PAPER is spending this week inside the minds of Tomorrow X Together (known as TXT). Check back tomorrow at 11 AM EST for our interview with Taehyun.
For Tomorrow X Together's Choi Beomgyu, every song evokes a memory. ABBA's "Dancing Queen" brings to mind long drives at dawn with his dad, windows down and stereo blaring; Lee Janghee's "나 그대에게 모두 드리리 (I Will Give Everything To You)" reminds him of numb fingertips and hours of guitar practice; the Your Name soundtrack is what he used to listen to on his way to school; and Billy Joel's "Vienna" makes him think of his parents and how they told him not to rush too quickly into adulthood.
Beomgyu's playlist is like a diary — a glimpse into the everyday moments that make up a young life. "I try to remember the things that I'm feeling, the emotions and the parts of my life that I want to hold onto," the 20-year-old performer explains to PAPER. "I think that the best way to express myself is through music, so I take these feelings and these parts of myself and try to create something beautiful out of it."
This is best expressed in TXT's 2020 song "Maze in the Mirror.'' Co-produced by Beomgyu and written by all five members, the acoustic track is an emotional time capsule of their trainee days — of sleepless nights spent staring at one another's reflections in the practice room mirror. It makes sense that Beomgyu's first contribution to the group's discography would be both wistful and wishful — a melodious contradiction not unlike himself.
He's been described as someone who "exists simultaneously at 3 PM and 3 AM," meaning that he's either extremely hyped or in his feelings at all times. He romanticizes the past and has a tendency to get lost in his daydreams, but he's present when he needs to be. Like right now, he's fidgeting in his seat and pulling at the wispy ends of his shoulder-length wolf cut while explaining why he prefers to listen to the radio. He likes the static. A manic pixie dream boy in the flesh.
Top: Valentino, Pants: Y/Project, Shoes: Fendi, Necklace: Hurjaboyacc
"I think a lot about the past because I have a lot of happy memories," he says, rubbing his hands together. "When I go back to those times, I can feel those emotions again. I get kind of consumed by them."
Lately, he's been thinking of home a lot. He fell in love with music as a child at his father's influence. Riding shotgun in his dad's car, Beomgyu listened to the likes of ABBA and Air Supply on heavy rotation, and he was enamored by the way these songs made him feel. "That's when I realized that this is something that I wanted to do," he recalls. "Even now, when I need to lift my mood, I go back to music from that time that I used to listen to in the car with my dad."
Beomgyu picked up guitar shortly after. His dad taught him the basics and in middle school he joined a band. That's when he realized he had the power to make people feel things, too. "When I first started playing the guitar, I don't think I thought of it as, 'This is something that I want to do,'" he says. "But when I joined a band and started performing in front of people for the first time and heard their applause, it made me feel great. So I started thinking about pursuing music."
"I realized that if I was given the opportunity to debut that would give me the opportunity to tell my own story."
After being street casted in his hometown of Daegu, South Korea — scouts for Big Hit Music were so eager to audition him that they rearranged their schedule to accommodate his school exams — Beomgyu moved to Seoul, away from his parents and brother, and started his training. The standard trainee system among idol hopefuls includes rigorous lessons in dancing, singing, rapping, language learning, social media best practices and, for the members of TXT, songwriting and composition.
Beomgyu took a special interest in writing and production, and he even has his own studio in the HYBE building. The guitar his father bought him rests on the studio's walls. Although he had no real ambition of becoming a K-pop idol, he liked the idea of telling stories and making melodies — of creating a song for every moment in life, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.
"I realized that if I was given the opportunity to debut that would give me the opportunity to tell my own story," he says.
Jacket: Songzio, Top: Valentino, Pants: Y/Project, Shoes: Fendi, Necklace: Hurjaboyacc
On the group's most recent album, The Chaos Chapter: Fight Or Escape, Beomgyu has co-writing credits on three tracks: "Balance Game," "No Rules" and fandom song "MOA Diary (Dubaddu Wari Wari)." "No Rules" captures a specific kind of Gen Z misanthropy — one heightened by climate change concerns and an ongoing global pandemic. "Can I please go back to where I was before?" they sing. "Where there are no rules."
Beomgyu's willingness to share parts of himself both in his music and with fans on community platforms like Weverse and VLive has brought him a lot of clarity in recent months. "These days I'm trying to keep a journal," he says, fiddling with his fingers. (Just because he's present doesn't mean he can always sit still.) "It's really important for me to have time on my own, and of my own. Sometimes I share my thoughts with MOA [TXT's fandom name], or I sit with those thoughts for a little bit. Once they start to take shape in my head then I share them with MOA. I'm doing a lot more of that."
"It's really good to be able to talk about my concerns and emotions with MOA and to get them off my chest," he adds. "Opening myself up has allowed me to receive that consolation myself."
He also finds strength and energy in the stars. When he leaves the company building, his eyes tend to wander upward, still a Daegu boy at heart. The thing about living in a sprawling city is that you often forget to look up. You're so focused on moving straight ahead that you don't take the time to look around you, — to gaze at the moon and the watercolor sky and to imagine what if? "I do look up at the night sky a lot and it gives me a lot of comfort," Beomgyu says. "Looking up at the stars makes me think. It gives me a lot of joy. During the daytime, I look up at the sky and I think things like, 'Are there stars up there shining right now?'"
Even the stars are tied to happy childhood memories. "I used to go stargazing a lot with my family and we'd listen to a lot of songs about stars," he says, his eyes crinkling in fondness.
If every song evokes a memory, then for Beomgyu every memory is just a song that has yet to be written.
Photography: Ahn Yeonhoo
Styling: Kukseon Hyun, Bokyung Go
Makeup: Han Areum
Hair: Kim Seungwon
Global communications: Yujin Yang, Judy Jang, Yunjoo Park, Jieun Lee
Visual creative: Hyunju Lee, Rakta
Artist management: Kim Dae Young, Kim Ji Soo, Shin Seung Chan, Ko Youngwook, Song Jaekeun
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