While it might have been surprising for fans to hear iKON member Bobby was gearing up for a full-length solo album less than two years into the band’s debut, the 21-year-old has been waiting for his moment to prove himself a fully rounded creator.
“I wanted to be a musician before becoming a rapper,” says Bobby — who spent a majority of his childhood in America before moving back to Seoul to train for his K-pop career — while talking about his ambitions and opening up about the inspirations behind his Love and Fall LP. “Before wanting to become a musician, I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to take this chance to show various sides of myself and to show that I was fit for all these different roles.”
Artistically, Bobby achieves such goals with Love and Fall, ranging from the hard-hitting hip-hop he’s known for (“Up” and heartfelt single “Runaway”) to singing on the refreshing tropical-dance single “I Love You” and taking a stab at ballads with the R&B-focused “In Love.” Fans have given their approval to the effort, too, with Love and Fall earning a No. 2 debut on Billboard‘s World Albums chart, tying for iKON’s best position to date.
While even PSY has eyed Bobby and his iKON bandmates as “the next generation” to push forward K-pop history (“I feel honored having heard these thoughts come up from someone I really look up to,” Bobby says), the genre-exploring Love and Fall proves the band has a secret creative weapon in Bobby, as evidenced by the wide-ranging set of visions and works of art he shares make up the impressive record.
1. “I Love You” — “It isn’t easy for love to win over time,” he says of his single that was inspired by A Man and a Woman, a popular 2014 online comic (a.k.a. “webtoon”) in Korea about relationships during your 20s. “I wanted to express that with excitement and thrill of falling out from love — attachment is the only thing that remains.”
2. “Runaway” — “I wanted to receive sympathy from those who dream of escaping,” Bobby shares of the first solo song he created for the project two years ago. “Whenever I come across young people out on Friday nights, when I’m off from work, looking outside the car window, etc., sometimes I feel kind of envious.”
3. “Alien” — “We quite often see [Korean] dramas where there’s a rich guy who falls in love with a poor, but pure and innocent, girl. I wanted to put this type of story into a song.”
4. “Tendae” — “This song is about a guy ‘on the hook’ who has something to say to the girl,” he says of the track that was inspired by the Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel cult classic 500 Days of Summer. “It’s about a guy who wants to break out of the ‘friend zone.'”
5. “Up” — “We had a lot of fun,” Bobby says of his collaboration with WINNER member Mino on this track, recorded while the two were working on their MOBB project unit. “[We] weren’t really thinking too hard when making this song.”
6. “Secret” — “While I was working on this song, DK was with me at the time, and while working and playing around a vibe suitable for DK came about naturally,” he shares of the track that features his iKON bandmate. “So, I said to him, ‘I think this song would be better off with your voice’ and so he featured in it. I also thought that [Kpop Star 4 winner and YG Entertainment singer] Katie’s dreamlike voice would be the icing on the cake, so I made a request to her as well… my [iKON] team members were also really amazed with the result. When it was confirmed that I was going to release my solo album, my members were more than happy for me because they were the closest ones who watched the process.”
7. “In Love” — “I received inspiration from the movie The Notebook,” Bobby says of the album’s most ballad-like track. “The lead characters, Noah and Allie, were desperately in love. When Noah goes off to serve in World War II, it acts [as] a poison to Allie. Although she leaves, Noah still waits for the woman to come back. I really liked the story.”
8. “Swim” — The last song created for the album, “Swim” was inspired simply by a picture which Bobby describes as “a guy and his room filled with water. From this picture, I came about with the lyrics.”
9. “Firework” — “I’ve always thought that making a song for a special someone was really romantic,” he says of the trap-inspired standout. “That’s why I decided to make a song for many unspecified people. Maybe I’ve become a real ladies’ man.”
10. “Lean on Me” — “This song is for those who’ve been hurt but have to cope with reality by smiling,” he says of the album’s personal closing track. “Everyone should be happy, but life can be hard at times. This song is to cheer these people on, to show them support.” He adds a message to the fans who have cheered him on: “I will try to show improvement in my work. Please remember: What doesn’t kill me will make me even stronger!”