As lead vocalist in mammoth K-pop boy band BIGBANG, Taeyang managed to enrapture K-pop fans from all around the globe all over again with the release of second solo album “Rise” last month.
Four years after his last solo effort, the R&B-focused set was met with rave reviews, exploded to the top of the charts in Korea and even earned a major stateside accolade by reaching No. 112 on Billboard 200, a new record set for Korean solo acts.
Not only did the nine-track set prove that Taeyang could find chart success on his own, but also showcased the 25-year-old’s talent as a powerful singer, rapper and his artistic progression since 2010 album “Solar.”
In the midst of promoting his heartwrenching new single “Eyes, Nose, Lips,” Taeyang exclusively invited Billboard to YG Entertainment’s headquarters in Seoul, Korea to discuss his latest musical maneuvers, inspirations and thoughts on an all-English album in the future.
Your new solo album “Rise” comes four years after your last. How does it feel to finally release new material?
As a musician, there are certain artistic qualities from this album that I’m unsatisfied with, but I am extremely thankful and grounded that people like it — especially because it’s an album that holds my emotions, memories and musical values that I have felt and gained in the last four years while I was working on it.
On the Billboard 200, “Rise” became the third highest-charting K-pop album and the best chart position for a Korean solo act, beating out G-Dragon and BoA. What’s your reaction?
Honestly, [charting on Billboard chart] is not something I expected or anticipated. I think fans acknowledged the effort I have made as a solo artist and as a member of BIGBANG throughout the years. It is a very humbling yet gratifying achievement for me.
“Rise” has a distinct, modern-day R&B sound. Who are your favorite R&B acts? Which music acts are inspiring you nowadays?
There are so many talented artists that are actively releasing and promoting new materials right now and I try to listen to every single track upon release to study.
These artists definitely inspire me, but after listening to Michael Jackson’s latest album “Xscape,” it reminded me once again that he is my greatest inspiration.
Tell us about filming your “bed scene” in the “1 AM” video.
The song is about reminiscing about an ex-girlfriend so that’s why the scene was included in the visual. I had no idea I was going to be shooting a bed scene until I arrived at the studio. I was shocked and felt awkward about it, but I am very pleased with the outcome.
What tracks do you personally connect with on “Rise”?
I feel connected to every single song on the album, but what fits closest to my current sensibility and musical preference is “Love You to Death.”
The musical style and sound of “Love You to Death” is something I wanted to do from the moment I started working on this album. It’s a very masculine track with dramatic lyrics. I think the sincerity of the lyrics have been beautifully incorporated into the song. “Love You to Death” is the most suitable song to express my current emotions and vibe.
There were reports you were considering promoting in America. Would you ever record an all-English album?
I would love to if the opportunity comes, but I feel like I lack a lot of qualities for me to come out with an all-English album. I definitely need to put in more effort and try harder. But some time in the near future, I’d like to record an all-English album.
What’s the difference between solo Taeyang and the Taeyang in BIGBANG?
I used to think the two were very different, but now I think that wall has been torn down. I can show my characteristics and musical colors both as a member of BIGBANG and as a solo artist. I don’t feel anything is significantly different. It’s just that as a solo artist, I have more burden and responsibilities on my shoulders.
Watch a mini-doc about Taeyang’s journey to releasing “Rise” below. Look out for a special video interview coming to Billboard’s K-Town soon.