ZeroBaseOne, K-Pop’s Fifth Generation It Boys, Know How Much You Love the “Mother” Pose

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ZeroBaseOne, K-Pop’s Fifth Generation It Boys, Know How Much You Love the “Mother” Pose


There was a moment during KCON LA’s Day Two concert this past weekend when the already-loud crowd screamed even louder. And the screams weren’t directed at ZEROBASEONE, or ZB1, who were performing in the U.S. for the first time at the Crypto.com Arena. The thousands of attendees were cheering for one fan who, at the end of the collaborative stage with ZEROBASEONE, struck a pose. The fan placed their hand on their waist, tilted their head toward their shoulder, and smirked at the camera. It was a nod—literally—to a dance that earned ZEROBASEONE leader Sung Hanbin the nickname “mother.”

Let me quickly explain: When the members of ZEROBASEONE competed on the reality competition series Boys Planet that formed the group earlier this year, many of the contestants’ past performances began to trend. And one video got more attention than any other—Sung Hanbin dancing to RuPaul’s “Call Me Mother” at the studio PlayTheUrban in 2020. His fierce waacking was mesmerizing, and fans around the world posted dance covers and struck what’s now referred to as the “mother” pose.

Asked about the fan’s ending move the day after their KCON performance, ZEROBASEONE’s members immediately started to laugh. The nine artists—Sung Hanbin, Kim Jiwoong, Zhang Hao, Seok Matthew, Kim Taerae, Ricky, Kim Gyuvin, Park Gunwook, and Han Yujin—were seated in two rows and dressed in shades of white, black, and blue as we chatted over Zoom. When the topic came up, Kim Taerae whipped his head toward the group leader with a dropped jaw—as if he hasn’t been the main proponent of “mother” going viral, replicating the pose every opportunity he gets. The vocalist covered his mouth to laugh before turning back to look at the other members, each trying to suppress their giggles.

“All the performances I did in the past, I’m never ashamed of them,” Sung Hanbin said with a smile about the dance’s virality. “I think it proves that I did my best, and I was working really hard to get to where I am—so I’m actually proud.”

And where Sung Hanbin and ZEROBASEONE are now is the upper echelon of K-pop, despite only having debuted on July 10. Their debut album Youth in the Shade became the first in K-pop history to sell more than one million copies in one day. And their Instagram page reached a million followers in just six days. The term “generation” is used loosely in K-pop to distinguish artists by the time periods their careers started. ZEROBASEONE is widely considered to be a fifth generation group, and one poised to be a leader in this new era.

The week of August 14 was marked by firsts for the nine-member ensemble. ZEROBASEONE had its first concert at Seoul’s Gocheok Sky Dome stadium, with 18,000 ZEROSE—the name of their fans—in attendance. Days later, they traveled to Los Angeles for their first U.S. performance at KCON LA. We talked to the artists about these milestones, the Dream Stage at KCON where they danced with fans who auditioned to perform with them, and their next album, which was just announced to drop in November.

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You’ve done so much in the last few days. Do you consider this the biggest week of your career so far?

Ricky: This is one of our biggest and most busy weeks so far. For this week we prepared for a long time. And the schedule is busy but there are many ZEROSE waiting for the events, so that’s why we can go through this visit with their love and support.

Seok Matthew: Going to Gocheok Dome or going here and performing, we never really thought we’d ever do this. But being able to, it’s really an unforgettable moment. All of us after finishing the stage we’d be like, I can’t believe we just did that. Thinking about it now, too, I think I can remember every detail of the Gocheok Dome experience. Because of ZEROSE, everything is everlasting.

How did you feel when you landed in the U.S.—can you walk me through your thoughts?

Zhang Hao: It’s our first time except for Ricky to be in LA, so we were excited. But I think one thing I was curious about is that with LA ZEROSE, we were wondering whether the experience on the stage would be different. How would they react? Because we have different cultures and the way they show love would be different, we were curious about that. As soon as we landed, we were excited to build new memories and happiness with our fans. And one thing that got me really excited is that from our hotel window, you can see the Hollywood sign. That’s a really special experience because we’ve only seen that in movies. And it’s an experience that we could only have because we are now ZB1.

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CJ ENM

What was your favorite part about the Dream Stage?

