Korean R&B heartthrob Dean on tackling cultural taboos in music and what to expect at Malaysian gig

Tan Mei Zi
Emotional depth and quality sound design are some of the key elements Dean is focusing on for future musical projects. — Picture courtesy of Good Vibes Festival

PETALING JAYA, July 18 — South Korean singer Dean is no stranger to confronting touchy subjects in his work.

While mainstream music from his home country is dominated by the sugary sounds of K-pop, the 26-year-old is making alternative R&B tracks with lyrics that explore issues of modern melancholy, from one-night stands to isolation on social media.

His single dayfly is an ode to fleeting hook-ups and the emotional fragility that many Korean youths experience yet seldom discuss out in the open.

In an interview with Malay Mail, Dean spoke about his aim to put those emotions into words and hopefully break the ice when it comes to taboo topics.

“Building up to the main theme of my next album, I tried to put my feelings and thoughts about one-night stands into dayfly.

“It’s a taboo topic in Korea so if anyone’s feeling confused about it, it remains bottled up and it’s not easily understood by others.

“I thought it’d be nice to make a song about such feelings and share and communicate with those who are not understood,” he said.

Many of Dean’s recent tracks share a similar goal to give a voice to difficult subjects.

His most popular hit, instagram, touches on the ironic loneliness of social media, a feeling familiar to anyone who’s scrolled through their feed only to be overwhelmed with endless pictures of other people having a good time.

With more than 30 million streams on Spotify, it’s safe to say that instagram has resonated with a generation that’s still trying to negotiate fraught relationships with technology.

The song is inspired by Dean’s own anxieties of navigating social media, prompting him to re-examine how he cultivates his online persona on apps like Instagram.

“Although I did not focus on the downside of social media that much, when instagram was released, I saw a lot of people who were experiencing the same thing.

“I still use Instagram a lot, just not as much as before,” said Dean.

The musician’s shrewd songwriting talents have gained him a loyal following not just in South Korea but all across the world.

The top five cities listening to Dean on Spotify include Jakarta, Singapore, Los Angeles, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia, in particular, holds fond memories for the Seoul native, who first visited in 2016 to promote his debut EP, 130 Mood: TRBL.

Describing himself as “more of a freshman” back then, Dean hopes to show Malaysian audiences a new side of his music during his performance at Good Vibes Festival 2019 with fellow Korean R&B artiste Rad Museum.

He’s set to take the stage on Day 2 of the event (July 21), 8pm at The Ranch at Gohtong Jaya, Genting Highlands.

Keep up with Dean on Instagram and follow Good Vibes Festival for updates.

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