Fresh off a flight from South Korea, ONEUS walks into StyleCaster’s Midtown Manhattan studio energized with beaming and radiant smiles. They’re dancing to Silk Sonic and peering out the window, looking at the famous stone lions, Patience and Fortitude, of the New York Public Library with curious eyes. This is the third time they’ve been in the States and the third time they’ve started their tour in New York City. It’s an enticing and familiar feeling to them, but it still feels like a wondrous adventure filled with food, sights, performances and ambition. “Whenever we arrive, we want success,” Hwanwoong exclaims.
ONEUS, known as the “Concept Kings” of the Fourth Gen of K-Pop, has a loaded repertoire—from the spellbinding electronic “Valkyrie” to their debut mini-album Light Us; from the fluttering traditional beats of “Luna” to their 2021 release Blood Moon. For those unfamiliar with K-pop-specific lingo, concepts are themes that a group does with each comeback, aka a new single or album. If you think of a random theme, whether it’s vampires to the “very wild concept” of “No Diggity” as Keonhee recalls, Hwanwoong, Keonhee, Seoho, Leedo and Xion have probably already done it.
While keeping true to their Korean roots, ONEUS shines throughout all of their performances and they’re not afraid to step it up each time. “All these concepts we do are very different and very challenging at first,” Keonhee explains. “So now, whenever we’re challenged or proposed with different concepts, we’re not worried or scared. Now it’s more like, ‘Oh, now let’s do this. How do we want to do this?’”
It’s no wonder the band catapulted right into a sexy and lush concept on their latest comeback Malus. The lead single of the EP “Same Scent” provides a mesmerizing insight into wanting a lost love back. “I am like a flower that cannot bloom / Without you by my side / I’m getting dry and thirsty,” Seoho sings in the bridge. Malus encompasses ONEUS’ collective strengths while also showcasing their individual talents. “When we were preparing for this album, we had individual concept videos which really fit ourselves,” Hwanwoong says. “We’re learning and adapting to the parts where we can show our best.”
Their collaborative effort spans beyond the group’s five members to their company, as well. Ideas can come from anywhere and anyone; and there’s always a sense of gratitude for RBW Entertainment’s commitment to helping ONEUS stand out. “We collect many different ideas from the staff and we choose among the best options. One great thing is that the management also respects the ideas and creativity that come out from ONEUS. They try to put in as much as possible so that it could really show our true color,” Seoho shares. “They put 100 percent trust into the band so that we decide what to do when we’re performing on stage and creating our own choreographies.”
Shifting over to the next day, ONEUS fans, known affectionately as TO MOON, crowded New York City’s historic Apollo Theater on a rainy Thursday night. Excitement and thrill spilled onto the aisles and ONEUS was absolutely prepared to put on a show. They stepped on the stage with their handsome and compelling blue suits to “Bring It On” (quite literally). TO MOON serves as ONEUS’ primary inspiration—and motivation—for everything they do.
“Because of the love and support that we have from many people surrounding us like our family and TO MOON, if we have something that we feel needs improvement in certain parts like music, choreography or performance routine, we tend to work very hard and it gives us motivation,” Keonhee says. Xion echoes this sentiment: “There’s a lot of good people that surround and support us. So we trust them and go for it.”
Though they went on a US tour just last year, their “Reach For Us” tour marks their first world tour and they want to make an impact on every concertgoer. “In past tours, we were focusing a lot on showing a good stage. Let’s show perfect choreography, good vocals, and the best performance,” Keonhee explains. “This time we want to perform, but we want to also share every moment with our fans. We want them to say, ‘Wow, it really touched my heart and it was very emotional.’ We want TO MOONS to feel like they need ONEUS.”
“Especially for this tour, there are a lot of special stages and things we want to show the fans since there were a lot of events happening in Korea, too,” Hwanwoong adds. “We really want to show who ONEUS is and what this band is capable of. When we perform in front of our US fans, we want to sing our songs together and communicate with them.”
And the group did just that. The five members were ready to leap from one song to another (again, quite literally) and from one concept to another with ease. In between songs, the group would actively ask for feedback from the audience to find out which concept they liked the most. Sexy was the most obvious answer, with fans from different corners of the theater screaming the word with every ounce of their voice. One instance where their sexiness enthralled TO MOON was when main rapper and lead dancer Leedo’s powerful stage presence took the audience by storm.
Along with the rest of the group, all of ONEUS captivated TO MOON with the viral dance cover of “Sexy Back” by Justin Timberlake. With each fluidlike motion and unbelievable vocal work in each song, they power through together with teamwork. The group did specify that there were special stages for each country they were visiting and told me not to spoil the rest of the set. Though at the concert, Xion teased that their stages will make “everyone faint.”
The concert also displayed very sentimental aspects of ONEUS since their pre-debut days. Each member took us along in their journey of becoming an idol and their downtimes in between rehearsals during VCRs in-between stage sets. Their past selves ensured that everything will work out and that they will indeed be successful. “Don’t be scared, you’re doing the right thing,” Hwanwoong responded when asked what they would tell their younger selves when they debuted. It’s heartwarming to know that for the past four years, their cumulative work and efforts blaze brightly for the world and for TO MOON.
January 12, 2023 – New York City – Apollo Theater
January 14, 2023 – Washington D.C. – The Theater at MGM National Harbor
January 16, 2023 – Atlanta, GA – Coca-Cola Roxy
January 18, 2023 – Orlando, FL – House of Blues
January 21. 2023 – Madison, WI – The Orpheum Theater
January 24, 2023 – St. Louis, MO – The Factory at the District of St. Louis
January 27, 2023 – Fort Worth, TX – Will Rogers Auditorium
January 29, 2023- Houston, TX – 713 Music Hall
February 2, 2023 – Phoenix, AZ – Marquee Theatre
February 4, 2023 – Los Angeles, CA – Pasadena Civic Auditorium
February 7, 2023 – Puerto Rico – Coca-Cola Music Hall
February 10, 2023 – Mexico City – Pepsi Center WTC
February 12, 2023 – Santiago de Chile – Teatro Coliseo
February 15, 2023 – Sâo Paulo – Audio Club
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