Han Yujin: We performed “Here I Am” from Boys Planet on the Dream Stage and it was a reminiscing moment. It really brought up the memories that we went through Boys Planet and seeing our fans dancing to that song together with us, that was very special.

Kim Taerae: We were very proud to see such good dancers. When we were dancing together we would make eye contact. Every time we saw them, they were smiling. I feel like we really built a new precious memory with them being on the stage.

I saw that one of the fans did the signature “Call Me Mother” move for his ending pose. Hanbin, how does it feel to have your pre-debut dance go viral?

Sung Hanbin: I laugh a lot whenever I see those moments on the Internet, and the fact that they are having fun, I’m fine with it. And even during our meet and greet, a lot of fans were doing that pose and showing me that moment. As long as they can all have fun with it, I’m grateful.

That’s awesome. I also wanted to ask, with such a busy week, how do you take care of your mental health while you’re traveling?

Kim Gyuvin: This is the first time that we went this far to another country. It was hard to get into this country’s time, it was so hard. My biorhythm was a little messy, with all the jet lag. I’m trying my best to overcome it by drinking a lot of water and trying to get as much sleep as possible and taking vitamins. So not only my mental health, I’m trying to really keep up the physical health as well at the same time.

Seok Matthew: We have these fun moments where at night, we’d be like, are you guys hungry? And then we’d just look at the menu and then order a bunch of food. And then we all eat together—those kinds of moments also really help with mental health. Being in LA, we ordered a lot of room service.

What was the best thing you had in room service?

Kim Gyuvin: This morning we ate avocado toast. It was the best.

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CJ ENM

Ah yes, that’s very popular. I’m also curious, did you feel a different kind of pressure for your KCON performance?

Park Gunwook: We’ve met our fans in different opportunities, including our very recent fan concert. But this is our first time meeting all K-pop fans (for Day Two’s concert, ZEROBASEONE was one of a handful of groups that performed a few songs each). They are not necessarily our fans, but they’re from different fandoms and they want to explore more so we were able to meet more people in that sense. And especially to meet them in LA was very special because we were wondering, how much love and support would we actually get? How many new fans can we gain from this experience? I think overall, we were looking forward to more things than feeling pressured.

Kim Jiwoong: I thank everyone for coming out and seeing us, and it was our pleasure to meet them throughout this week. I feel like I was just [living] ordinary life before meeting ZEROSE. And after meeting ZEROSE and getting their love and support, I feel like our quality of life has generally gone up significantly. And I’m seeing the difference inside of myself as well. I always want to make sure that they feel the same way, that they see the growth and improvement in their lives, just like how I feel by meeting ZEROSE.

How does performing in front of existing fans compare to performing in front of K-pop fans who may not be familiar with you yet?

Zhang Hao: The opportunities that we get to perform in front of existing fans is more about repaying them—repaying all the love and support that we’ve received. Events like KCON, we want to show different charms of K-pop through our performance.

Park Gunwook: For fan concert, in front of ZEROSE, that’s more a gift to our fans because we want to say thank you. But for KCON, we are all becoming one in the large umbrella of K-pop and we are all united here with the love towards K-pop. So we just want to share that experience with the other K-pop fans as well.

Kim Jiwoong: For me, I keep the same mindset for all performances. It might be a little bit of figure of speech here, but flowers don’t bloom in just one place. Flowers can bloom anywhere. So we want to make sure that we keep the same mindset wherever we go and we give our best effort to all the shows that we do.

I love that analogy. And finally, you’ve done so much since your debut already. What are your goals both professionally or personally for the rest of this year?

Sung Hanbin: There’s a second album coming up, we are working very hard for that. That will be the biggest goal, that we are really preparing hard for the rest of the year. And for individual goals, we all have different ones but I think the common goal for all the members would be to keep promoting in healthy conditions. And I hope we can capture all the different moments. Thankfully, we’ve been having a lot of great opportunities performing and interacting with our fans. Every one of them is very precious. I think it’s really important to capture those moments and keep them inside of us.

Lettermark

Kat Moon is a New York-based entertainment writer. She covers shows for TV Guide and is ready to chat about your latest binge-watch. Kat was previously at TIME where she covered film, television, and lots of K-pop. She continues to write about K-pop and spends her free time learning dances from your favorite idols. 



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