DPR Ian Is Reframing Mental Disorders as 'Superpowers': Emerging Artists Spotlight

Song Kundo


Welcome to Emerging Artists Spotlight, the Billboard series where we highlight a musician who has recently made his or her debut on the Emerging Artists chart. Whether they are new to the industry, or have been around for a while but are just starting to have a chart impact, the intention is to showcase where they are here and now. This week’s pick is DPR Ian, who debuted at No. 17 on the chart dated March 27 thanks to his solo LP Moodswings In This Order.

If the artist collective Dream Perfect Regime (aka DPR) is like Marvel's The Avengers, then member DPR Ian is his own character MITO -- which is also an acronym for his first solo album Moodswings In This Order, released on March 12.

The singer, director and composer has many skills under his belt, but he's shining a light on his own mental disorders as "superpowers" -- a term Kanye West also uses to describe his own condition -- when he raps on the outro of "Yikes": "That's my bipolar sh--, n---a, what?/ That's my superpower, n---a, ain't no disability/ I'm a superhero! I'm a superhero!"

The Korean star (real name Christian Yu) was a member of the K-pop boy band C-Clown from 2012-15, where he went by the name Rome (based on his Korean given name Yu Ba-rom). DPR Ian, DPR Live, DPR Rem and DPR Cream comprise the DPR collective that he likens to The Avengers by the way each member inhabits their own worlds and brings their unique origin stories to life under one team.

But what DPR Ian, 30, offers in his debut solo project speaks volumes to his artistic vision and musical versatility. The project not only explores alternative R&B, pop, rock, and electronica genres, but DPR Ian takes fans on a visual journey of who MITO is in a 13-minute documentary titled Memories in Disorder.

"Being that I direct and edit all my videos, I've approached my artistry in a sense where I'd like to envision how I want to portray a certain topic or mood before making the music. That's really how I was inspired to create this character, 'MITO.' I used this character to portray a lot of my inner thoughts, feelings, personal experiences, and moods -- which plays on the album title Moodswings In This Order," he tells Billboard.

"Overall, I wanted to portray a character dealing with various mental disorders which may be deemed negative or dark in a realistic sense but at the same time can also be seen as superpowers in a different light," he continues. "It's also a reflection of a lot of who I am as a person -- being someone that deals with such 'mental disorders,' I wanted to remove that stigma and just put an artistic twist to it, because at the end of the day it's really all about expression for me."

While MITO experiences extreme highs and lows throughout the LP's eight tracks to reflect DPR Ian's own bipolar disorder, the artist behind the alter ego believes those who feel misunderstood like MITO can see him in themselves.

Moodswings In This Order debuts at No. 5 on Billboard's Heatseekers Albums chart and No. 42 on the Top Album Sales tally with 4,000 copies sold, according to MRC Data. The debuts mark DPR Ian's first career solo entries on Billboard's charts. As a member of DPR, he's also tallied two entries on the World Albums chart: Coming To You Live (EP) reached No. 14 and Her (EP) hit No. 5 both in 2017.

Learn more about DPR Ian below.

Hometown: Sydney, Australia

Recommended DPR Ian track: "Dope Lovers"

Outside of the music: "This might sound really random, but I've been really interested in YouTube videos revolving around living off the grid. I've been fascinated by watching people out in the wild living as minimally as possible -- hunting, building their own accommodations, etc. Something about being out in the wilderness and relying on one's own primal instincts just seems like such a distant concept to someone like me that I actually enjoy watching such videos and would love to have such experiences in the near future."

What's next: "We still have a lot in store for our fans and supporters. We're constantly brainstorming and working on different projects whether it be related to music, fashion, video, etc. We never really take breaks in that regard because to be frank, we just can't help ourselves. Creating is what drives us as a collective so in that sense we have lots of stuff in the works. HOWEVER, part of our mystique and what we pride ourselves in is being discrete, mysterious, and as the fans most definitely know -- full of surprises!

"We believe that in this day and age, where information is so readily available and access is so easily attainable via SNS, the ability to keep fans guessing and move in silence until we decide to publicly announce or release something is almost becoming a lost art form -- hence, we'd like to preserve this certain trait of ours as long as possible. and with that said, guess you'll just have to wait and see! but just know whatever we do, we always give it our 110%!"

Past Emerging Artists Spotlights: Cloud Nothings | Clinton Kane | Babyface Ray | Sara Kay | Langhorne Slim | Bicep | Asiahn | Morray | Benee | Breland | (Sandy) Alex G | Charly Bliss | Tank and the Bangas | J.S. Ondara | Mabel | Kiana Lede | Joshua Bassett