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After 6 years, Taeyang rises again with 'Down to Earth'

Original Big Bang member returns Tuesday with new solo album featuring artists from Blackpink, BTS

By Choi Ji-won

Published : April 25, 2023 - 12:22

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Image of Taeyang's in his new album Image of Taeyang's in his new album

Keeping the seed of life alive inside him as he waited six prolonged years for his comeback was the sunset, singer Taeyang said ahead of the release of his new solo album.

Watching the final burning of the sky before it loses its light, he felt comforted and healed.

"Sunset is always followed by the night, and I saw myself in it as I'd felt like being drowned by darkness everyday. The sunset blends into darkness without complaining, and it made me think about what I could do and how I could act more wisely," Taeyang said at a press event in Seoul on Monday.

The new album, "Down to Earth," was born in those silent hours.

"It wouldn't be a stretch to say that this album began from the sunset as it had gifted me with so many thoughts and emotions," Taeyang said. "The album carries various colors just like the different shades of rays sprouting from the sun as it sets."

"Down to Earth," set for release at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, marks Taeyang's return with new album in six years. Welcoming himself back toe scene, the singer invited the local press to a listening party to speak more genuinely about himself and his music .

"I wanted to show myself as I am. So instead of the usual media showcase, I prepared a listening party to make it feel like I'm inviting the press to my studio," he explained at the event Monday.

Debuting in 2006 as a vocalist and dancer in Big Bang, Taeyang, whose real name is Dong Young-bae, spent many years in a rush of spotlights, fame and success. He made a splash as a solo singer as well, churning out hits until he enlisted for his mandatory military service in March 2018. His latest release was "White Night" in 2017.

While not directly involved himself, other Big Bang members and the band's agency YG Entertainment became embroiled in a disgraceful scandal in 2018, inevitably forcing Taeyang to stay low-key until recently.

Threading through the six-track package is the core value of being "down to earth," which the singer said he had discovered in these last six dark years.

"Troubles just continued and I couldn't put out music against my will. I'd been doing music since I was young and it was my first time halting for such a long time. I think being stuck in the situation where I couldn't set a vision or a goal was the hardest to bear," the singer said.

Watching the sun set brought him back down to ground, the 34-year-old singer said.

"I'd given myself the name Taeyang because I aspired to become like it. The sun not only glowed alone but rose and fell at the same time everyday, whether it's cloudy or sunny, no matter what. I wanted to be diligent like the sun," he explained. "Taeyang" is the Korean word for "sun."

Debuting young at the age of 18, he matured fast and learned to survive in the K-pop jungle. Leaving the limelight, he discovered he had missed out on some of the essential values of life.

"I took the time to look deeper into those values that were important. I thought about how I could improve, not only as a singer but as a person in essence."

Once standing at the center of the trendiest music in Korea, Taeyang said he had wanted to embody those new sounds faster than anyone in his music. There was no rush of deadline or the pressure to be in vogue.

"The focus is now on the message I want to deliver through my songs. The genre of music is decided according to the message, which naturally allows me to try various style of sounds," he said.

Image of Taeyang's in his new album Image of Taeyang's in his new album

Fronting the new album is "Seed," through which Taeyang pays homage to 1980s and '90s Korean pop music in the melody, while singing through the lyrics his honest thoughts and wishes for the future.

"K-pop now enjoys huge global success, but I personally feel the genre's golden era was in the '80s and '90s when Korean sentiments were naturally melded into the genuine pop sounds. The lyrics were also mostly Korean back then. I wanted to relive that vibe," Taeyang commented.

It was with his second track "Shoong!," featuring Blackpink's Lisa, that the album production actually began.

"I'd been feeling lost on how I should take my music. One day, I was fooling around with the producers in the studio. They threw me lines spontaneously, and not wanting to lose, I threw back. That was how 'Shoong!' was made. I was reminded of how much fun I'd had making music."

Another legendary collaboration came with the album's prerelease single "Vibe," which features K-pop sensation BTS' Jimin. Met by the heated anticipation of fans, the song soared to No. 76 on Billboard's main singles chart with release in January.

"It carries a special meaning to me. It was the song that reintroduced me to the world after my long hiatus and connected me to BTS' Jimin. It's very special," he said.

Taeyang explained that he became acquainted with younger K-pop singers during his break.

"Back in my busy days, I couldn't really make the time to engage with the younger groups and had to treat them with some distance inevitably. It was during my years off that we could hang out casually, grabbing dinner and getting to know each other naturally," the singer said.

Also included on the album is "I Am," a reinterpretation of the '70s soul genre addressing Taeyang's thoughts about love. "It portrays my most everyday feelings and thoughts. And I personally think it's the most beautiful love song from the album," he said.

"Inspiration," another '70s song with a more funky note, embodies all the inspirational elements of Taeyang's music. Rapper-songwriter Beenzino, who Taeyang befriended in the military, featured in it.

Through "Nightfall," he writes out the emotions he felt in producing the latest album. "It also carries the emotions I'd felt watching the sun set," he added. The Black Label's rapper Bryan Chase featured in it.

Taeyang played a major role as a lyricist for all six tracks. He also contributed in composing for "Vibe." It was only natural for him to write the lyrics as the album itself is based on his experiences.

"I jotted down notes before going to bed every night. And the short jogs I took at night during the pandemic also gave me time to go through my mind. Those thoughts naturally became the theme of my songs," Taeyang said.

Image of Taeyang's in his new album Image of Taeyang's in his new album

Taeyang, who debuted with Big Bang under YG Entertainment in 2006, recently relocated to YG affiliate the Black Label. Throughout Monday's event, the artist expressed gratitude to staff and producers of the label who had supported him during his unstable years.

His family, especially his 17-month-old son, also brought him light, Taeyang said,

"My views not only in music but about the world has changed significantly thanks to my family. The baby has brought a positive change in my life and I'm spending a joyous and valuable time these days," he said.

"Music is only a small tool that I use to express my heart. I've always stressed the value of sincerity when I talked about my musical aspiration, and my family and the baby has made me realize that the sincerity should underlie my life, not just my music," he said. Taeyang married actor Min Hyo-rin in February 2018, and the couple gave birth to a baby boy in 2021.

The artist said he is gearing up for a global tour.

"The biggest honor for a singer would be releasing an album and meeting the fans with it at concerts. We're still negotiating on how to hold the tour," he said "Although the dates are not set for now, I promise I'll be finding finds in the near future through concerts."

Taeyang said a group comeback as Big Bang was not a completely impossible plan.

"I think it's my biggest wish. Although we cannot speak in detail about how it's going to happen right now, as the bandmates carry out their individual activities, I expect there will come an opportunity where we can meet fans together," he said.

Big Bang's G-Dragon is set to make his solo comeback under YG Entertainment this year. T.O.P and Daesung have left the agency. Original member Seungri retired from the group in scandal in 2019, reducing the group to a quartet.

"My biggest goal for now to be honest is just making my fans happy with this album. They have waited long for me and I want to console them with my music," Taeyang said.

"I used to have big dreams. Although it would still be great honor to go on such stages even now, my heart for now lies in making my fans happier with better music and better performance. I want to meet my fans just like when we had first met."