From Beast to Highlight
All the fans of K-pop’s second generation will know the group Beast for their hit song, Fiction. Thanks in part to their unique choreography in the chorus, they became one of the most successful idol groups in that era. But as the time went by, they met a problem, which led them change their name to Highlight. Recently, they’ve had another problem that came from Jun-hyung, one of their members. So who are the members of Beast? What was behind their decision to change their name to Highlight? What is happening to them now? Channel-Korea will bring you the details of their journey.
Debut in 2009 as Beast
Beast was originally known as B2ST, which stood for Best for Search on Top, but the name was changed to BEAST (Boys of EAst Standing Tall) two days before their debut. The group consisted of 6 members, Yoon Doo-joon (leader), Yang Yo-seob, Yong Jun-hyung, Song Dong-woon, Jang Hyun-seung, and Lee Gi-kwang.
Each member had their own background before they finally met and became one group. Doo-joon was a JYP Entertainment trainee and was almost debuted with either 2AM or 2PM, but didn’t make it. Jun-hyung was a former member of Xing, a boy-group. Hyun-seung was a YG Entertainment trainee and was almost debuted with BIGBANG, but in the end was cut off by the agency. Gi-kwang had previously debuted as a solo singer called AJ, with a song Dancing Shoes. Meanwhile, both Yo-seob and Dong-woon were trainees for a long time.
Before they were debuted, they released their first mini-album, titled BEAST is the B2ST, on October 14, 2009. On the same day, they held a showcase performance at MTV GongGae Hall. They were officially debuted on October 16, 2009, under Cube Entertainment. Their fandom name was B2UTY, or Beauty, with dark grey chosen as the fandom color. Beforehand, they released a teaser introducing all the members and the mini-album.
The mini-album was sold over 40,000 copies, quite unusual amount for a Korean rookie group, and went on to sell 20,000 copies in the first month. They won their first award as Rookie of the Month for December from the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.
Beast’s debut song was called Bad Girl. The music video was filmed in September 2009, and MTV made a documentary recording, titled MTV B2ST, about their road to debut, including when they were filming their first music video and bonding with each other. Bad Girl was written by Shin Sa-dong Tiger (music producer and songwriter, who has also written 4minute’s songs), Lee Sang-ho, and Beast members, themselves.
The music video began by showing Gi-kwang’s part, then showed all of the members, in white, dancing in a black room with lights. They had a dance break in the middle of the video to make it more interesting.
Beast made their live performance debut at KBS Music Bank with the song titled Bad Girl on October 16, 2009. They wore the same white outfits as they did in their music video. Unfortunately, the video of their debut at KBS was removed on YouTube but we found their debut stage at SBS Inkigayo on October 18, 2009.
After their debut stage, they gained a lot of attention for their singing skills. They continued to keep improving by promoting other songs from the same mini-album, like Mystery and Oasis.
Beast kept gaining in popularity but, then, shocking news came from Hyun-seung. He announced he’d decided to leave Beast and to continue pursuing his own solo career. The rumor started spreading after Beast held a fan meeting in Japan on September 12, 2015. All the Beast members attended the fan meeting except for Hyun-seung. Then an individual posted a comment in a community site, saying that he was with a woman at the time and added a picture on it. Many people were disappointed about it and started the rumor about Hyun-seung leaving Beast.
The agency later gave a statement denying the rumor, and said that he hadn’t attended because of personal matters. Despite the agency’s announcement, the rumor kept spreading and netizens began to find other controversies regarding his “attitude problem” until the early part of 2016. He was seen to be uninterested or unfocused, and wasn’t performing well in some screencaptures. The fans were divided, some kept defending him and said that he was still a human who could not be energetic all the time, some speculated that he didn’t want to be in the group (Beast) and should just leave.
In April 2016, Cube Entertainment gave a statement saying Hyun-seung had officially left Beast and the group would continue with five members, Doo-joon, Yo-seob, Jun-hyung, Dong-woon, and Gi-kwang. They said that Hyun-seung and the other five members had continually consulted about making a change to the group, due to different personalities and different opinions about music. After a long talk and deliberation about this, they finally agreed on parting with Hyun-seung and reorganized the group. At the end of the statement, the agency revealed that Beast was planning to release a new album and asked fans to keep supporting both Beast and Hyun-seung. The agency’s statement didn’t rule out the possibility that Hyun-seung and the other five had a disagreement at first about music and clashed on personal level which led them to be parted and to follow their own paths.
