ATEEZ is set to be the next big thing in K-pop, but on their first Australian tour, the band is showcasing more than just music.
The Korean group debuted just 10 months ago but its already using their performances to connect with fans and start important conversations about youth mental health.
“The way they really express those feelings in their movement, in their dance and they have a really close connection to their fans as well,” Amir Hashemipour told SBS News after lining up for hours to see the band’s Sydney show on Sunday.
“It’s something that doesn’t get talked about very often in the media, especially with males.”
During Sunday’s show at Luna Park, band member Park Seonghwa took a moment to tell the crowd to check-in with one another, eliciting cheers from the audience.
“Our message is that if someone inspires you to overcome defeat in moments when you feel like giving up, then that is a good influence for us,” Seonghwa told SBS News the morning after the show.
Another ATEEZ fan, Isabella Tran, said the group’s message went beyond normalising mental health issues.
“They wear a lot of make-up and with their styling and fashion, they’re very expressive and experimental and I feel like people can relate to that more because they feel like they can express themselves more and not confine themselves to a certain beauty standard,” she said.
Academics agree the rise of K-pop is having a fundamental effect on the way people understand masculinity in Australia and internationally.
“When K-pop first started taking off in the Western world, and even in Eastern countries, there was a bit of a shock to the system because a lot of male idols wear makeup, they dressed in ways that might have been considered feminine not so long ago,” University of Sydney clinical psychologist Dr Christopher Hunt said.
“Young men, in particular, are really responsive to signs they get from other men, particularly high-profile men.”
But despite the apparent positive changes, Dr Hunt made it clear that there were still a number of issues under the surface.
He said toxic masculinity was still apparent in the K-pop scene, referencing recent sex scandals where stars were caught boasting about sexual encounters.
“We had some of those same attitudes we’ve seen in the past,” he said.
“So It’s good that some of the more recent K-pop bands that have come up have really tried to adjust this and are trying to push for something different and better.”
‘It transcends the barrier’
Ateez sing in Korean, but that hasn’t stopped the band amassing a hoard of English-speaking Australian fans.
“I wondered why there was a long queue of people and I realised it was for us,” Seonghwa said.
“I am thankful for all those fans who love us even though we are from another country so I thought we should reciprocate by putting on a great show.”
Band member, Choi San, said he was surprised to hear their “clever fans” singing in Korean.
“We have different language but they sing all our Korean songs and love us,” he said.
Angela Yap from ATEEZ Australia said that even though the songs are not in English, the music “transcends the barrier”.
Watch: Australian fans of ATEEZ says mental health message is a positive step for KPOP music.