Midway through EVERGLOW’s encore performance of ‘Back Together’, Sihyeon begins to cry. She politely turns her back to the crowd inside Brooklyn’s ornate Kings Theatre to wipe the tears from her eyes, but it’s futile. The tears don’t stop. Youngest member Yiren leaves her mic stand to wrap their leader in an embrace; next to them, vocalist Mia closes her eyes before Sihyeon launches into the ballad’s dulcet chorus, misty-eyed and feeling raw: “You and I, we search and search / No matter how hard I try, it spins and spins again / We are, we are back together.”
For anyone who’s been following EVERGLOW since the sextet’s boisterous debut in 2019, these lyrics feel especially poignant now. This past August, the group made their long-awaited comeback after a near two-year hiatus with the single album ‘All My Girls’, the eponym of their current US tour that’s brought hundreds of fans to a historic Brooklyn venue on a crisp Friday night. EVERGLOW don’t have an official lightstick – a customary part of the K-pop concert experience – so fans used their phone flashlights to show their support inside the theatre. From the stage, all Sihyeon could see was a sea of dancing lights.
“The reason why I’m crying…” she explains during the group’s final goodbyes, “I haven’t seen you for a long time, and now I’m looking at you in front of me.” Her sentiments, spoken in Korean, are conveyed in English via an on-site interpreter. “I feel so thankful, and I’m glad that I’m here. Thank you so much for waiting for us.” Then, there are even more tears. “We were late on our comeback, and I think we disappointed [our fans].” Onda and Yiren look at each other through their own watery eyes as Sihyeon adds, “But I’m still happy that you came to see us.”
A few days after the teary event, EVERGLOW join NME from an undisclosed location in Atlanta, where Sihyeon, E:U, Mia, Onda, Aisha and Yiren are set to take the stage the following evening. “It’s becoming a really great memory already,” rapper E:U says of the tour. These are the group’s first live shows stateside since 2020’s ‘Everlasting’ Tour. “Some of us cried on the stage because we got so overwhelmed.” (Surprisingly, E:U managed to be the only one who didn’t shed any visible tears on stage.)
Sihyeon says she never intended to get so emotional at the New York stop, but she has no regrets about it. She describes how those feelings poured out of her, vulnerable and unrefined, as she gazed into the eyes of the fans. She worried that she wouldn’t be able to show them just how much their unyielding support these past 20 months meant to the group. “I just wanted to be honest with them,” she says over Zoom. “I wanted to share a very honest feeling.”
“We had a hiatus for almost two years, and we felt like it was very long, and thinking of our fans, how much longer would it have been for them? They must have been so worried,” she says. “They’ve been anticipating our comeback for such a long time. It might have felt longer [for them] than we felt… We are trying to make it up to them by preparing the best concert we can show them. Seeing how much they love and support us, I think we are getting a lot of energy and inspiration from that, making us feel better and really happy a little bit more every day.”
“If you consider your whole life, two years is not a very long time, technically” – Yiren
Truthfully, the hiatus wasn’t easy on anyone – not the members nor their fans, called Forevers. In an ever-expanding industry that moves at a rapid-fire pace, output and consistency become paramount to a group’s success. It’s why K-pop artists release multiple projects a year; they never give their fans enough time to miss them, or in the worst case, forget about them.
Throughout 2019 and 2020, EVERGLOW experienced steady momentum, capturing international attention with their gusty headbangers, girl crush attitude and bold, breathless performances. They released a string of powerful singles that positioned them as the girls to watch in a crowded landscape of fourth-generation acts. Their impenetrable confidence shone through in tracks like ‘Adios’, ‘Dun Dun’ and ‘La Di Da’, always empowering their fans to do anything they want to do and be anyone they want to be – a message that’s oftentimes easier said than done.
Faced with a lengthy hiatus, they were determined to come back as a better version of themselves and an even stronger version of EVERGLOW. “We really try to mentally think more positively about that time,” Yiren reveals. Because during their time away from the stage, they “focused a lot on taking care of ourselves and really trying to improve ourselves”, she says.