A year later, Hyun-seung personally wrote an apology letter about his departure on his Instagram account. As cited by Soompi, he shared his thoughts about his experience and the reasons why he wanted to be an idol. He thought that people who sing and dance on TV were so cool so he had a big dream about it and trained for five years until he was debuted as Beast member. But after he was debuted, he didn’t feel satisfied and was uncomfortable with some things. “Rather than focusing on group promotion and building teamwork, I was stubborn about my own affairs,” he wrote. He was focused on his own stubbornness and pride even though many people said things to him. He admitted that he lost control of himself and was slowly showing his bad attitude in public, including on stage. He was deeply regretful about it and apologized. He realized that after he left Beast, he experienced many things and went through a hard time. “I now understand how my carelessness and selfish decisions hurt other people so I really want to say I’m sorry to those people. I’m sorry.” he ended. The post itself has been removed from Instagram.
He has continued his solo career and released a solo track, Home, in 2017.
Rebranding as Highlight and Around Us Entertainment
Beast to Leave Cube Entertainment and Trademark Issues
Another rumor had been spread about Beast’s contract and their agency, Cube Entertainment. Many sources have speculated that Beast would be leaving the agency and might be starting their own agency. Their contract was said to be ending on October 15, 2016 but, by that time, they had not renewed their contract, except for their former member Hyun-seung, who chose to continue his solo career. On October 16, 2016, the agency said that they were still in discussions regarding the contract. By the end of October 2016, it was reported that Beast had received capital from a Hong Kong-based entertainment agency and would be starting their own agency. However, Cube still denied it, saying that they hadn’t heard about the Hong Kong agency and were still in discussions about whether to renew Beast’s contract.
Many media outlets said that there might be an issue about the ownership of the “Beast” trademark in their discussion. The “Beast” trademark was registered for several areas such music, commercials, and performances. The trademark itself was said to be expiring in 2026. In other words, if Beast chose to leave the agency, they would not be able to use the”Beast” name in promotions without the agency’s permissions until that time. Even if they wanted to perform their songs before that, they had to pass the royalties to the agency. Cube may extend the registration past 2026. So they needed time to think and make the right decision.
New Agency, New Group Name?
On December 16, 2016, Beast had set up their new, independent agency named Around Us Entertainment. The new agency released an official statement, as cited by Soompi. They introduced themselves and stated that they would be partnering with Yoon Doo-joon, Yang Yo-seob, Yong Jun-hyung, Song Dong-woon, and Lee Gi-kwang from then on. They also felt grateful because of the support of the fans and thanked their former agency, Cube Entertainment, and the people in it, for raising Beast and helping them grow. Then they stated that they would work hard and promised to do their best to support their artists. “Once more, we thank the many people who have shown passionate support, love, and trust to our artists. We wish for your health and happiness. – The whole of Around US Entertainment,” they ended.
On the same day, the trademark issue was brought up by both agencies. They said that it had not been decided yet and they still needed to discuss it. Even so, on February 10, 2017, Cube Entertainment made an announcement about Beast being reformed with Jang Hyun-seung plus two newly recruited members. Around Us Entertainment gave a response by saying that they learned about it through the news and were contacting the respective people in charge to confirm the news from Cube. Later Jang Hyun-seung also responded via Instagram and said he wasn’t aware of the reformation of Beast, and wasn’t planning on joining, either. That was followed by Around Us’s second response, claiming that they were surprised and were actually still it until the day before. They added that they would talk about it once more with Cube.
Two weeks after that, on February 24, 2017, Around Us Entertainment made an announcement that the group formerly known as Beast would be promoting under a new name, Highlight. They decided to let go of the group’s previous name in order to begin and return to the fans quickly. The name was taken from Beast’s first album, when they started as a five-member group. It meant ‘the brightest part’ or ‘the exceptional or striking’ as to signify the members’ emotions as they began with the five original members. They stated that the five members had to give up their past as Beast even though it had been nine years since their debut. They also acknowledged the hardship of beginning anew and asked for the support and love for their artists which henceforth would be known as Highlight.
Before the announcements from Cube Entertainment about the reformation of Beast, Around Us Entertainment, together with the Beast members, held their very first fan meeting since they set up their independent agency. The event was the 777 Party and was held on December 31, 2016, at 10 p.m. KST, in Jangchung Gymnasium. The event title was matched with a casino theme that symbolized good luck as the members would also celebrate their 7-year anniversary in 2017 and were starting a new journey with their new agency. With all the fans’ excitement and anticipation, all of the 170,000 tickets were sold out in approximately 2 minutes. As requested and demanded by the fans, the agency later added another schedule, at 5 p.m. on the same day. The event was hosted by Dong-woon himself, making it more comfortable and intimate with fans.
At the event, the members enjoyed themselves with the fans. Jun-hyung also revealed the new studio and said that he could make new songs. This made the fans expect upcoming new songs from the group. Doo-joon shared stories from his personal life about caravan camping. The members then performed their song Lightless, and Yo-seob personally performed Those Days. At the end of the event, the members and the fans counted down the last minutes of 2016 and finally entered the new year, 2017, together.
On February 28, 2017, Around Us Entertainment announced that Highlight was preparing for their comeback in March. They had also finished recording their music video the same day.