By Chang Dong-woo
SEOUL, Aug. 10 (Yonhap) -- For a group that debuted less than 72 hours ago, the hopes and anticipation riding on TREASURE, the new boy band under YG Entertainment, as well as the pressure it has come to bear, couldn't be bigger or heavier.
As arguably this year's "monster rookie" in K-pop, the media spotlight on TREASURE, formed of the final survivors of idol audition TV show "YG Jewel Box" on cable network JTBC, has built up considerably, considering the band is YG's first new act after the successful debut of BLACKPINK in 2016. It also has the responsibility to uphold YG's artistic and commercial pedigree amassed by other senior acts -- 2NE1, BIGBANG and WINNER.
But instead of being disoriented by the hype, members of the 12-piece boy band said on Monday they feel excited and thankful for finally being able to make their long-awaited debut, since the final line-up was official announced in January of 2019.
The rookie group's excitement was as big as the dream of member Hyunsuk, one of two leaders of TREASURE, wishing to become famous enough to one day perform at the half time show of the NFL Super Bowl.
"The mere fact that we were debuting was exciting in and of itself. We're going to debut one way or another, let's just have fun, we told ourselves," Hyunsuk said during a group media interview held at YG's office in western Seoul.
"The good results (since the debut) have become a great source of motivation," the rapper-singer added.
On Friday, the group, formed of eight South Korean and four Japanese members, released its debut single album, "The First Step: Chapter One," digitally. Upon release, "Boy," the lead track, topped 19 Apple iTunes Top Song charts in 19 countries and regions, including in Hong Kong, Mexico, Singapore and Saudi Arabia.
Even before the band's debut, when it had no releases under its belt, TREASURE attracted quite a following online, consisting mostly of fans who followed the team starting with "YG Jewel Box."
The team's YouTube channel, filled largely with vlogs featuring the members' daily lives, amassed 1.39 million followers during its pre-debut days. Retail preorders for the new album surpassed 170,000 units, a remarkable feat even for more established K-pop boy bands.
The band has also made it onto Billboard's Social 50 chart for six straight weeks, while the band's lead vocalist, Yedam, released a solo track in June. Yedam was first introduced to the public at the age of 11 after finishing second place on music audition program "K-Pop Star" in 2012.
After Friday's debut and presenting their first performance on television over the weekend, TREASURE members said they felt a genuine sense of excitement.
"It felt really great, the fact that the debut was nearing and even the uneasiness," Junghwan said.
Up to this day, members said they were heavily influenced by senior YG boy bands, most notably BIGBANG, with all of the Japanese members citing BIGBANG as the reason they wanted to become K-pop artists.
"My sister was a big fan of BIGBANG. I had the chance to naturally listen to the group. Then I saw BIGBANG's performance and was blown away," Japanese member Yoshi said in the interview.
BIGBANG wasn't limited to a source of inspiration but also become a great mentor during production, members recollected.
"(BIGBANG member) G-Dragon gave me tips after listening to my rapping, while (BIGBANG member) Taeyang offered tips to Jihoon and Yedam for choreography," Hyunsuk said.
As a group produced under YG, which has traditionally presented and courted music largely rooted in hip-hop with an alternative flare, TREASURE offers something new, with sounds and visuals that are more in line with other conventional K-pop groups with a more electronic-heavy sound palette and strong dance choreography.
The massive 12-man line-up also represents a stark departure from the label's previous bands with mostly four to five members, and it is more in line with acts such as NCT 127 and Seventeen. TREASURE even has two group leaders.
The two-tier leadership was initially introduced when dividing up the team for practices. YG decided to fully adopt what was once a temporary system after seeing positive aspects from it.
"Our team chemistry is great and the members are all energetic. We enjoy talking to one another a lot and also offer each other feedback for improvement a lot," Jihoon, the other half of TREASURE's leadership, said.
All major K-pop acts have corresponding fan communities and TREASURE is no exception. The group members said they feel a great sense of camaraderie with its dedicated fan base, named TREASURE Maker.
"We've been through a lot together since the days of the survival audition TV program, so it feels as if we've become very close. I feel like the fans are our friends," Hyunsuk said.
As for goals, TREASURE hopes to sweep rookie of the year honors during the year-end music award season, not just in South Korea but also in Japan, if and when they make an official debut in the neighboring country.
"As our goal is to become rookie of the year in South Korea, our goal is to win rookie of the year in Japan, too," Japanese member Yoshi said.