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Ukiss celebrates 15th anniversary with 'Play List'

Ukiss hopes to make 10-piece comeback next time

By Choi Ji-won

Published : June 29, 2023 - 17:53

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Ukiss holds a press conference for its 15th anniversary album, Ukiss holds a press conference for its 15th anniversary album, "Play List," in Seoul on Wednesday. (Tango Music)

It seems like time has not been wasted for Ukiss' members, despite the years they have spent apart.

The members have spent several years -- a dozen years at the longest -- apart, but the six men boasted a boisterous yet smooth demeanor onstage at their 15th anniversary comeback showcase event on Wednesday.

It was a long-awaited comeback, a feat achieved five years and six months after the group dropped its last single, "Ready For You," in December 2017.

But for each of the six members -- Alexander, Soohyun, AJ, Hoon, Kiseop and Eli -- their return as Ukiss all carried different meanings.

The band's leader, Soohyun, who had started this comeback project around a year ago, appeared close to tears as he spoke to the press on Wednesday.

"It feels like a dream. I've yearned to return as Ukiss and imagined coming onstage with the members almost every day," Soohyun said, adding this is the group's second media showcase event since its debut in 2008.

Marking the band's 15th anniversary, the group dropped EP "Play List" that day.

Alexander, who debuted as a Ukiss original member and left the group in 2011, said, "I'm back after 12 years. I've been busy working abroad, acting and doing radio. Although I feel a little out of place to be back after 12 years, I'll do my best."

AJ, who joined the team in 2011 and left in 2014, returned with his new name, Siyoon. Since leaving Ukiss, he finished his studies at college and spent some time in the finance sector as an ordinary officer worker, while working on and off as a singer-songwriter. He has recently been fully devoted to music.

Hoon joined in 2011 with Siyoon and has stayed a part of the group since. This marks his return to the group after he went on a military hiatus in 2019. He recently signed with Soohyun's agency, Tango Music, which organized Ukiss' 15th anniversary project.

"I thought about giving up (on music) after my contract with the previous agency came to an end, but fortunately, Soohyun and Kiseop reached out," he said, adding that he lost around 10 kilograms for this comeback.

Kiseop, who was among the group's most recently added members along with Soohyun and Hoon, also signed with Tango Music recently.

Eli debuted as part of Ukiss in 2008 and stayed on until his contract with the group's original agency, NH EMG, came to a close in 2019. The Los Angeles-born Korean American has been residing in the US lately.

"I came back to Korea last August and have been carrying out my own business in the F&B sector. Hoon reached out to me then, asking whether I'd join the 15th anniversary project. I put a hold on my personal work to be here as Ukiss," Eli said.

Ukiss holds a press conference for its 15th anniversary album, Ukiss holds a press conference for its 15th anniversary album, "Play List," in Seoul on Wednesday. (Tango Music)

Once reigning over the K-pop scene with their raucous hits -- the likes of "Manmanhani" and "Bingeul Bingeul" -- the group hopes to return back to people's playlists with their new album, "Play List."

"There are six songs because we're back with six members. The album is centered around the keywords gratitude, empathy, healing and retro, and we worked hard hoping everyone would like our music," Hoon explained.

Fronting the six-track EP is "The Wonderful Escape," a fresh house pop song with an addictive retro sound carrying Ukiss' unique explosive energy. With the lyrics, the song sends a healing message of escaping our daily worries.

Kiseop hopes to gain the "summer king" title with the album. "Hopefully, many people will like our song and we'll be able to come back again next summer," he said.

The album also includes songs "Party Tonight, "Dear Mom," "Memories," "My Favorite" and "The Way You Are."

Kiseop wrote the lyrics and melody of "Dear Mom."

"I wrote my unsent messages to my mom in the lyrics. It's also a letter of gratitude to our forever fans: our parents," Kiseop explained.

Soohyun hoped that Ukiss could return with all 10 members next time.

"We met up with everyone, including Dongho, Kevin and Jun. Dongho was supposed to come back with us this time but had to drop out during the project," Soohyun said.

He added he'd reached out to Kibum as well but has not received a reply yet.

"If you read this Kibum, please give us a call!" Soohyun said.

Reuniting the six members itself was not an easy process. Initially, when they first got together at a restaurant in Seoul, a few minutes of awkward silence hung in the air, Siyoon said.

"That moment when we first came together for this project is still so clear in my mind. Some of us had some lingering emotions from the past, and I was worried that we might even fight," Alexander said.

Siyoon added: "At first it wasn't really the album that mattered. I wanted to speak with these guys who I had spent my 20s with. At one moment, we just turned the camera off and poured out all our honest thoughts and emotions. Then we agreed to do this 15th anniversary project."

Ukiss holds a press conference for its 15th anniversary album, Ukiss holds a press conference for its 15th anniversary album, "Play List," in Seoul on Wednesday. (Tango Music)

Several of the "second-generation" K-pop groups who debuted in the mid to late 2000s are returning lately. SHINee recently returned with its 8th LP, "Hard," while Teen Top is gearing up for a July comeback.

Such returns of old groups have been a trend recently after old K-pop songs were spotlighted on the hit YouTube variety show "MMTG" a few years ago, reintroducing the songs to younger generations while bringing back nostalgia for those who grew up listening to them.

"We know we're not at the level of the 'fourth-generation' groups in terms of our talents. But I believe our real strength stems from all tides of life that we have gone through and overcome until now," Hoon said, inducing laughter from the crowd of journalists.

While Ukiss' comeback is currently planned as a one-time event, the members earnestly hoped for the next opportunity.

"We don't have any plans for next year, but if people do like our music, we'll make it happen again. That's why we're going to really give it our best shot this time. We're going to put in our everything as if this were our debut," Soohyun said.

Some say it's not the beginning but the end that decides how a relationship is remembered, and this seems to apply perfectly to Ukiss.

Despite being a part of the team at different moments, the six members couldn't hide the joy they felt at returning as Ukiss on Wednesday.

Eli said he now agrees that Ukiss is a family. "Families can fight, argue and be disappointed, but at the end of the day, we stay together. We used to say that Ukiss was like a family 15 years ago, but having spent our 20s and 30s together, I now genuinely feel that these guys are my family."

Ukiss is set to continue its 15th anniversary project with concerts in Japan. Titled "Wish List," the concerts will take place in Tokyo on July 28 and in Osaka on July 30.