For K-pop singer Kang Daniel, yellow is a complicated color. It’s also the title of his latest mini-album, released earlier this month.
The 24-year-old singer is a former member of 11-member boy band Wanna One, created through the reality competition show “Produce 101.” After the group disbanded in 2019, Daniel founded his own label, Konnect, and struck out on a solo career. So far he’s released four EP albums on the label, in collaboration with Sony: “Color on Me,” followed by a three-part “Color” series. “Yellow” is final entry in the trio.
“We have been working on the ‘Color’ series for over a year now and even though it marks the end of the ‘Color’ series, I’m so happy I get to share it with everyone,” says Daniel, whose fan collective is known as “Danity.”
In contrast to common associations with the color yellow — optimism and positivity — Daniel’s album explores the darker connotations of the color. The album is anchored by an exploration of his recent mental health struggles and experience with cyberbullying. The release of “Yellow” was preceded by two music video releases. In the first, “Paranoia,” Daniel battles literal and imagined demons; he stares up at a lowering ceiling in a cavernous room before the video lands on a final image: the word “failure” etched into his bloody hand. In “Antidote,” a silhouetted crowd aims yellow phone screens as he performs on stage. His reflection is often distorted through mirrors and water; at one point, he frantically sprints through a disorienting industrial space before emerging onto a rooftop to blue skies.
In early 2019, the singer broke the Instagram record for the quickest acquisition of 1 million followers; a few months later, he started a new account, @daniel.k.here, after his former agency denied him ownership of the account. Daniel has more than 4.3 million followers on Instagram, where he often shares photos of his cats and proclivity for streetwear. This most recent runway season, he “attended” the virtual shows for Burberry and Ami; in the fashion sphere, he’s also been a brand model for Givenchy Beauty for several years.
Things are looking up for Daniel. On April 29, fans will be able to experience Daniel’s music through a new medium: mobile rhythm video game “SuperStar.” (It’s similar to “Dance Dance Revolution,” without the dancing; players use their hands to hold and press buttons.) It’ll be the first “SuperStar” game released for a solo artist. Earlier this year, Daniel teamed with EDM producer Inverness to release “State of Wonder,” his first American collaboration.
WWD caught up with the South Korean singer over email to discuss the inspiration for his “Yellow” album, and what’s next.
WWD: What does the color yellow represent to you, and why was it chosen as the color theme for the final album in your Color series?
Kang Daniel: “Yellow” to me, has always been a complicated color. When I think of the color, it takes me back to when I was a kid in Busan, and at the break of dawn, you could see this yellow glow coming up from the horizon. It always felt cold and distant, but it also represented the start of a new day. Those were the emotions and feelings I wanted to pursue with this album. When my team and I first sat down and laid out the plan for the “Color” series, I knew the things I wanted to talk about on this album in particular. I knew I needed some time to develop as an artist and needed time to gather my thoughts, which is why it is fitting to be the final chapter in the Color series but also the beginning of something new.
WWD: When did you start working on this album and what was the inspiration? How does it relate to the previous two albums in this series, “Cyan” and “Magenta”?
K.D.: We started working on “Yellow” since the beginning of the “Color” series. I worked closely with my lyricist, JQ, to prepare for “Yellow.” I wrote lyrics on “Cyan” and “Magenta,” but the plan was always leading up to “Yellow,” because it would be my most personal work. We also worked closely with our producers from the beginning to find the right type of sound for “Yellow.”
The inspiration came from my experiences during a difficult period in my career about a year and a half ago. There were a lot of emotions I wanted to capture with this album that I felt during that time including fear, anger, hopelessness but, also, resolution and hope.
The purpose of the “Color” series was not only to experiment with different types of music but also to represent different parts of myself and my journey. “Cyan,” which was more of a pop album, embodied youth and innocence, whereas “Magenta” was more dance-based, fun and edgier, which serves as the climax to the series. “Yellow” is the conflict and coming of age which required a darker more mature vibe.
WWD: What is your current relationship to social media? Do you seek out how fans are reacting to your latest work, and has anything surprised you about the reception of the album and recent music videos?
K.D.: I am actually pretty bad at social media and always get in trouble with my friends and staff. They always have to remind me and help me with all the new functions. I definitely try my best to monitor all of the reactions from fans. When we were preparing for “Yellow,” I was a little nervous about the feedback I would receive from fans just because it is a bit dark and more serious. One thing that surprised me was the reactions I had with “Paranoia.” I read comments that fans related to it and the song comforted them during difficult times. It gave me the assurance and confidence I needed to move forward with “Yellow.”
There’s no feeling better than to know that my music was able to touch someone and give them strength. It’s the same feeling I had growing up listening to artists like Linkin Park.
WWD: What was your visual approach for your latest music videos? What stories are you interested in sharing with viewers through film?
K.D.: I think it is all about communication. We worked with one of the best music video teams in [South] Korea, Rigend Film, due to their strong visuals and use of symbolism in their work.
We knew the album was going to be darker than my previous work, so it was a matter of getting the right team to be able to drive that narrative. From there, it is just about communicating the music and the story behind the music to give them as many resources as possible to create the storyline and visuals. We want every scene to have a purpose. I think that is probably the most important thing for me on this album, was to tell a genuine and authentic story.
WWD: You worked with EDM producer Inverness to release “State of Wonder,” your first American collaboration, in January. Are you interested in pursuing more collaborations with EDM artists, or moving your sound in that direction?
K.D.: “State of Wonder” was an amazing experience. The collaboration came so naturally because Inverness was my producer for “Magenta”‘s title song, “Who U Are” and “Paranoia.” Our teams were already close and when my other producer, MZMC, mentioned that Inverness needed a feature for his song with Monstercat, we were all on board.
I have always been a big fan of EDM music, which was why we jumped at the chance to work with Inverness and Monstercat. I have also been very vocal about my admiration for EDM artists like Alan Walker, the Chainsmokers and Marshmello. So, yes, I am very interested in future collaborations. As for my sound, I have some EDM influence in my music, but think it’s best to leave it to the experts.
WWD: How do you describe your personal style? How does your onstage style compare?
K.D.: My personal style is just comfortable. I love wearing hats, hoodies and sneakers. It’s because I grew up dancing, it’s always best to be in comfortable clothes when you dance.
Onstage, my style is obviously a lot flashier, but I am always working with my style team to make sure I am comfortable when performing as well.
WWD: What are you working on next? Do you have plans to go on tour, or is your focus on continuing to work on new music?
K.D.: I can’t go into too much detail, but we have some exciting things coming up this year. As for touring, I would love to go on tour. The best part of the job is performing in front of the fans. Once we are able to do that, it will be a top priority. In the meantime, I will continue to work on new music and build up my repertoire so when I can finally meet my fans again, I will have plenty to show them.
WWD: What creative projects would you like to explore that you haven’t had an opportunity to yet?
K.D.: That is what I am always thinking about these days. I want to continue to do things that challenge me creatively. I have a love for video games and animation and am definitely interested in exploring those areas in the future.
WWD: How have you enjoyed spending your free time in the last year?
K.D.: I don’t think I had a lot of free time last year. We released three albums over the course of a year. So outside of recordings, promotions and filming, I am pretty sure I just slept a lot and played video games when I could.
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