The Deeper Meaning Behind ENHYPEN’s Setlist
How ENHYPEN’s “FATE” live show told a story that shared themes with their music videos and Webtoon.
Here is a summary of the story that ENHYPEN told through their “MANIFESTO” live show last year:
“You discover the world has ‘carved’ you on a certain ‘line’ you are expected to spend all of your life ‘walking.’ This tight constraint on how you are taught to be and to act messes with your head, and you end up stuck in suspended discombobulation, as if you are in the middle of a dizzying carnival of influences and desires. After calming down and admitting to feelings of fear and insecurity, you feel the need to have someone by your side for comfort and strength. Then, it is as if you have broken out of the Matrix, and a realization hits you like a bolt of lightning: no one is making you walk on this agonizing line! You can stray from it as much as you’d like, or even discard it entirely! You can be yourself without limitations, create your own ‘Day One,’ and start anew. Upon this epiphany, you grow more and more excited about experiencing a future that now feels exhilaratingly packed with potential routes, rather than terrifyingly so. You get to a point where there is no turning back; there is no suppressing the urge to plunge forward into a world that ignores society’s commands. This chapter closes when ENHYPEN join you, as you commit to stepping forward into a new, unfamiliar world, head held high.”
The “FATE” live show picked up right where that message left off, with an opening video that showed the members entering a new world - although “reborn” might be a more apt description than “new,” since the members’ video and Webtoon characters are vampires who have been alive for centuries!
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The opening concert video showed a moon swallowed up by flames, followed by bloody scenes that left no doubt as to whether or not ENHYPEN would take on their vampire roles during the show. Their supernatural skills were on full display throughout their entrance and the opening number, “Drunk-Dazed,” a song with the music video setting being the vampires’ old stomping grounds.
Setting the Scene
In the concert’s introduction video, the boys appeared in princely attire, seated for an elegant banquet. After a flash of light, all decorum was out the window, and they messily feasted on bloody food and drinks. In a nod to the bloody party that takes place both in the “Drunk-Dazed” music video and in DARK MOON: THE BLOOD ALTAR, the boys raised their blood-filled goblets in a toast, red flower petals raining down on them. The word “FATE” spliced across the screen, as the screen faded to black and was replaced with an image of iron gates with butterflies in front of them. Light streamed out of a gap in the stage, and the members rose up one by one through underground platforms. The last few members came from behind “the iron gates,” and the screen split in two and was pulled back to reveal them standing on risers.
Lots of details from the opening video came to life on stage: The red flower was physically in SUNOO’s hand, JUNGWON held up a pocket watch like the one from the video (his character’s time-turner), and the members conjured up real flames with mere waves of their arms. Continuing to casually flex magic powers, all of the imagery disappeared with a literal snap of NI-KI’s fingers. A moment later, the screen was reanimated, in a vivid swirl of blue, red, and gray. That scene included a stunning, blue-green full moon, eerie shadows in the distance, trees bending in the wind due to a storm, and a shower of red sparks matching the color of the lights outside an old castle. All the colors suddenly converged onto the iron gates, leaving the surrounding scene all gray. With one more flash of light, the members walked up the red runway and got into formation for the opening number, “Drunk-Dazed.”
Starting the night’s storytelling with “Drunk-Dazed” and an immersive look at the vampires’ old residence was a last hurrah of sorts, as the vampires prepared to start over elsewhere.
Seeking and Struggling
While the opening number paid homage to the more dramatic aspects of ENHYPEN’s ongoing narrative, the next few songs focused on its more relatable ones. Having stepped into a new realm, the members sang a song about navigating the unfamiliar in a take-charge way with “Blockbuster.” That song is about keeping a story on one’s own terms and trusting that a “The only way out is through” mentality will pay dividends. “There’s no fixed road, I just choose my crossroads,” they sang.
One asset for handling life’s inevitable crossroads: companionship, which made “Let Me In (20 CUBE)” and its icy background screen the perfect follow-up. Then, in “Flicker,” they compared the chance to find a life partner to a “flicker” of light that needs to be seized before it’s too late. That sense of an opportunity slipping away in the blink of an eye felt palpable, thanks to lighting changes that made their costumes appear more silver than they actually were. The unreliable wardrobe appearance was paired with choreography involving lots of literal leaning on each other.
The following performance of “FEVER” channeled the same anguish as the music video does. That video shows the members failing to escape the clutches of an evil, black fog, making it look like they are sucked into a black hole.
This portion of the show was centered around a missed opportunity, while the following portion’s theme was vowing to not let that happen again.
Fresh resolve was apparent with the choice to perform “Future Perfect (Pass the MIC)” next, a song from MANIFESTO : DAY 1. Wearing plain, all-white outfits that were similar to their previous white outfits but sans fancy trimmings, the group symbolized a clean slate, and they sang about freeing themselves from the old world’s thought confines.
