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ATEEZ (CJ ENM)
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ATEEZ. The new record boy band Made in Korea

It has millions of fans and is climbing the charts all over the world. Meet the group who not only appeal to Gen Z but also speak to anyone, with their clean faces, singing, dancing, and delivering positive messages

Read the full interview here

Korea's Ministry of Culture and Tourism has named them "Leaders of the Fourth Generation of K-pop," i.e., Pop music made in South Korea. The musical phenomenon, which has also won millions of fans in Italy, is called ATEEZ. A group born in 2018 and composed of eight members - Hongjoong. Seonghwa, Yunho, Yeosang, San, Mingi, Wooyoung, and Jongho. In a world like the music world nowadays, made up of artificially computer-modified voices, they stand out because they have a detail that is now underestimated: talent. They dance like the "crews" from the best musicals and sing (all) like seasoned professionals.

To further understand them, we need to start with their name. Unscrambling it serves to define their mission. ATEEZ means, in fact, "A TEE nager Z" but some people also translate it as "A to Z." As in: we speak to everyone, Gen Z and Boomer and everyone in between. "If I had to explain who ATEEZ is today, I would say there is no one like ATEEZ," Hongjoong, class of 1998, the band's leader - or instead captain - tells Panorama. We are in Paris, and the band is about to perform on stage at M Countdown, one of the biggest K-pop shows on its European debut. Hongjoong seems to stand in no doubt. In his black Balmain jacket that fits him like a glove and with important eyeglasses he chose to wear "to give me a bit of a smart look," he reaffirms, "We are unique."

Trivial? Not at all. In a universe like the entertainment industry, where standardization has become a problem and where boybands have experienced an inexorable decline after the boom of the 1990s/early 2000s, what K-pop has brought back is a model that aims for musical, stylistic, and personal perfection of its artists. Performers who become friends with their listeners, family not only with each other but also with the fan, in a role-play in which those who support them are an intrinsic part of the band itself. This is why the ATINY (the name by which the people of ATEEZ's followers are distinguished, ed.) are the most important cog in the engine of K-pop, fundamental in every activity of the group, members themselves, in a certain way, of the system ATEEZ.

In our conversation with the band, which took place in a small room backstage at La Défense, Europe's largest arena, in an armored Paris due to the terrorism alert, Seongwha - in a black suit with a long white shirt says, "Every time we come to Europe it's a unique thrill. The welcome makes us feel at home and we are grateful to the fans who are waiting for us."

After all, ATEEZ are practically a guarantee. In a world, the K-pop concert world, where Europe is often "forgotten" by other bands, ATEEZ are among the very few who always bet on the Old Continent's ATINY. In 2019, it was the turn of their Expedition tour, which also touched Italy. 2023 was the time for another mission on European soil. With The Fellowship: Break The Wall, they crossed seven states. Everywhere sold out.

But why do people like them so much? One of their secrets is to get the audience to take part in the show. "When ATINY sing with us, they become part of the show," San explains, "it's a special moment. We feel we are one with them and it's exciting." Of course, there is no shortage of difficulties. "These are very intense moments and they strain us vocally and physically," explains Yunho, "but the sense of satisfaction is undoubted."

Outside the Paris Arena, as we speak with ATEEZ, thousands of fans are gathering ready to watch the show. To recognize them, all you have to do is follow the lightiny, i.e., the group's glowing sticks and billboards calling out the members' names. Circling around La Défense, meanwhile, there is a peculiar truck: on one led the words "Follow Your Will". The feeling while meeting them, in a world of trap music that glorifies sex, violence, and gangster lifestyles, is that these eight clean-faced boys make their way to young people because they deliver positive messages. Through their singing and dancing, it's a bit like they're saying to Generation Z and all those before them, "Be the change-makers. The world needs you." This is their real secret. As explained by the title of the upcoming album The World Ep.Fin: Will which will arrive on December 1.

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