If nice guys finished first, CIX would come out on top every time. The Korean pop quintet are exceedingly kind and charming, even while juggling an exhausting schedule that makes their calendar look like a game of tetris.
In the past few months they’ve been on a breakneck promotional cycle for their new EP ‘OK’ Episode 1: Not OK and its sleek lead single “458.” Before that, they toured the U.S. over an intense few weeks, member Jinyoung’s once blazing red hair fading to a sweet bubblegum pink by the time they played their last show in New York City.
When we catch up with them they’re back in Seoul, taking the time to chat over Zoom between music show appearances. They’re all smiles — bright and buzzing, even though I know they’ve barely slept. Soft spoken Yonghee is sporting a blush-colored bob and chatty Seunghun’s cherry hair is accented by a chic undercut. Hyunsuk, BX, and Jinyoung wave from beneath black bangs, their warmth palpable through the screen.
The 16 best K-pop songs of 2022 (so far)
We’ve asked the group to tell Mashable what they’ve been watching on the internet, and our lively conversation spans dance battles, nature documentaries, and soccer greats they can’t get enough of.
Street Man Fighter
Mashable: Hi guys! What have you been watching lately?
Hyunsuk: We’re really into this dance competition TV show called Street Man Fighter right now.
I remember last year when a dance from Street Woman Fighter went viral.
Jinyoung: Yeah, “Hey Mama!” By NOZE. [Seunghun performs the choreography in his seat]
HS: Because we’ve been watching it, choreography and classes from the dancers on the show have been popping up on my YouTube feed a lot. There’s a dancer on the show called Vata, and I’ve watched a few of his classes at the JustJerk Dance Academy. YouTube also recommended this dance cover of Justin Bieber’s “Red Eye” that I like. I’ve been listening to the song for a long time, which is probably how the algorithm knew to recommend the video to me.
HS: Music-wise, I love DPR Live, I’ve had Kehlani’s “Toxic” on repeat, and we all like a UK singer named Etham and his song “12:45.” I also recently discovered James Smith, and I’ve fallen in love with his kind of acoustic style. It makes sense because I also like Shawn Mendes, the whole atmosphere of his music. His voice is emotional and soothing.
BX: DPR Live is like the prime example of the style I really like in music. His song “Text Me”… it’s always in my head. And when I get asked, “Do you have any song recommendations?” I always pick it. I’ve heard he’s become really big in the States and that he’d be touring there after us, so to pay homage to him I covered the song at our concert in New York City. I’d also recommend his song “Jam and Butterfly.”
ph1’s “Like Me” is still super popular in Korea right now. I like his style, I think he’s a great lyricist. There’s a line he wrote that goes in Korean, “There are so many fine people, but why me?” It’s pretty straightforward, like “there’s so many other good guys out there, why did you choose me?” but I really like that phrasing. I’m also into Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign, those were the artists that really inspired me when I was training to join CIX.
What are you all laughing about?
Seunghun: Yonghee is a big Beenzino fan, so while BX was picking his favorite artists Yonghee was very cutely murmuring “Beenzino, Beenzino” under his breath.
Yonghee, tell me about Beenzino.
Yonghee: I just like his vibe, I think he’s very cool, and his lyrics are really good so I get to appreciate them while listening to his music. Some of his lyrics can be a little bit explicit, but there are a lot of them that are more hopeful and relatable that I connect with. I recommend “Dali, Van, Picasso.” I’ve [also] been listening to Japanese artist Yuuri a lot, and they’re a recommendation that popped up on YouTube.
When do you listen to music most?
HS: When we’re in traffic. We spend a lot of time in the car on our way to scheduled appearances and performances. And in the shower I’ll play songs on shuffle, and if I hear something really good I’ll go back to the playlist, like it, and create a separate playlist for it. Honestly, while we promote like we have been in the past few weeks, we listen to our own music a lot.
JY: On YouTube, I watch dancing, singing, and music videos and a lot of our own appearances on stage, to monitor our overall performance.
We all loved Charlie Puth’s “That’s Hilarious.” I think the special little “ha ha ha” sound effect in the chorus is really smart. I also like Keshi a lot. There are songs that I listen closely to the lyrics of, but Keshi usually sings about sad stories, goodbyes and farewells, so I tend to focus more on his vibe and melodies. Of course, on sunny days it makes sense to listen to something with happy or hopeful lyrics. But generally, I don’t mind listening to sadder tracks. Songs with sad lyrics tend to be a little bit better in my opinion, the vibe is better.
