BE:FIRST ready to take on the world

The Yomiuri Shimbun
BE:FIRST — Sota, front left; Shunto, front right; Leo, middle row left; Ryoki, middle row center; Manato, middle row right; Ryuhei, back left; and Junon, back right

Seven-man dance and vocal group BE:FIRST is rising fast.

The increasingly popular boy band grew out of a televised audition program titled “The First,” hosted by BMSG, a company started by rapper-producer SKY-HI. The group — ranging in age from 15 to 24 — debuted with the single “Gifted.” in November of last year.

In keeping with its aspirational name, the septet’s philosophy is to always aim for the very top. Recently, members Sota, Shunto, Manato, Ryuhei, Junon, Ryoki and Leo spoke with The Yomiuri Shimbun and discussed their songs, future plans and more.

The Yomiuri Shimbun: What do each of you now think is the strength of BE:FIRST?

Sota: I think our strength is that we feel there’s value in presenting our music and we’re a team that can shine wherever we go.

Ryoki: Each of us is highly skilled and very receptive. That’s why we always nail it, no matter what kind of music we do.

Leo: I think it’s the multifaceted nature of our musical expression — we’re free from genres.

Shunto: We acknowledge each other’s individual qualities and work with mutual respect. I guess it’s our strength that we’re all like that.

Ryuhei: Each person’s skills and individual qualities can coexist with everyone else’s. And we’re always keen to make good music and respect each other’s artistic tastes, which I think elevates the group.

Junon: People often tell us they’re amazed we get along so well. We make a lot of noise and have fun in the dressing room and I think our closeness comes across naturally in photo sessions.

Manato: We all have an edgy side, too. But we’re all inside the same big circle and we never waver. We’re not just friends, we’re also a company that has gone through many things together. I think we’re becoming a really great team.

Yomiuri: You released a single “Bye-Good-Bye” in May.

Sota: As a listener, you can enjoy the song casually. But as performers of the song, we’re aware that it’s loaded with various messages and different techniques. I find it interesting that there’s this difference between us and the listeners.

Ryoki: You can connect with the song in all kinds of different ways. At the same time, it has a story that’s filled with our feelings.

Manato: It’s packed with elements from various musical genres, and surprisingly cheerful for a “bye bye”-type song, which is interesting.

Shunto: The lyrics, “Kanashimi tomo high-five” (High-five, even in sadness), hit me right in the feels, like the saying, “Sadness also helps you grow up.”

Ryuhei: Recently, I had my junior high school graduation ceremony, so I tried to apply my own “sayonara” vibe to the song when I was working on it. I feel sad when I think about no longer seeing [my classmates]. I sang the song imagining I can probably meet them again someday.

Junon: I often call it a “positive farewell song.”

Leo: A lot of people are listening to the song on music subscription services. More people than ever before have been coming up to me and saying, “I’ve listened to the song!”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
BE:FIRST — From left: Ryuhei, Manato, Leo, Sota, Ryoki, Shunto and Junon

Yomiuri: The dancing is really great, too, and choreographed by Quick Style, a Norwegian dance group that has worked with BTS and other acts.

Sota: We made sure that the dance alone would be enough to get people excited. There’s strenuous dancing even in the song’s most difficult vocal sections.

Junon: Our dance practice videos are shot using different angles from our music video. I’m sure they’re entertaining.

Ryuhei: During rehearsals, we didn’t count like, “One, two, three, four,” but instead used onomatopoeia like, “Soooh! Pang!” to help with making minute adjustments.

Leo: We couldn’t get instructions directly [from Quick Style], so we watched videos together and discussed things while practicing.

Manato: It was difficult at first, but I had fun. The choreography has some cute moves, too.

Ryoki: In the rap part, the music takes on a different vibe. I think the song’s structure is perfect.

Shunto: The song kicks off with a bang. I like that it feels like the start of something.

Yomiuri: What is BE:FIRST aiming for?

Sota: I want to venture out into the world. Since I’m a dancer, I’ve always wanted to appear in the NFL Super Bowl half-time show. Now I want to do that with all seven of us.

Ryoki: I seriously want to get the world in my sights, work with lots of people and get our music out there.

Shunto: If you think about the kind of Japanese music that is popular overseas, you may feel that it’s mostly solo artists. I hope many people will listen to our music naturally and realize there’s an alternative.

Junon: I feel very happy when I imagine playing our music globally, and I look forward to actually doing it.

Manato: I hope to continue delivering what we think is a good product and get results because of that. I like this group’s mindset of moving forward together. I hope we’ll all offer opinions and support each other.

Ryuhei: I also want to fly high with everyone, and I hope the group will continue to show its gratitude to all those involved with our work.

Leo: If BE:FIRST continues to pursue its objectives day after day, we’ll eventually reach our goal. I hope all seven of us can draw closer to our ideal, step by step.