The “Future Perfect (Pass the MIC)” music video involves turning back time, making “Blessed-Cursed” a thematically appropriate follow-up. “Blessed-Cursed” reflects on the days of being stuck in a mental “enclosure,” hence the performance’s use of jail cell bars for a background.
These two performances’ story was that of freedom, then regression paired with a desire to become free once again. “In this fake blessing… I wanna be… on my way,” they sang, as well as “I don’t know [the] answers / I just go my own way.” “Blessed-Cursed” also includes a lyrical reference to The Matrix, whose theme of a simulated reality was conveyed on stage through hologram-like images. The members appeared on the big screen like ghosts, translucent versions of themselves. It was surreal to watch the members be physically present in the room and singing about leaving a lasting impact of their own choosing while seeing them on screens appearing to be just flimsy apparitions.
The sense that ENHYPEN had found solid ground to stand on in their new world faltered more in the next intermission video, which started out set in what appeared to be Heaven. In elegant outfits, the members calmly read books, sipped tea, played chess, and made artwork together. Notably, HEESEUNG painted a butterfly, bringing to mind the butterflies in front of the iron gates to the vampires’ old residence that were present during the opening number. Another reminder of their roots: the blood that filled the fountain. The video alluded to tensions below a utopian allusion, proving that the characters’ darker impulses stay alive even when their human-passing sides seem solid.
The serene paradise was replaced with pictures of a paint-splattered cityscape for the next performance, “Attention, please!” Both the 2D paint and the above-stage spotlights lit up in a range of colors, as the members sang about looking for someone willing to hold their hand while heading down a challenging but worthwhile path.
Showing their true colors to the world stayed a focus of the next song, “ParadoXXX Invasion.” “The color in my dream is [a] paradox / It’s better than your reality,” they sang. They embraced a world where they “are free” and “Illogic is logic.”
ENHYPEN’s setlist so far told a story about growing more comfortable living life outside of society’s expectations, and this do-over life seemed to continue progressing with the emotionally open next few songs. With an acoustic guitar and while surrounded by flowers, both physically and as part of the 2D background, four of the members sang “TFW (That Feeling When).” More love songs followed: “Just A Little Bit,” “10 Months,” and “Polaroid Love.”
There was a starkly symbolic moment during “Just A Little Bit.” While singing lyrics like “It bothers me that you’re here / Just a little bit… Breaking down my world,” backgrounds formed a contrast matching the song’s. They sang about fearing falling deeper in love with someone and later regretting being so emotionally open, while the main screen maintained a peaceful meadow picture and the side screens went dark. HEESEUNG appeared on the side screens playing the piano, lit up by the glow of audience members’ phone flashlights. A song about lingering hesitation when it comes to love was sung while a source of light in the darkness emerged from many other people.
At this point in the show, ENHYPEN acknowledged the role of community in self-confidence. The next song focused on being more confident because of hyping up others, rather than at the expense of doing so. They sang “SHOUT OUT,” a song filled with lyrics about making sure others feel free too: “Shake the world together;” “I’ll tell you my true feelings / The world is beautiful when we’re together… ‘Til the end of time / The story of you and I;” “A voice that grows as one.” Ironically, they sang a message of life getting more colorful with companionship while performing with black-and-white images. The screens were simply covered in “SHOUT OUT” repeatedly, in bold, black and white letters.
ENHYPEN’s message is all about feeling whole and feeling like a piece of a larger unit not being mutually exclusive. After all, that is the meaning behind their hyphen-inspired band name! This sentiment was epitomized well through the next song, “Go Big or Go Home,” which mixed moments that were focused on group synchronization with ones focused on different audience members.
ENHYPEN’s characters dared to dream and to love, and it seemed to have paid off, but the next section of the show focused on the drawbacks of such intense feelings.
The boys fell into a love that felt too good to be true, because it was above what they thought they deserved. Here is a short summary of ENHYPEN’s Webtoon, DARK MOON: THE BLOOD ALTAR, that speaks to that insecurity:
“When faced with the options of taking absolute power for herself or sharing it and preserving it for the future, a princess chooses the latter. She preserves magic powers inside seven knights. The powers start becoming unsealed after the princess is reincarnated as Sooha. Sooha becomes a peer of a group of vampires… masquerading as humans, and they feel inexplicably drawn to her. They later learn they are the reincarnated knights who now share her magic. The more the seals become undone, the easier it becomes for Dardan, a power-hungry evildoer, to find Sooha and these vampires-in-hiding. The Queen’s dying wish was for the princess to keep power away from Dardan, so the vampires and Sooha have a shared goal and intertwined fates.”
