By Lai Frances
In June 2017, during a six-night concert following the release of their sixth album Gentleman’s Game, the pioneering South Korean boy band 2PM made a promise. As the group’s six members — Jun. K, Nichkhun, Taecyeon, Wooyoung, Junho, and Chansung — faced the reality of mandatory military enlistment, they vowed to reunite someday, somewhere, and to reignite the seething intensity that had set apart their catalog. During an emotional finale, Taecyeon’s thank-you message hinted at the group’s return. “We’ll be able to sing as six again soon, so don’t worry,” he said to a jam-packed stadium while wiping a tear from his eye. “I don’t know when I’ll be able to see you again, but you’ll wait, right?”
Until that point, 2PM had made a name for themselves with roaring sounds and martial arts-inspired choreography. Created through the survival show Hot Blood Men in 2008 and debuting later that year with the hip-hop-tinged single “10 Out of 10,” the second-generation K-pop group rose to prominence as their catchy lyrics and easy-to-follow dance moves exploded in the early days of YouTube, long predating today’s viral TikTok challenges. They were also the first group to embody the jimseung-dol, or beast-like idol, a charismatic and sensual archetype that has influenced the presentation of newer acts like Monsta X. Whether they were ripping their shirts off or flexing their biceps, 2PM’s stage presence was unmatched by other groups at the time. Their music has always experimented with hip-hop beats and brisk rhythms complemented by assertive or flirtatious lyrics, as in the chart-topping earworms “Heartbeat” and “A.D.T.O.Y (All Day I Think Of You),” a fan favorite for its falsettos and the creative use of chairs as props in its music video.
For nearly a decade, 2PM consistently brought a mature sex appeal to six album concepts. But this sensual image was often balanced with a sense of humor and the boys’ outgoing personalities, showcased through regular appearances on Korean variety shows, brownie commercials, and even water-park endorsements alongside another popular group, Girls’ Generation. In the years following their hiatus, 2PM members have found success as solo artists and actors. Junho, for example, continued his acting career, receiving an excellence award at the 2017 Korean Broadcasting System’s Drama Awards for his role on the K-drama Good Manager. And in March 2021, whispers of a comeback began circulating as Junho, the last member to enlist in the military, was officially discharged. Two months later, JYP Entertainment confirmed 2PM would return and make good on their promise. "Thank you, Hottest, for waiting for so long,” Chansung says. “I believe that there’s something beyond the time that you have waited, the love, the thankfulness; there is a bond. 2PM can continue to exist because of you."
Four years since their finale concert, and five since the release of an album, 2PM are back with Must, the latest chapter of their beastly story, out this week. The project’s ten tracks borrow from jazz and pop while maintaining 2PM’s signature sweltering electronic sound. There’s the funky jazz-pop lead single “Make It,” which might be seen as the grown-up version of their debut track with similar messaging about falling for a woman at first sight, featuring lyrics courtesy Wooyoung. “The Cafe,” on the other hand, utilizes pulsating 808 drumming for a familiar R&B inflection. For new and longtime fans alike, Must plays as a new sonic introduction to the boys. The only difference? “We just got older,” Taecyeon says with a laugh.
MTV News: How does it feel to be back?
Jun. K: I’m so excited and happy that all our members could get together again after everyone got discharged from military service. I’d like to thank all our fans for waiting for us for this long.
Nichkhun: I’ve been waiting for this moment for the longest time, so it feels like a dream to me!
Taecyeon: I’m very excited to perform with my members. Although it has been five years, all six of us practicing new choreo made me feel like 21-year-old me.
Wooyoung: I realized how long it’s been and felt a little heavy-hearted. Thank you to everyone who has waited. I hope that this comeback proves to be a gift to you.
MTV News: What can we expect from this comeback? And for the new music?
Nichkhun: You can expect to see a more mature, calmer, and relaxed stage presence.
Taecyeon: Our taste in music has changed over the years, and our thoughts on how we should project ourselves through music has changed as well. We decided to go with a comeback concept that would be most suitable and comfortable for us during this stage in our careers. We had to think about what the fans and the public would want to see from a grown-up 2PM.
Wooyoung: It took us the longest time to figure out what kind of music we wanted to create, to be honest. That’s how invested we were in this process.
MTV News: How did discussions about the comeback start?
Taecyeon: It was already set as a schedule way back before I started my military service.
Chansung: Our priority was to keep that promise. That’s the most important thing. The reason why we can make a comeback is because there are people waiting for us. All the members are very grateful for that. To all of us, coming back as 2PM was a no-brainer.
