Almost exactly three years ago, in Paris, I met Wonho (real name Lee Hoseok) and the six other members of K-pop group MONSTA X for the first time. He was less muscular than he is now — dark haired, polite and, in a complete counterbalance to an overflowing stage confidence, astonishingly shy. As an icebreaker, I’d brought them a gift: a large shopping bag crammed with junk food and ramen. Wonho opened it and, clearly delighted by its contents, lit up like a Christmas tree. Later, this expression reappeared as the conversation wound towards the group’s songwriting, to which Wonho contributed regularly from 2017 onwards. He was writing constantly at the time, he said, almost every day, despite the fatigue of being on tour. And when speaking about his work, Wonho’s face glowed.
Over the years, it appears that what makes Wonho truly happy hasn’t changed. He loves his workouts, his food, making his music, and his fans. Yet everything else in his life has shifted seismically. On October 31, 2019, Wonho announced his departure from MONSTA X following accusations from a former friend that he owed her a sizable sum of money. Simultaneously, a Seoul newspaper reported that he’d historically used marijuana and, separate to that claim, revealed he’d been sentenced to probation as a juvenile.
Monbebe (MONSTA X’s fandom) were left reeling but came together globally to protest Wonho’s departure, calling on his label, Starship Entertainment, to reinstate him. Over the coming months, they refused to back down, using social media and even hiring expensive digital billboards to keep up the pressure. Meanwhile in Seoul, the police investigation into his activities continued; on March 14, Wonho was cleared of all charges. While a reason to celebrate, it was also a dark postscript to a career of hit songs and global milestones that had been abruptly cut off.
Few idols have bounced back from such allegations, even when groundless. More often than not, they take a different path, often finding audiences as YouTubers, or choosing simply to vanish from public life. However, Wonho, who signed in early April to Highline Entertainment (a subsidiary of Starship Entertainment) may well be the first to change the way idols are received after experiencing a “scandal.”
After what seemed like an endless hiatus, a dust devil of activity for the singer-songwriter sprang to life as August began. A new logo — clean, simple and sharp — and a fan cafe on the social platform, V Live. A fandom name: 위니(WENEE, pronounced wi-nee, short for We Are New Ending). And less than a week ago, the announcement of a mini-album, Love Synonym (#1): Right for Me, to be released on September 4th, preceded by the single out today, “Losing You.”.
The piano-lead, English-language “Losing You,” like many of Wonho’s previous compositions, contains a lightness even as it curls its fingers around the heartstrings. It’s a love song within a love song — a direct, fervent message to his fandom imprinted within a universal context. “I’ve loved the song since I first heard it,” Wonho tells Teen Vogue. “It’s an appreciation song to my fans. I love them so much, they give me the power to continue and create music.”
As he geared up for the release of “Losing You,” Wonho spoke to Teen Vogue about his new material, his fans, and his expectations for the future.
TV: Let’s talk about your new single — how long have you been working on this, and what made you decide to release it in English?
Wonho: I’ve been working on it for a long time and recorded it several times because I wanted to show you some great music. This is the first song I received as I prepared my solo album. It was a great collab, and I worked on it with producers and writers from the U.S. and the U.K. Music seems to be a universal language that connects everyone to, even though we don’t speak the same language and know each other well, but I made “Losing You” in English because it was really important to me to let fans know how I feel.
TV: What else would you like to say to your fans at this moment?
W: I’m going to repay their love and support by showing my unique color of music. I hope the time we’ll spend together will be wonderful and filled with joy!
TV: The lyrics “coz losing me is better than losing you” really resonate given the time you’ve spent on hiatus. Have you felt that you might have been lost or losing yourself? How do you work though that?
W: While these weren’t easy moments to face and endure, it was a time that made me think a lot and that allowed me to develop and grow — that was very important and precious for me. I thought of the fans waiting and supporting me. I sometimes spent my days with my family and friends. I also spent time alone in my studio and worked on music.
TV: Honestly, I can only imagine how very difficult it must have been for not only yourself but the members of MONSTA X when you announced that you were leaving…
W: There were times when it was hard but I think we’re now able to cheer each other up. We’ve become more mature after what we’ve been through and although we’re not together anymore as a team, I believe that we’re strong supporters of each other.
