There’s no textbook definition of what constitutes the perfect K-pop idol but being in possession of a cornucopia of dualities and talents is lauded. Kihyun himself oscillates across a broad spectrum: Confident to self-deprecating. Sweet to strict. Charismatic on stage to charming in person, his humour sprinkled with a peppery dryness. And then there is his voice, with its beautiful, distinctive timbre and a seemingly indefatigable strength.
But the idea of being perfect – drilled into idols as trainees as the ultimate although, by the very nature of idols being human, invariably unreachable summit – has lost its glittering appeal. Instead, Kihyun’s embracing himself as a work in progress, letting go of the expectations he once piled onto his shoulders. “I used to prefer being a perfectionist,” he recalls. “Perfection was always one of the things I wanted to achieve so whenever I made a mistake I used to stress myself out. But now, rather than pushing myself too hard, I just say, ‘I can do better next time’. This actually improved me as an artist. Whenever I thought something wasn’t going to happen, that it was impossible, I didn’t try to challenge myself. I never liked risk-taking and whenever I felt fearful of things, I always tended to step back. But now I’m like, ‘Let’s try this, whatever, let’s do this.’ I’ve changed a lot.”