Meet DEAN, The Artist Transforming The Landscape Of Korean Music

While the popularity of K-Pop continues to spread around the globe, there’s still a whole lot of Korean music we have yet to hear. Korean pop music has always included many different styles and subgenres within the spectrum. Take BTS as an example, a group that mixes EDM and hip-hop within their songs. There’s barely any limit to what K-Pop actually is. And that’s the best thing about DEAN and his music—it’s a limitless spread of genres masterfully fused to create music. Is DEAN a K-Pop artist? The singer himself has already given his answer.

Mainstream or Indie

Dean, often stylized as DEAN, has already given his answer through a verse on the song ‘FANXY CHILD’, a collaboration between him, Zico, Penomeco, and Crush (collectively called Fanxy Child thus the song title). The singer has only spoken truths in his verse that has completely answered the question many has for the singer. “Different RNB, RNB / I don’t care mainstream or indie scene / We’re too big to fit into any system / Year of the monkey crew, FANXY.”

Having listened to Dean since his Korean debut in 2015 with the song ‘Pour Up’, I didn’t expect his music to grow the way it has now. When I started listening to him, his music didn’t fit in the traditional RNB we’re used to. In an interview, he once described his music as “experimental RNB”. This fact made clear as he releases his first EP, ‘130 mood: TRBL’. While it can’t be any more obvious, Dean’s image as a singer is inspired by the iconic actor, James Dean. And just like the actor, Dean has embraced his rebel roots applying it to the way he does music.

130 mood: TRBL

From the very first track of the album, ‘And You? (Outro)’, you’ll already hear traces of lo-fi hip-hop. Jump to the third track ‘Bonnie & Clyde’, your usual RNB gets mixed with trap music. The trap beats completely stray the song away from RNB yet the melodies and falsettos align it within the genre. Mellowing down on the 4th track, ‘D (Half Moon)’ will give you a 180-degree spin on Dean’s music. Jazzy beats incorporated with a piano ballad and RNB melodies and a rap bridge—it may sound a little too over the place but the calculations serve just right to create a song so catchy you’ll find yourself hooked into it.

130 mood: RVNG

As his recent songs show, we’re now getting a stripped treatment to his songs, a little too different from his first album. ‘Instagram’ released earlier this year is the first track to indicate his comeback with a new album. The melancholic music has completely embraced its goal to reflect loneliness in the age of hyperconnectivity as in the title. The same vibe can be felt on his recent single, ‘Dayfly’ featuring Sulli and Rad Museum. Smooth vocals over soft beats and gentle guitar rhythm—the pattern continues. Yet the song feels like a complete collaboration with Rad Museum’s acoustic tabs as the bridge to Dean’s coda.

With the first songs expected to be found on ‘130 mood: RVNG’ sounding a little stripped down, many have expected it to be a more mellow EP compared to the first. Yet, knowing Dean and his unpredictable choices in music and creativity, setting an expectation will only sign us up for frustrations.

130 for Legacy

There’s no point in fitting Dean and his music in a certain system. His genre and personality aren’t for us to set limits on. As a man that pushes boundaries, Dean continues to fuse different styles and genres to create his music. He continues to blur the line between mainstream and indie. It’s as if he’s telling us that there is no reason to create a postmodernist feud with labels. Music is music and to him, it’s everything that is.

Photography by Floyd Jhocson of Studio 100. Special thanks to MCA Music. Dean’s newest single ‘dayfly’ is now available on iTunes and Spotify.
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