What have you been watching on YouTube, Yonghee?
YH: Recently I’ve been watching animal documentaries from National Geographic, comebacks of other idols, gaming — pretty much everything that’s recommended by the YouTube algorithm. It’s magic, it offers such an overwhelming amount of information every day to us.
BX: I’ve been watching a lot of nature videos, especially from National Geographic — wild animals fighting and living in the wild, like lions and tigers and rams. I find it so fascinating that animals fight for power in the hierarchy amongst themselves.
Do you watch those documentaries together?
BX: I had no idea that Yonghee also watches them until right now.
YH: I tend to watch ones about animals we don’t see that often, like elephants or giraffes.
HS: I like Man vs. Wild with Bear Grylls.
That’s a classic! If you ever get lost in the wilderness, you could save the others?
HS: I’m not sure about that! I’ve learned more about how to choose a good protein in the wild. Bear is always saying “this is a good protein.” So rather than learning how to leave the wilderness I’ve learned how to… find protein in it.
What about you Seunghun, what do you watch?
SH: I tend to spend a lot of time on the Naver Now app, where you can watch people being interviewed for the radio live in-studio. There are a bunch of stations and shows. In terms of some of my recent favorite videos — just before we started our tour, Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, and other actors from Doctor Strange were visiting Korea and went on this really popular YouTube program that hosts guests and exposes them to Korean culture. It was so exciting to see them on it. I love all the movies from the MCU, but Doctor Strange is one of my favorites. My no. 1 since I was young was Ironman, but now my new hero is Moon Knight.
I also recently watched a video about a soccer coach that I now admire a lot. He used to be with a team in the Champions League, and he recently moved to AC Milan, which is in the [more minor] Conference League. His team made it to the finals, and he teared up because he was so proud. AC Milan fans were impressed by his display of emotion and so was I, it was really touching. I like that coach and am keeping an eye on him, but my little brother and I actually support another team, Tottenham, which [Korean player] Son Heung-min is on.
I saw that Tottenham lost two days ago, didn’t they?
SH: 2-0! But they’re gonna come back, it’s gonna be fine.
Do you all like soccer? Hyunsuk’s making a face that looks a little like “maybe not.”
HS: They all enjoy both watching and playing the game, but I just love playing it.
YH: I’m a big fan of Son, too, so I keep a close eye on him and can’t wait for the World Cup.
BX: I’m a fan of Chelsea because I like their uniforms. [All laugh]
JY: I don’t have a particular team that I cheer on, but I love playing soccer. We all go to a local indoor soccer stadium and rent the pitch by the hour. I used to be an all rounder and play in any position but after injuring my ankle in 2020, now I can only be the goalie.
That’s still kind of a dangerous role, though! A lot of jumping.
SH: When we’re playing amongst ourselves, we don’t have to jump. We’re not that good.
Who’s the best soccer player?
[Yonghee raises his hand] SH and JY: We’re all the same.
JY: On Netflix I’ve been watching a Korean drama called Narco-Saints.
About drug cartels?
JY: Yes, drugs! [Laughs] Please add context to that.
I’ve got you. I read somewhere that you have to watch videos to go to sleep. Is that true?
JY: Yes! All the time. There are days I just pass out because I’m so tired but whenever I can’t go to sleep, and I have a full schedule the next day or something, I’ll turn on YouTube and fall asleep to mukbangs. I usually follow the algorithm, I don’t search for a particular video.
I’ve always worried that if I let the algorithm play that it might eventually play something loud that might wake me up.
JY: That hasn’t happened to me yet! I’ll play mukbang videos for five, six hours and when I wake up it’s still going.
YH: I do want to recommend watching a channel called Short Box because I think they’re a really helpful guide to our culture for foreigners who don’t know much about Korea. The comedians that run the channel used to be on a TV show in Korea called Gag Comedy that ran for 20 years and just went off air last year. Now they make these YouTube videos that are fun but I feel also really deliver cultural messages very well.
There’s one skit about karaoke in Korea that’s particularly fun, but I’d recommend watching all their videos to understand multiple aspects of Korean culture.