Tomorrow X Together, which is pronounced "Tomorrow by Together" and often shortened to TXT, felt all eyes on them when they made their debut in March 2019. That's because the five members — Soobin, Yeonjun, Beomgyu, Taehyun, and Huening Kai — are Big Hit Entertainment's newest bet, and the second act to debut after a little band you might have heard of called BTS.
It's an incredible amount of pressure to be put under, especially as for teens ranging from 16 to 19 years old. "We did and still do feel pressure, even now," a wide-eyed Taehyun tells Refinery29 in a Manhattan hotel suite. "We worried that we wouldn't meet people's expectations, but it just means that we have to do our very best so that BTS and everyone can be proud of us."
Even before their line-up was revealed, speculation and expectations for Big Hit's newest group swirled around Twitter. Instead of glossing over their insecurities and fear of failure, TXT decided to embrace it head-on with their debut single, "Crown." The song tells the story of a boy who wakes up horrified to find that horn have sprouted from his head ("Something on my head/ Wanna run away, wanna disappear/Save me/ Who am I?/I don’t know who I am"). But he learns to embrace his differences, seeing the horns as a crown. TXT use this metaphor to comment on their adolescence, acknowledging that growing up in the public eye isn't easy.
"It's difficult and very nerve-wracking," says the silver-haired rapper Yeonjun, TXT’s eldest member. "But it's also exciting. We were worried when we debuted about what people would think of us, but it's really helped us to get better, and learn, and grow. We're still growing."
Watching the group perform live, first at their sold-out U.S. showcase in New York's Playstation Theater and later at KCON New York, they don't seem like novices at all. Performance is their superpower. Their emotive voices don't shake during their intricate dance moves as they tell a compelling story in perfect synchronization. In the chorus of "Crown," TXT line up in formation to frame their leader, Soobin, as he cocks and releases an imaginary bow-and-arrow. In the bouncing, quirky B-side "Cat & Dog," they rap, literally barking as they walk invisible pets, and the highlight comes when they make a slide of their bodies for Yeonjun to glide down. TXT have the creativity and precision expected in more established groups — a testament to their talent and strong work ethic, which they humbly admit they learned from models they grew up with.
"My older sister has been a huge influence in my life, and taught me the importance of hard work," says Taehyun. "She has very amazing passion that she channels in everything she does, so I want to be like her. She's a student, and she studies very hard and very well. I don't think it's very different from my job, because I have to always strive to do better and better and put my all into our music."
Huening Kai, the group's boyish maknae (youngest member, in Korean), agrees: he has older and younger sisters whose unrelenting energy have fed him for most of his life. Beomgyu, the group's blond mood-maker, credits his mother for his resilience. "She supports me, and thinks what I do is really interesting."
Despite not having a single native English speaker, the group conducted interviews with foreign press nearly exclusively in English. Their work ethic drove that decision, and it’s what likely accounts for their poise and thoughtfulness as they contemplate their journey thus far. When they received their first music variety show win only a week after their debut, it reaffirmed that all that hard work is starting to pay off, and is why a few of them became very emotional as they accepted their trophy.
Music shows in Korea are programs in which K-pop artists compete against one another, performing new music for the public — it’s a bit like TRL in the U.S. Fans vote for their favorite performance, and winning is a big deal. A first win means not only that audiences like what you're doing, but that your hard work is finally being recognized. Yeonjun shed a few tears when their names were announced on March 12 — something Soobin says they didn't expect.
"We were just so happy [to win]," says Huening Kai, who credits his love for performing with watching other artists, like BTS. Taehyun took similar inspiration from K-pop juggernauts SHINee's debut music video, which he watched when he was seven-years-old. But, the group isn't resting on its laurels: "I thought we should practice harder and make our fans even more proud of us," he continues.
"We were just so thankful to everyone, to our fans," says Yeonjun. "We just couldn't believe it because it was our first time and it felt so incredible." The Seongnam-area native was only 16 when he performed in a school festival and decided that the feeling of being onstage was too good to ignore.
Tomorrow X Together have embraced the awkward teenage years of K-pop bands and used it as a strength — becoming model for introspection and acceptance. "It's ok to be different," says Huening Kai. "Just do your best and be confident, don't stop dreaming, and show the world what you've got." This group is finding early success not only thanks to the legacy that supports them, but because of the exciting and bold path that they're forging for themselves.