was but a starting line for the group to reach greater heights and their fans (also known as MOA) were the one the front lines encouraging them, giving them the push they needed to fly even higher.
Yet Soobin's words echo the toll it takes to work as hard as they do, in order to achieve as much as they do.
In the intervening time, the powerhouse quintet consisting of Soobin, Yeonjun, Taehyun, Beomgyu and Huening Kai, have kept their foot on the gas pedal after yet another monumental year in their careers as K-pop idols. Known as one of the leaders of the 4th Generation of K-pop, the group continues to soar. They started off the year with their fifth EP release The Name Chapter: Temptation. Just with this album alone, TOMORROW X TOGETHER broke their own record with 2.16 million pre-ordered copies of their album and the EP debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, earning the group their first number one in the country.
Their music had never sounded slicker, more driven, more carefully honed and crafted. So far, so fantastic.
Shortly following the high success of Temptation, it was then announced that the group would go on their second world tour ACT: SWEET MIRAGE. The tour spanned over seven countries with six U.S. tour dates with two show nights in New York, Georgia, Texas and Los Angeles, CA and saw the group play in some of the biggest venues of their career thus far. Shortly afterwards, their second full-length Japanese album Sweet was released, comprised of Japanese versions of their most popular songs as well as Japanese original songs.
To those that had followed the group since the beginning, their growth was visible: not just in terms of releases, sales or fanbase size, but in the way all five members had gone from a young group on Korean music stages, to commanding the attention of thousands night after night. Vocals soared, dance skills were the best the group have ever been, the confidence was palpable and even elements like their English skills did not falter.
Just two days later after fans had been graced with Sweet, MOA were surprised with a song deemed to be one of the songs of the summer, a collaboration with the Jonas Brothers. With its catchy chorus and fun beat, “Do It Like That” was like a cool breeze in the middle of the summer heat and marked another interesting and talked-about collaboration for the group.
Then, in a full circle moment that celebrated the group’s return to LOLLAPALOOZA as well as headlining the festival on the same stage as their labelmate j-hope did the year prior, aforementioned documentary Tomorrow X Together: Our Lost Summer dropped for both casual fans and newcomers alike to enjoy. It highlighted the journey that the group took in a post-pandemic world, all leading up to the biggest stage they had played in their entire career since debut: LOLLAPALOOZA.
The documentary gave the members a chance to reflect deeply on their journey, and how they feel in their lives as performers, artists and musicians thus far, as well as the trials and tribulations they experienced in order to succeed. They spoke about the differences of between performing to essentially empty rooms all the way to where they are now. Soobin, as ever, was keen to highlight the impact that such discipline and dedication to his work has had on him:
"When there are no dance moves, and I’m supposed to just let go, I can’t seem to enjoy myself and I feel like I’m moving in an awkward way. I’m a singer because I want to perform and earn love and support from the fans. But when I wasn’t getting that, I really felt isolated."
From Beomgyu feeling unwell and showing up mid-concert to power through for his fans, to Huening Kai overcoming a bloody nose on stage when performing the intro to FREEZE, and heartwarming moments of Taehyun supporting and encouraging the team to practise more, the documentary really illustrated the immense growth that the five of them had gone through together. From that summer of touring, it was highlighted how their performances and dedication to their craft had increased ten-fold in the production of their album, and the elbow grease they put in for their second world tour.
Such documentaries following K-Pop groups in the past few years truly highlight how much work such artists put in, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. The ruthlessness of the market means that very few K-Pop artists get the chance to take a break, lest they fall behind their peers. TOMORROW X TOGETHER, for all their achievements, are no exception, and Our Lost Summer has watchers reflecting on the toll and work required for the group to rise as high as they have.
Flash forward to LOLLAPALOOZA, 2023. Compared to last year, they group's performance felt worlds apart, not only due to the size of the stage they performed on - the festival’s south campus stage, The BudLight Stage - nor by the hordes of fans who showed up despite the rain, but due to the overall production of the performance feeling more grandiose and theatrical. Having the festival bookend the U.S leg of their world tour showcased how much the group's profile and fanbase had grown over the past year, and how much the group had continued to perfect and evolve as artists, even over the first two legs of their world tour.
For the live audience, the weather added to the dramatics in the group’s performances, and when the intro for "0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)" started to play over the speakers, the energy of the crowd reached fever pitch. In every TOMORROW X TOGETHER performance, it is clear that they are always giving 120%, whether it is at their own concert or at a big festival like this. So it’s no surprise that their fans return the energy that the group lays down on the line ten-fold, with fan chants and singing along to songs both in English and Korean. Having a longer set time made all the difference versus last year, as since that the group did not have to rush to find their groove on the stage.
If their comfortable presence on stage was anything to go by, any pressure on Soobin's shoulders that he might have felt from last year was nowhere to be seen here.
As headliners this year, the group performed twenty-one songs - truly like a proper concert just for them - and the south campus of Lollapalooza felt like a space exclusively for MOA. The set list mixed reprisals of songs that they had performed in the prior year like "Thursday’s Child Has Far To Go", "MAGIC" and "LO$ER = LOVER" mixed with all of their songs from The Name Chapter: Temptation.
There was much fan speculation as to who would be the surprise guest that the group would bring on stage with them, especially given their Jonas Brother's collaboration, but much to everyone’s delighted surprise, Coi Leray joined the group on stage to perform “Happy Fools”, as well as a cover of their own song “Players.” Though the Jonas Brothers weren’t there to perform “Do It Like That”, that did not stop TXT from debuting the live performance of the song at the festival.
2023 did not stop with their headlining LOLLAPLAOOZA. Having finished two of their last international shows for ACT: SWEET MIRAGE in Indonesia and the Philippines, the group then released yet another single with multiple versions for fans to enjoy. The group collaborated with Brazilian singer-songwriter Anitta on track “Back for More”, which was slated to be a pre-release song for their then upcoming full length album The Name Chapter: FREEFALL.
This track made an instant impact on listeners, playing with themes listeners could enjoy, with trendy Latin Pop inspirations that rode a groovy bassline that had fans and casual listeners streaming the track on repeat. The track also had a grand debut stage: the MTV Video Music Awards held at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
For their performance, the group performed the song with Anitta herself in front of some of the biggest names in pop. They weren't just there as performers however, as they also had four nominations: Song of the Summer, Group of the Year, Push Performance of the Year and Best K-Pop (the latter two both for “Sugar Rush Ride”). The group had reasons to go back to South Korea on a high, as they the won “Push Performance of the Year” award for “Sugar Rush Ride” against contenders like Ice Spice and Jvke.
Needless to say, TOMORROW X TOGETHER have had a packed year so far. Yet the group is far from done: On the 13th of October The Name Chapter: FREEFALL finally dropped. The album has already seen the group breaking their previous record of pre-sales (2.35 million) and broke the first day Korean album sales by a 4th Generation act on Oricon with 225,184 albums sold. Title track “Chasing That Feeling” isn't doing too shabbily either, with twenty-two number one rankings on iTunes globally (so far).
Even as these words drop, the above numbers could very well still be growing, but based off of the year that TOMORROW X TOGETHER have had so far, this further solidifies their position as being one of the most influential amongst 4th Generation boy-groups and more than worthy of their title as one of the 4th Gen leaders. They've managed to leapfrog their own remarkable 2022 with an even more stunning 2023... one can only begin to wonder where 2024 will take them.
Let's just hope the formidable fivesome have had some time to stop and smell the many, many roses that have sprung up in their wake. They've certainly deserved it.