TV: During your hiatus, did you think about a future where there wasn’t “Wonho, the artist” but living your future just as Lee Hoseok?
W: I am one person. Wonho the artist and Hoseok, it’s all me. I try to be the same everywhere. Music is my calling and I can’t see a future without it. During the hiatus, I thought a lot and learned from doing a lot of work. I think I found a new version of myself that I didn’t recognize. I feel a little more mature, and like I have more to say to the world. The previous “Wonho” was also Wonho, and the current “Wonho” is Wonho. It’s still me as my fans know me.
Read full interview on teenvogue.com
the last three gifs in that set look awful but i literally Cannot Think Right Now
(a symbol of apollo.) on jooheon, his music, and his love.
jooheon’s a musician, and he’s mastered his craft.
i’m a little biased (these posts always are, though) but he’s just good at what he does. he’s good at it. music is his love and his gift and his life. and as such, every song that he actually gives to us is incredibly personal. listening to a jooheon song is almost akin to listening to his heartbeat; it’s his, and it’s him.
making songs… is cathartic, for him. think of flow: he only made one song during that time of darkness (for comparison, he said he makes a song every day back in 2018) and it was that. that was him untangling all the feelings associated with that situation, and reaching for the light, again. music is a form of self-care. it’s not just work or a means to an end; it’s his expression, his brush on a canvas, his body in motion.
and every song he has written and released to us has been a love letter. to himself. to his brothers and their bond. to his own struggle. to his pride and his sincerity. to music itself.
you can see how much he loves the music when he’s performing. he gets into it, gets lost in it, lost in how the cheers are a form of music in their own way. music helps him, and it soothes him, and it helps him heal. and in all of that, there’s this special kind of reciprocity. he takes all those emotions he feels, all that light that music brings him, and he turns it outwards to shine on everyone that hears it.
he loves music. he loves his music. he wants us to feel that love and that comfort and that empathy, too.
his music’s exigence is love. it’s as simple as that.
back to flow again: flow is his journey. his path. and like i said, that’s personal. it’s tangled in his very being, it’s the product of his hiatus. and yet, he gave it to us anyway. he literally said that he’s open with his struggles and his trials so that his courage could give us strength.
flow is part battle cry, part love song. it’s defiant and determined in its existence, and it’s still offering a shoulder and a hand to us. him telling himself to breathe turns into him telling us to breathe. it’s his glide of swans, with an underlying message of comfort.
it’s beautiful in its lyricism, its complexity, its message, its presentation, its presence in front of us. it’s jooheon.
stand up is an even more apparent example of this. stand up is for us, through and through. it’s supposed to cheer us up, get us through this difficult time. to remind us that they’re with us, even if not physically, right now. it’s a gift to us.
and that reciprocity? it lies here, too. stand up shows the movement to a gentler happiness that we’ve all seen in jooheon. it’s the promise that it’ll find you, even after painful times. the ability to rise above the ashes that you lie in.
again, that it will find him, and that he will rise.
you can even see those little flow motifs in it: letting go, letting things happen. stand up has heon’s personal philosophy baked into it as much as flow does. and it’s a beautiful thing.
and his growth; happiness is important to him. but love comes after happiness, didn’t you know?
love sits on top.
stand up is part love song, part battle cry. it really goes full circle, because as much as it cheers us up, it cheers all of them up, too. they glow during stand up. even if we aren’t there, we’re there in that song.
jooheon has mastered his craft in that he’s mastered the flow of energy between mx and mbbs. he’s said that he comes to fc to see how we’re doing, see what we’re up to, what we’re feeling. and he uses that to fuel his craft. it’s his inspiration, we’re his audience, his strength and his pride, his star. he takes that energy, and he gives it right back.
the love between us is constantly flowing, in music, and in jooheon, and in jooheon’s music. and that is something i could write about forever.
to our gifted, swan-eyed, starry lee jooheon: i love you, very much.
once again thinking about how monsta x shines the brightest when they’re performing for monbebe…like it’s kind of insane how much their energy shifted during the fswl shoot out stage just because the recording of their fans.