If you’re just starting to dip your toes into the Korean music scene, it would serve you to familiarize yourself with DEAN, arguably one of the most successful trending artists in South Korea’s R&B industry at the moment.
Inspired by the rebel aesthetics of American actor James Dean (who also inspired his stage name), DEAN’s 2016 debut mini-album, 130 mood : TRBL, delineates a well-developed and gripping story of a whirlwind romance that wilts as quickly as it blooms.
Imbued with sultry vocals, impeccable production value, and a catchy mix of English and Korean lyrics, TRBL provides a sense of familiarity for long-time contemporary Western R&B listeners without forfeiting any of its own artistic authenticity. While it is rare for me to wax poetic about every single song on any album, I can declare with unwavering resolve that TRBL consists only and exclusively of straight back-to-back bops.
Though TRBL can easily be considered one of the best albums for its genre in this decade, DEAN’s recent works have only continued to surpass expectations. Following a rather somber theme, his latest attention-gaining singles, Instagram (2017) and Dayfly (2018), offer quite a haunting and honest look into human nature.
While Instagram reflects on the misery created from society’s obsession with social media, Dayfly sees through the lens of a man reeling in emptiness from an ephemeral love affair. Both sit neatly packaged with chilling vocal power and pensively dark lyricism.
As a singer/songwriter/producer who prizes the storytelling power of music and how he conveys it—be it through directing his music videos or making his own album art—, DEAN is the epitome of a genuine artist through and through. Keep your eyes peeled for his latest English single releasing this May; you’ll sorely miss out if you don’t.
For those of you who are interested in diving deeper into the world of K-R&B, Spotify-curated playlists like “Sexiest K-Grooves”, “Beast Meets West” and “Dalkom Cafe” are great starts to exploring this increasingly popular genre. They offer a wide and distinct variety of up-and-coming singers to introduce you to the mainstream R&B scene. Besides DEAN, my personal favorites are Hoody, Rad Museum, Colde/offonoff, G.Soul and Crush, all of whom you are bound to find on these mixes.
To all the new listeners out there: something crucial to remember when exploring new music from any unfamiliar culture is to listen with an open mind. Just because it might not be in English doesn’t mean you should also discount it from being something you could enjoy.