In the final chapters of the Webtoon, Dardan almost succeeds but does not. He is overpowered in a practical sense, but he ultimately loses for more metaphorical reasons. He lacks a clear and noble purpose behind his quest for power. He is greedy, whereas ENHYPEN’s characters seek power to protect others. Dardan does not have what it takes to succeed, and the boys not only realize that they have enough power to beat Dardan, but that they have had that ability inside them all along. They learn that their true power source has never actually been Sooha; she is their source of motivation. The power was intrinsically inside of them before they knew her; it just needed a morally just source of activation.
The theme of fate and power being granted to those who deserve it is what ENHYPEN’s DARK BLOOD era is focused on, which is perhaps why, in the next intermission video, the scenes that showed the members writhing in pain and otherwise distraught outnumbered the scenes that showed them floating in water, as if undergoing soul-cleansing.
It dawned on ENHYPEN that they had started to resemble Dardan too much; they became “Drunk with arrogance” (as they sang in “Chaconne”) and felt like they suffered from a never-ending curse. They had lost sight of the reasons they wanted to love in the first place. They sang about the emotional bills coming due (“The price of parting keeps getting more and more expensive”) while under a golden chandelier during “Bills,” and they covered more of the risks that come with romance in “CRIMINAL LOVE” (notably, a song released specifically to go with the Webtoon) and “Sacrifice (Eat Me Up).”
The last song was “Bite Me,” a song whose music video ends with this message on the screen:
“I am willing to give up my trifling power and eternity to you as long as I can protect you. I will gladly accept the destiny I chose.”
The members walked back up to the risers, letting the other screens close behind them with the image of a red moon. The “doors” sealed shut, as did their fates.
In the Webtoon, one way ENHYPEN’s characters realize their powers remain with them irrespective of how the princess is doing is by the remaining symbol of those powers on the backs of their hands. That symbol continued to glow in the post-show video segment too. Then, each member appeared individually standing in front of a fire-colored, intricate design. It appeared to be on a stained-glass window in a church. The members were humbled by fate and were able to give up their egos in exchange for total trust that what is meant to be will be. As ENHYPEN say in “FATE,” both this tour’s keyword and DARK BLOOD’s introduction:
“The sign… It rises like a bright sun that clears the darkness / Fate is in my hands again.”
There is something ironically empowering about letting go of one’s ego to trust that things will work out the way they are meant to happen. Dardan never experiences this sense of clarity and relief; he is too stubborn and willing to throw others’ hopes away if that’s what it takes to fulfill his own. In other words, Dardan resists fate, and it comes back to bite him. The all-powerful image he envisions obtaining is not meant to be, and perhaps he could have ironically found satisfaction by setting his sights lower. After all, ENHYPEN’s characters find contentment through unexpected realizations, like in Episode 63, when one of them recalls:
“One day, I stopped fearing darkness. When in the dark, I could sense things even more clearly… Darkness is my territory. Shadows are a part of me.”
This is both literal and metaphorical for this vampire. He sees the light by embracing his shadows. In contrast, Dardan stubbornly denies his own shadows have ever existed.
Closing with “Karma”
The encore started with another Webtoon theme song, “One In A Billion,” which is about believing that fate brings the right people into each other’s lives. That “Everything will happen as it was meant to” ethos remained for the last song, “Karma.” In that song, ENHYPEN express their firm belief that a relationship is destined to last eternally: “In the next life… I’ll definitely visit you… Together forever.” ENHYPEN’s characters take comfort in knowing they have good “Karma” and will encounter the love they were always meant to someday, a clear contrast from their insatiable urges and desperation shown in the opening video. The characters’ newfound maturity and contentment had a fitting representation in ENHYPEN’s energizing finale.
During Episode 68, Dardan is reminded of why he has failed in this succinct way:
“[I]t was respect that kept the royal family line going… Only the one approved by both tribes gets to inherit the royal powers. The more you try to force it… the more it will slip away… just like… winning someone’s heart.”
Dardan dares to challenge fate, with all the wrong incentives, so he has always been destined to lose. ENHYPEN’s characters, on the other hand, accept fate, which allows them to accept themselves, others, and the autonomy that is not mutually exclusive from either.
The “MANIFESTO” live show told a story of realizations, and the “FATE” live show told a related story about applying those realizations to the world around them. With time, determination, and a strong moral compass that keeps them aware of their obligation to help and connect with others (in other words, to serve as a metaphorical hyphen), ENHYPEN’s characters have learned they can handle whatever life has in store for them next.
For more ENHYPEN coverage, check out these 17 Carat K-Pop podcast episodes and articles!
The ultimate guide to DARK BLOOD
The ultimate guide to MANIFESTO : DAY 1
A guide to their story’s mythology references
An overall guide to the ENHYPEN Music Video Universe
The podcast version of the “MANIFESTO” U.S. tour review