E:U took it as an opportunity for deeper reflection, calling it “a time for me to calm down and see what I could improve on”. Sihyeon discovered a newfound appreciation for her craft. “I used to have days when I felt a bit stuck or where I didn’t want to go into the practice room because I was tired,” she explains. With more time on her hands, she started making frequent trips to the company building. “I would find myself actually stepping into the practice room even though no one asked me to.”
“We had a hiatus for almost two years, and we felt like it was very long, and thinking of our fans, how much longer would it have been for them?” – Sihyeon
Meanwhile, Onda sought enrichment through travel, literature, and language study, using the time to “improve myself personally on top of my artistic growth,” the bubbly performer recalls. And striking rapper Aisha focused on self-care and forging more meaningful relationships with her teammates. “We gathered a lot and talked a lot,” she says. “We were really open with each other.”
Yiren returned to her native China to spend “more quality time” with her family. While there, she also participated in several variety shows and dropped her first solo single. “It was a time for me to really focus on myself,” she says. “I grew this ability to calmly look back and focus on other challenges whenever I feel stuck on certain things.” Next to her, Mia, who’s contemplatively looking out of frame, succinctly says, “Most importantly, I think it was a time for me to really learn more about myself.” Through it, she better grasped how to rely on her members and enjoy their time together on stage and off
“These days, talking with my members really brings that tiny but very special happiness to me,” Mia says, a soft smile lingering on her face. She describes how the morning before this interview she went on a walk with Sihyeon and E:U. They wandered aimlessly without a destination in mind, making the most out of unforeseen detours. “We actually got a little lost,” Mia laughs. Eventually, though, they stumbled on a path that took them to a new opportunity. “We ended up finding a mart, so we did some shopping. It was really fun and adventurous.”
For their tour, they prepared a setlist that spans their hits in addition to their most memorable B-sides – learning the choreography for ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ was especially challenging – and three unit stages in which each member gets to flex their skills. Sihyeon covers Beyoncé’s ‘Love on Top’, key change included; Mia gives a show-stopping performance of Stela Cole’s ‘I Shot Cupid’; and E:U, Onda and Yiren dance along to Dua Lipa’s ‘Physical’. (Aisha sits out the dance stage due to an injury.)
“We wanted to show our versatility and demonstrate different concepts that we could do as units and as a group,” Sihyeon says. They capture that same sense of “crazy, sexy, cool” self-assuredness in their most recent single, ‘Slay’, in which they proclaim, “I’m doing what I want / I’m never gonna stop, the world I dreamed of.”
Yet, the girls themselves don’t project this level of confidence 24/7. E:U calls it mind control, their ability to essentially fake it ’til they make it, through the power of affirmations. “Sometimes, even though you don’t feel as confident as usual, if you keep telling yourself, ‘you’re great, you got this’, and just keep cheering yourself on, it will actually boost your confidence,” she says. “That is something that we practise pretty much every day these days.”
“We have an onstage mode that is more confident,” E.U adds. And while EVERGLOW have certainly been defined by that image and persona, rapper Aisha thinks their individuality is just as integral to the group’s power and ethos. Her right hand is currently wrapped in a soft cast, which has limited her ability to go all-out on stage, but Aisha still holds a captivating aura about her. In person, she speaks with such softness. “We have an overarching theme, but each member really wants to show our unique characteristics and individuality,” she says. “I wouldn’t say we’re totally different offstage; it’s kind of a combination. Our personalities are somewhat portrayed through our concept that we want to show as EVERGLOW.”
They display this synergy on the stage, where amid their powerful expressions and razor-sharp edge they take the time to care for one another through small smiles and silent glances. Sihyeon, an attentive leader, fixes Aisha’s mic mid-performance; Mia re-ties the colourful ribbons on Aisha’s cast in a bow when they come undone; E:U and Onda express boundless enthusiasm when the others need a break; and Yiren comforts the older members when they get emotional – a gentle demonstration of strength, reinforced by the time spent apart and the clarity it brought her.
“If you consider your whole life, two years is not a very long time, technically,” Yiren says. “We have so much more to show in the future anyway.”
Tickets to EVERGLOW’s 2023 ‘All My Girls’ US Tour are on sale now via Ticketmaster.
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