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[Herald Interview] TOO hopes to spread wings with ‘Road to Kingdom’

Rising rookie group talks confidence in competing in Mnet’s new idol competition

In less than a month since it started, TOO may have become one of the busiest, must-watch rookie groups on the scene.

After being created on Mnet audition program “To Be World Klass,” the 10-piece rookie group, whose name stands for “Ten Oriented Orchestra,” debuted with the “Reason for Being: Benevolence” EP and single “Magnolia” on April 1. Consisting of leader Jaeyun, Chihoon, Donggeon, Chan, Jisu, Minsu, J.You, Kyungho, Jerome and Woonggi, the K-pop newcomers made quite an impression with global fans via its unique concept, having each member represent one of the 10 fundamental values of ancient Eastern philosophy.

But there has been no time to bask in the festivities, as the group already had another whirlwind project coming up: TOO became one of the seven boy bands to compete in Mnet’s new K-pop competition “Road to Kingdom,” which is poised to be a huge game-changer for the newly launched act. 

TOO (n.CH Entertainment)
TOO (n.CH Entertainment)

“Obviously, the show (‘Road to Kingdom’) is our biggest interest these days, as we know it’s a big, rare opportunity. Even before coming to this interview, we’ve been preparing for the show all night until the wee hours,” said Jerome in a recent interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul.

The group also shared that it had to hold its debut showcase while practicing for the competition show. “We’ve been so extremely busy that we got emaciated. We’d pulled an all-nighter on the day of the showcase, and today, we slept for about an hour. But we are glad that we’re busy,” Chan added.

Set to premiere on April 30, “Road to Kingdom” also features established acts Pentagon, Golden Child, the Boyz, ONF and rookie acts Verivery and Oneus. Viewers will vote on their favorite team and stages, while the final winner will join the subsequent show “Kingdom,” a spinoff of last year’s “Queendom” for girl groups.

As much as TOO has gained attention for being the youngest act among the lineup, there also has been some criticism that Mnet might be backing its own group. TOO was jointly launched by n.CH Entertainment and Stone Entertainment, a subsidiary of entertainment conglomerate CJ ENM, which owns Mnet. 

TOO performs
TOO performs "Magnolia" on "Road to Kingdom" (Mnet)

The bandmates were aware of such negative speculation, but didn’t seem to be daunted.

“Many of the comments read that we are not qualified enough to compete in the show. But rather than being scared of it, we decided to muster up more courage and practice harder so that we could change people’s minds,” said Kyungho, looking determined.

“I think it is obvious that we receive such comments, as we got tapped while there are many other talented groups out there. All we can do is to do our best, prove our talent and show our passion as rookies. We won’t have too much focus on rankings,” Chihoon added.

J.You chimed in to add, “It’s true that we get a bit crestfallen and nervous when we’re around senior competitors at the set. But after every stage, they’ve approached us to offer some encouraging words, which is really appreciated.

“We might get negative feedback and our ranking might be low during the competition. But one thing for sure is that we, TOO, will have grown so much after the show. We are ready for that.” 

TOO performs TVXQ`s
TOO performs TVXQ`s "Rising Sun" on "Road to Kingdom" (Mnet)

The bandmates went on to explain that they chose to perform TVXQ’s viral hit “Rising Sun,” the heart-thumping dance track from 2005, in the first round in order to show their mettle. In the teaser video of the performance, the singers are clad in blazing red outfits to portray Ra, the ancient Egyptian deity of the sun. “So it’s like, we are the ‘rising rookie,’” said Chan with a laugh.

While looking quite nervous, the band, who’ve compiled considerable stage experience through the audition show as well as KCON Los Angeles, seemed confident in their talents and teamwork.

Overcoming challenges has become second nature to many of its members. Having originally worked as an underground singer-songwriter, Chihoon said he never planned to become an idol and had to learn dancing from scratch. Jisu, who decided to become an idol after watching the now-defunct I.O.I’s emotional final concert, passed the CJ ENM audition on the brink of giving up on his dream after countless failed auditions. Woonggi, who has appeared on TV shows since his childhood, once felt his time was up in show business, but kept moving forward.

“At first, it was a bit hard for us to unite as all 10 of us came from different backgrounds and had distinct characters. But through ‘World Klass,’ we learned to embrace each other and made efforts for our relationship,” said Jisu. “Now we’re like family.”

“Since we’ve been through so much together, I feel like we can weather through the show with confidence,” J.You added.

By Hong Dam-young (
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