I think it is safe to say that when A.C.E’s leader Junhee went into the Army back on February 7th, I fell into a bit of a K-pop malaise. With three members off to serve their country and a fourth (Byeongkwan) scheduled to go this month, I was really feeling the sting of this hiatus. Perhaps it is because individually as well as collectively, A.C.E has always been a strong presence in my K-pop realm. From a purely fan service perspective, they were there, every day – and, especially Jun. A day did not go by without him updating. I am honestly missing him more than I am missing Donghun..but, shhhhh, don’t tell DH!! I started to wonder if maybe I was hitting my K-pop fangirl expiration date. And then news of CIX having their first US tour, AND coming to my city, was announced. I have to say, I felt the shift, the squee as it were, and realized that I still have a whole lot of fangirl left in me! If you are not familiar with CIX, I hope I can persuade you to have a look and listen . . . and perhaps if they are coming to a city near you, coax you to go out and support this incredibly talented quintet.
The name CIX is an acronym for Complete in X, or, Complete in Unknown. The variable X is unknown and of course can mean a variety of things depending upon the equation. The group’s fandom name is FIX ~ Faith in X (again, X being the unknown, but having faith in it nonetheless). As per usual, I caught wind of CIX late. That is, I became introduced after their 2019 debut. Therefore, I did not know the history. I did not know leader BX was on Mixnine, for example. Nor did I know that both he and main vocalist Seunghun were part of Treasure Box over at YG Entertainment with an eye towards debuting as a part of Treasure.
Moreover, I was not in the know about Wanna One enough to know that vocalist, visual and center of the group, Bae Jinyoung, debuted with that project boy group back in 2017. CIX grabbed my attention just prior to the release of their first studio album, OK Prologue: Be OK, featuring the title track, Wave. That album was released in August 2021, and I became a quick study. They soon took their place as one of my top fave 4th generation K-pop groups, and with good reason. On the music, dance, synergy, personality, and concept levels, they simply do not miss. I mean, what group wins their first music show trophy one week after debut?!! Come meet CIX.
Before we get to the music, you must meet this talented (and gorgeous) crew.
BX ~ Leader, Main Rapper, Vocalist
Real/Full Name: Lee Byoung Gon
Born: March 5, 1998
BX has been working his way through the idol factory for some time. He was a YG trainee before coming to C9 Entertainment (CIX’s current agency) and participated in both Mixnine and Treasure Box. In Mixnine, he made it into the final nine line up which included both Donghun and Byeongkwan from A.C.E. They were supposed to debut and promote for seven months as a group but said debut was canceled due to YG’s inability to settle on acceptable contract negotiations with the respective agencies the various finalists belonged to at the time. For BX it had to have been particularly disappointing and bittersweet given he was with YG at the time and debut was literally in reach.
He went on to compete in Treasure Box, was eliminated and did not debut with Treasure. Subsequently, he left YG, joined C9 Entertainment and well, the rest is history. Along with being the group leader, BX composes and writes. In fact, he garnered a couple of composing credits on the group’s last comeback and first studio album, OK Prologue: Be OK.
Seunghun ~ Main Vocalist
Full Name: Kim Seunghun
Born: February 26, 1999
Like BX, Seunghun spent many years as a trainee, starting with Cube Entertainment, and then with YG. He was also an eliminated contestant on Treasure Box and along with BX, Treasure’s loss became CIX’s incredible gain. Seunghun’s vocals are no joke. His power and range remind me so much of EXO’s Baekhyun and look, if someone (like me in this instance) is going to compare any vocalist to Baekhyun, they better have the proof to back that comparison up. Well, all you need to do is listen to any CIX song to know that I am not lying, exaggerating or otherwise. Seunghun can sing, and sing well. He is a vocal powerhouse. No cap.
Seunghun’s big voice is matched equally by his big personality. He is charming, witty and definitely the group’s moodmaker. The other members think he is particularly funny, and I think he has an incredibly infectious smile. According to fans, he is as honey sweet as his vocals, and has been dubbed ‘sweet Seunghun‘ because of his diligent communication with them via sns. Oh, and did I mention he can dance really well? Yes, this main vocalist puts it all out there. Sound, movement, style and smiles, lots of smiles.
Yonghee ~ Vocalist, Visual
Full Name: Kim Yonghee
Born: February 17, 2000
Yonghee with his soft vocals lends a flavor all of his own amid the other four. Yes, all of these guys can sing, including rappers, BX and Hyunsuk. I have not found much out there about Yonghee other than he originally wanted to be an actor. However, when he joined C9 and began taking singing and dancing classes, his interest changed and he decided to take the idol singer path.
Prior to debut, C9 put together a program called Hello CIX. A means to introduce the newly formed group to the public, Hello CIX was a very entertaining introduction to a group who were getting to know each other, while also allowing audiences to get to know them. In one of the early episodes, Yonghee is seen staying after hours alone in the practice room to work on his dance skills intimating that he did feel lacking in comparison to the others. He received lots of guidance and support from patient leader, BX, who often worked with him one-on-one. What I gather about Yonghee is that he has a tremendous work ethic and perhaps this is a reflection on his school days where it has been noted he was a model student, sincere, and really good at math. When it comes to math, you cannot be lazy, right? It requires focus which definitely can serve a trainee well. Yonghee is a cutie who happens to think his eye mole adds to his overall charm.