MTV News: Did any of the members participate in producing or songwriting?
Jun. K: Taecyeon and Wooyoung worked on this album with me. Wooyoung made two songs, including the album’s title track “Make it” and “The Cafe.” Taecyeon wrote “Champagne.”
In my case, I created a total of four songs. At the beginning of the year, on January 2, I finished “OK or Not,” which I began drafting while serving in the military. “On My Way” was inspired by [our 2015 single] “My House,” as I was inspired by the style that sincerely reveals one’s heart toward another without playing mind games. “Hold You” was written to express our deepest gratitude as a group for [our fans], Hottest.
MTV News: You were the first group to perform with what we now call the beast-like concept. What were your first impressions of the concept? How do you define it?
Jun. K: I think “Heartbeat” defined our image as the beast-like idol. Up until that point, idol groups had a pretty-boy image. I think, compared to other idol groups around that time, we were taller and all had confident personalities. I think all of that was naturally expressed through the concept.
Nichkhun: Actually, it started with Taec ripping his shirt during one of our “Heartbeat” performances and the title stuck with us ever since. I quite like it but we are hoping to turn into more mature beastly idols.
Junho: We were just doing what felt right for us. Such things like physique, mood, dance, and songs reflected all our capabilities and led to the new term. We’re proud to be the starting point of an iconic title.
Chansung: I like the fact that we never set and defined the concept as “beast-like” ourselves. Sometimes, people can be surprisingly acute and accurate in the way they perceive us. If we had that concept now, I’m guessing it would be called something else.
MTV News: With this new album, what message do you want to send to your fans?
Jun. K: Just become a Hottest. I’ll make your life more exciting.
Chansung: I think it’s fair to say that we are a shelter to our fans. When life becomes difficult or even when things are going well, I hope we can make them smile and help them get back on their feet.
MTV News: Looking back, what 2PM concept embodies your style and personality and why?
Nichkhun: I quite like our concept in “My House” because it’s very casual and natural but still sexy.
Taecyeon: For me, it has to be our lead single off our sixth album, "Promise (I’ll Be)." As the writer of the track, I wanted 2PM to carry a more classy and suave image. So I made us wear various suits [in the music video].
Chansung: 2PM is a difficult group to define. This is why a lot of composers struggle when they try to choose our lead single. It’s easier to just think that 2PM does what 2PM does.
MTV News: In your opinion, what has been the defining moment for 2PM so far?
Nichkhun: I always say the “Heartbeat” era was a huge turning point for 2PM. It set us apart from other idols. The song, the concept, the choreography, and our attitude during the whole promotional cycle. It changed our group image.
Taecyeon: Our third album, Grown. On that album, some of us had the opportunity to have hands-on experience into songwriting and production. The project itself taught the members how to create an album ourselves while grabbing guidance from the producers we worked with.
Junho: Ever since we debuted, every moment has been critical for us. We were a new kind of K-pop group unlike any other before. In 2009, "Again & Again" surged to first place in the charts and won a Golden Disk Award. After debuting in Japan, we faced a new beginning and performed in the Budokan and Tokyo Dome. Everything was like a drama.
MTV News: What has being in 2PM taught you?
Jun. K: 2PM isn’t just a part of me. We are like a family, so 2PM is my everything. I learned trust through them. I learned how important it is to trust one another.
Nichkhun: 2PM has taught me that there could really be brothers from another mother.
Wooyoung: I think of myself as 2PM now. I learned a lot while spending my twenties with the members. I believe that those lessons will become a guide that I will need as I continue to navigate life.
Junho: I've been a member of 2PM for half of my life. I learned how to love like a family, when to lead and when to follow.
MTV News: Your thoughts on the K-pop industry today?
Nichkhun: K-pop has a big impact all around the world and I’m honored to be among the people who helped shape it.
Taecyeon: It is quite amazing how K-pop has developed over the years. This genre has so many musical components that it has no limitations. It may contain hip-hop beats with jazz chords and pop vocals, or reggae beats and pop chords and jazz vocals. Its strength comes from being unique and bringing different musical aspects together.
MTV News: What’s something you want the world to know about 2PM?
Jun. K: Six sexy men in the K-pop scene!
Wooyoung: I really hope the pandemic ends soon, so that people can come see our concert in person. 2PM on stage is truly who we are.
Junho: Our members are doing great, not only in music but also in acting. Each member has become an artist in his own right, and I think we’re a group that creates greater synergy when we’re together.
Nichkhun: 2PM is back, cooler and sexier than before. There are no groups like us. See for yourself!