“Japan to the world” is fast-rising J-pop boy group’s BE:FIRST’s newest motto now that they are ready to conquer the global stage.
In this day of globalization and connectivity, releasing music in one corner of the world or in a certain language doesn’t necessarily mean it will be limited to that area. It has become easier to discover different music from all over the world and build a global fanbase as a result. This achievement, of being seen as not just a star in your home country, but in other parts of the world as well, is something quite a few Japanese artists and groups have managed for themselves. And the latest J-act looking to do just that is seven-member boy group BE:FIRST. And by the look of things, they might just do that.
BE THE FIRST
Composed of members, SOTA, SHUNTO, MANATO, RYUHEI, JUNON, RYOKI, and LEO, BE:FIRST is a dance and vocal group signed to renowned Japanese rapper SKY-HI’s management company and label, BMSG. Every member is meant to represent what their management, BMSG, stands for: Brave, Massive, Survive, and Groove. Their auditions and trainings prepared the group to be the best in what they do as they flex their ability and potential for singing, dancing, and rap, along with a musical sensitivity reflected in their songwriting and choreography. And so far, the boys have not been disappointing.
Right out of the gate, the group scored their first number one hit when their debut single, Gifted, hit number one on the Billboard JAPAN Hot 100 in November 2021. The single even reached number one on the US Billboard Hot Trending Songs 24-hour chart. Their follow-up single, Bye-Good-Bye, became their second chart topper on the Billboard JAPAN Hot 100 and remains their biggest track to date. But BE:FIRST was always primed for the global stage. So, after going number one on numerous charts in their native Japan, the group recently took their first steps towards Asia and eventually the world through the release of their debut album, BE:1, at the end of August.
Led by the intense and exhilarating Scream, which became the group’s third number one on the Billboard Japan Hot 100, the 15-track album combines some of Japan’s best and brightest producers as it tells the story of the group’s journey so far. The LP is a showcase of how much the group has grown despite not yet celebrating their one year anniversary. It’s a diverse collection of tracks such as the hip-hop focused BF is…, the pop dance tune Be Free, R&B wonder Softly, and the dance-heavy Milli-Billi. It’s no wonder then that BESTY, the name of their fandom, ate the LP up as the album topped Japan’s Billboard Hot Albums and Oricon Weekly Album with sales exceeding 160,000 copies just in its first week.
NYLON Manila had the opportunity to have a chat with the J-pop boy group where they discussed their new music, going global, and more. Read on below for the full interview.
How does it feel now that your debut album, BE: 1, is finally out?
SHUNTO: BE:1 was produced in such a short period and within less than one year since forming BE:FIRST. Thanks to that, we got to deep dive and learn a lot about ourselves. For instance, we came to realize which voices better suit what types of music. I am thankful for these experiences.
MANATO: We are fortunate and thankful to have opportunities to collaborate with amazing producers. For me, it was an honor to have met and received direction and feedback on my singing from Mhiro (from FOH). I, as well as our generation, grew up listening to his music.
What do you hope fans take away from BE: 1?
SOTA: We see liberation as the overall theme for this album. With the focus single, Scream, we hope to show you what the best looks like throughout this album. We are constantly on the move on with a variety of music genres in these 15 songs, and we will free ourselves to even other styles or new challenges in the future. Liberation continues with and after this album. I hope people can feel the liberation in BE:1.
As you push towards a more global market, more people are now going to hear you for the first time. How then would you describe BE:FIRST for new listeners?
LEO: Once you listen to this album, you will understand who we are and what BE:FIRST music is. BE:1 is BE:FIRST! Please listen.
Despite being active for less than a year, the group has already attained success, topping charts and raking up millions of views. What do you think is the secret behind your success?
SOTA: Naturally, it is all thanks to our fans, staff, and anyone who is involved in what we do every day, who supports us and our music. But also, BE:FIRST always have “Let’s achieve great results” in mind. We’ve worked hard to maintain a high quality of work, achieve success, and keep our hopes high. As a result, we have achieved success so far. We will keep doing our best to create good music and good results to follow.
If BE: 1 will be the first time people will encounter your music, which song/s on the album should they play first?
As a group, we would recommend BF is…from the album. It is the first track in the album and is a perfect introduction to BE:FIRST and our music. Also, this is the first song on our current stage setlist. It is like our anthem song.
Members share their personal favorites:
JUNON: My pick would be Softly as this song reveals a new BE:FIRST, though we have a short history as a group.
MANATO: My choice would be the very first track, BF is… This is the song the crowd gets excited about when we perform on stage. BF is…may play an important role as a fundamental song for us moving forward, so this would be my first pick.
LEO: Grateful Pain is a song we all put the lyrics and music together. We are expressing who we are and how we feel at this moment in this song, and that’s why I like it.
SHUNTO: I like Spin! We split into two groups, and I was a part of this song with two other members. Since we wrote the lyrics on our own, it became one of my favorites.
RYOKI: For me, it is Moment. It’s a stylish track with a melody that soothes my ears. It is a new style of music for BE:FIRST, so I hope not only first-time listeners but also our fans will enjoy listening to it.
RYUHEI: I would pick Milli-Billi. We all take turns rapping in this song. We’ve achieved outstanding coolness with the low base sound in the background. Please listen and enjoy it!
SOTA: Message has a melody that has its own character. It makes you feel so good, while the distinctive drum beats have a groovy sound and make you want to dance to it. It is a well-balanced track.