Bae Jinyoung ~ Vocalist, Center, Face of the Group
Full Name: Bae Jinyoung
Born: May 10, 2000
I suppose if you know anything about CIX, it’s probably Bae Jinyoung. But not me. I had no idea he was part of Wanna One. I have never watched a single episode of any of the Produce 101 survival programs. But, I was somewhat familiar with Wanna One the group, and that came by way of Park Woojin and Lee Daehwi of AB6IX. As well as Hwang Minhyun of N’UEST. I also learned later that Ha Sungwoon was a member. And further on down the road, discovered Ong Seungwu was also a member. I knew these guys but had no idea they were together in a group, and Jinyoung came into my realm via CIX.
By the time CIX debuted, Jinyoung was pretty much a veteran idol so to speak (even if he is part of the CIX maknae line). In addition to his vocal prowess, dance skills and those death-defying visuals, Jinyoung also brought with him a loyal fan following. He even had his own fan club in place prior to his debut with CIX. Indeed this was a bonus for a new group that in spite of its rookie status, was collectively pretty experienced.
Hyunsuk ~ Lead Rapper, Vocalist, Maknae
Full Name: Yoon Hyunsuk
Born: September 8, 2001
Even though to date I have not settled on a CIX bias (nor do I wish to because I adore the five of them and honestly cannot choose), this giant maknae tugs on my heartstrings for some reason. True he is the youngest, but he has so much poise and stage presence wrapped in those twenty-years. Like fellow rapper BX, Hyunsuk raps and sings. And does both well. Very well, in fact. I do love a rapper who can sing, and a singer who can rap. Oh, and if they can dance . . . BOOM! That is my kind of trifecta. This rapper vocalist is also stellar in the dance department. (Really though, all of CIX are strong dancers – just like their A.C.E sunbaes.)
I have to ask: Does it feel like an anomaly when the maknae of a group is the tallest? Seems to be a thing among some of my fave groups (Ex. Dongwoon in Highlight, Yugyeom in GOT7, Chan in A.C.E, and Sanha in Astro, to name a few). Here in CIX, maknae Hyunsuk is the tallest sporting a very impressive 113cm leg length. Wow. Nearly four feet of his 6’1 frame is leg. And maybe it’s just me, but tall maknaes never feel like they are the youngest of the bunch. Such is the case here in CIX. Our resident maknae is gregarious, bright and talkative with gorgeous eyes that burn with intensity when he raps, and caress softly when he sings.
Uh-oh…better move on before someone gets biased!! <hehe> Let’s continue this meet and greet with the group’s title track MVs, where art, music and performance collide. It all started with their debut song, Movie Star. And what a debut it was. Seriously, I have to concede that CIX pretty much wrote the manual on how to debut when they dropped Movie Star.
Movie Star (Hello Chapter 1: Hello, Stranger ~ July 23, 2019)
If you did not know that was their debut, would you think CIX were rookies? I know . . . me neither! Movie Star was the debut track that also gave the group their first music show trophy, one week after debut. That’s pretty impressive. And if you think they suffered any kind of sophomore curse, with their next release, I am sorry to say you’d be wrong. In fact, each comeback has been as consistently good, if not better, than the previous. And don’t get me started on the B-sides. There are literally no skips with CIX.
Numb (Hello Chapter 2: Hello Strange Place ~ November 19, 2019)
In Hello Chapter 2: Hello Stranger, member Yonghee said of their darker title track, Numb, “This song is about the various problems that our generation is facing. It is meant to give hope and tell people not to give up.”
Numb addresses the pressure youth are under to succeed, specifically academically. And, to be pitted against each other to be on top, the best in class, and to achieve it by all means possible, even it requires stepping on others to get there (yes, I guess you can say it also touches on the issues of bullying). The pressure, anxiety and exhaustion can be overwhelming simply rendering one numb. The Korean title of the song is 순수의 시대, which translated means Era of Innocence. In the song, it is the innocence of youth that is lost and wasted on the struggle to achieve.
A youthful face
Has no expression
Rather than dreaming
They learn to give up
Don’t be broken
Let’s do anything at all
Go now now now
Return to the beginning
To the days of innocence
Take a step and stand like the first time
Open your eyes like the first time
Dream your dreams like the first
Turn everything here Back to square one
For a rookie group to take on such a deep and controversial subject matter in their follow up to debut shows a mark of incredible confidence and maturity. I really am blown away by their courage. Musically, the song is a real throwback to the sounds and grooves of late 90’s, early 2000’s western dance pop music. And the choreography . . . omg. Even with its delicate subject matter, Numb is one of my favorite CIX title tracks.
If those two tracks have not yet captured your attention, why not give Jungle a try.
