MRSHLL: The Music That Made Me

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MRSHLL

Just as the K-pop scene's first openly out singer-songwriter revealed his "Pose" video, here are the albums that inspired him the most.

Pride Month 2018 was a major one for the world, but also particularly game-changing for MRSHLL. The Korean-American singer-songwriter born Marshall Bang kicked off June by releasing his first official project Breathe on the 5th and is closing it out with his music video for "Pose," a pop-art-inspired, Geoff J. Kim-produced visual for his disco-tinged twinkler "Pose."

While South Korea celebrates Pride Month in July, the Los Angeles-bred star says that, even abroad, this June was a special month for him and his community. "Our pride in Seoul is actually next month, but in a way it's been this month because so much has been going on for me personally," he says over the phone. "The response to the music has been so positive, everyone from the U.S. to Korea to my peers, the response has been so great." So far, Korean R&B stars like Crush, Lee Hi and Dean, along with K-pop superstar JB of GOT7, have all shown support to the project on social media. 

Come next month, MRSHLL will celebrate Pride Month in Seoul, which focuses more on one day of celebrations followed by film showings, art exhibits and other events. "They have the pride parade where they parade through the busy areas of Seoul and it leads up to City Hall," he explains. "They have performances throughout the day, all these different booths where a few different country's embassies out there supporting the LGBTQ community in Korea. You'll have different queer organizations giving away stickers, pamphlets. All sorts of people come out and support us: foreigners, teachers teaching from abroad, the queer community, of course. It's just a big-little love fest inside the City Hall grounds, which happens to be outdoors. It's been getting bigger and bigger as the years go by."

But in a country where gay rights are still mostly nonexistent, Pride is not without detractors. "And you'll usually have our fun friends -- the protesters -- right next door," MRSHLL adds of the celebrations. "Usually, they hold a kind-of counter protest, singing church hymns and wilin' out on their end. But once we're in [City Hall grounds] it's fun, it's great, it's all love. The city police are protecting us too."

Moving ahead -- as proud and as loud as when he first came out publicly in 2015 -- MRSHLL says his new releases have humbled him. "I feel like I haven't really fully processed it being released," he shares as a rare example of an out singer also signed by a major Korean agency. "I'm so happy. It's been so great, I'm just so thankful -- it's just little ole me!"

Get to know the music that made little ole MRSHLL the happy and proud singer he is today. In no particular order, MRSHLL shares the five albums that made him the singer he is today.

1. Mariah Carey - #1s

When I was a kid, one of my friends from middle school had let me borrow the #1s CD and I was like "Who is this? What the freak?!? This timbre, this voice, the whistle notes!" She was one of the first divas I really modeled my voice after and tried to hit up runs. That album really changed my life in terms of opening me up to the world of R&B. 

2. Spice Girls - Spice World

So many good songs! It was the first CD I ever owned -- the Spice Girls are everything to me. But that album really, just, that group, such a huge influence. I wanted to be the Spice Girls. I wanted to be Ginger Spice, Geri Halliwell was my girl, and I was devastated when they broke up. All the different characters, the different harmonies, all the songs are so catchy and that was my first foray into pop melodies. And if you look at the credits -- because that was my thing, looking through the liner credits -- you see they co-wrote their songs as well. 

3. Destiny's Child - The Writing's on the Wall

I think I was flipping through the channels as a kid and on Saturdays they would have Soul Train after the Saturday morning cartoons and once I saw Destiny's Child performing "Bills Bills Bills" on the show and I was like, "Who are these girls?!?" And then my love of Beyonc√© began. I immediately went out and bought their CD. "Say My Name" was my jam, still is. That was a monumental album. Back then, there were so many key albums that were a whole meal -- if that makes sense [Laughs] -- it hit every spot in the spectrum in your feelings.

4. Aaliyah - Aaliyah

I think I got the album a couple months before she passed away and I felt like she was going to blow up. Her music still stands and they're still incredible. The production by Missy Elliott and Timbaland, that combination was just so legendary. They created some really incredible music together. That really got me into the different songwriting styles and activating the different tones in my voice. You don't necessarily need to be powerhouse like Mariah or Whitney, you can use your falsetto and Aaliyah's voice was definitely something that so soft but also strong.

5. Brandy - Never Say Never

That album was monumental for Brandy. "The Boy Is Mine" with Monica was everything...Brandy's runs, her ad-libs. Her voice has gotten better and deeper; it's aged like fine wine. People call her "the vocal Bible" and sometimes I'm like, "How does she come up with this?!" but it's very natural and via feeling, and something I try to sing by as well. 

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