Jungle (Hello Chapter 3: Strange Time ~ October 27, 2020)
C9 must have realized that they had true gold in CIX because they did not hold back on the budget for the group’s third EP and title track MV release. Jungle, is an eye and eargasmic experience. The song is filled with metaphoric cues about being lost. Lost in love? Lost in the deepest darkest parts of our minds and psyches? The interpretation is arguably open. I have read that the MV is a take on Dante’s Inferno and the circles of hell. That’s a whole other level of lost. The song hits different, and the MV is a cinematic feast.
Guys, Bae Jinyoung is so damn extra and I am so here for it. But, Seunghun’s ad libs and runs are honestly the stars of just about every CIX song in existence, Jungle notwithstanding. This group is a five alarm fire burning on all cylinders. Whether it be music, dance, visuals, concepts, personality, maturity and synergy, CIX just has IT.
Cinema (Hello Chapter Ø: Hello, Strange Dream ~ February 2, 2021)
With the release of their 4th EP, CIX was not going to allow themselves to be pigeon-holed in an ongoing dark and intense concept even when that is where the first three chapters of the series landed. Their first three releases absolutely slayed that dark and intense concept without question, but with number four, CIX prove their versatility a hundred fold with perhaps one of my all time favorite K-pop songs. The Chapter Ø: Hello, Strange Dream title track, Cinema, is EVERYTHING for me and more. I just love it.
I truly admire versatility in groups that can switch it up as effortlessly as CIX. In Cinema, BX and Hyunsuk put away their rapper caps and settle into vocal mode. If I have said it once, I have said it five million times, I love a rapper who can sing! In fact, there is no rap verse in Cinema whatsoever. This is a total feel good pop song that showed me (and I suspect many others) that CIX could, with great ease and dexterity, switch it up.
If the Strange Time chapter is the finale to the Hello Chapter series, how perfect that it closes with a title track called Cinema, when the first chapter and debut started with Movie Star. Even though concepts are generally a thing in the K-pop world, this attention to bring everything full circle is admirable and my mild OCD appreciates the organization and attention to this detail.
After four very well-produced and executed mini albums, CIX released their first full length studio album, OK Prologue: Be OK on August 17, 2021. And what I think is so cool is that, with this release, they seem to have moved into a new series of sorts. I am not sure we will see any further Hello Chapters – I guess it is possible if they are going to reserve that series to EPs. I will be totally down with a new and separate series for full length studio albums. Anyway, CIX could have taken any direction with the title track from their first full length studio album but went with the upbeat R&B-laced colorful pop number, Wave. However, when promotions rolled around, they were quick to remind us all that they could flip that switch on a dime, and go back to the intense and arguably sensual vibe of debut with the EDM-laced B-side, Bad Dream.
First, the playful title track, Wave:
And now, the tantalizing Bad Dream (note, this was a B-side, so no MV):
The co-promotion of a track that is inherently opposite to a title track is quite smart especially if the album release turns out to be the introduction of the group to a first time listener. In this instance, if someone were meeting CIX on the music plane for the first time, they would experience the lighter pop of Wave along with the darker more intense Bad Dream. And, if either spark a further interest and invite further exploration of the discography, they would discover even more versatility because CIX’s ballad work (Stairway to Heaven, Confession) along with their entire Japanese discography is top shelf. In fact, the group just released their first Japanese studio album, Pinky Swear, which I will save for a separate post because the title track of the same name deserves its own moment to shine. And because this post is turning into a novel!
Okay . . . the real reason that instigated this long-winded epistle is that CIX is having their first US Tour beginning NEXT MONTH!! Not only that, they put my city (Chicago) on the list. Yes my friends, CIX will break my K-pop concert drought and I am so very excited! The last K-pop show (Stray Kids) I went to was on February 5, 2020, just moments before the pandemic settled it. So I am more than ready to battery up my CIX lightstick, and see these five gems perform live. Beyond ready!
Do I have my ticket yet? Yes, of course! Tickets went on sale on March 24 and I am not going to lie, I was logged in on three devices simultaneously to make sure I secured not only a ticket to the show itself, but also to nab a VIP Platinum add-on. OMG, I can’t wait! CIX will be in Chicago on May 7th, but that is not their first stop. The US tour will begin in Los Angeles on April 27th, and end in New York on May 10. Here are links to tickets, if you are so inclined:
Los Angeles ~ The Wiltern (April 27)
San Francisco ~ The UC Theatre (April 30)
Atlanta ~ Buckhead Theatre (May 2)
Dallas ~ House of Blues Dallas (May 5)
Chicago ~ The Vic Theatre (May 7)
New York ~ Palladium Times Square (May 10)
I am going to wrap this up by sharing CIX’s discography in hopes that you will give them a listen, if you have not already done so. In my estimation, BX, Seunghun, Yonghee, Jinyoung and Hyunsuk are five unique variables that came together at the precise time/space continuum to create the perfect K-pop formula resulting in a group destined for incredible success, domestic and global. It’s not that I am making a prediction here, I am just stating facts.😉
Start your CIX listening party here:
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