Taeyang is officially back in the game after a six-year hiatus with his new single ‘Vibe’ featuring Jimin of BTS – watch the music video below and read on for NME’s interview with the K-pop star about this new chapter in his career, working with Jimin, and what’s to come for him.
Besides his work with Big Bang – who made an anticipated comeback last year with their single ‘Still Life’ – Taeyang has made a name for himself as a soloist since 2008, when he dropped his first EP ‘Hot’, which contained his hit single “Only Look At Me.” His solo career has since been studded with more hits including ‘Wedding Dress’ and ‘Ringa Linga’, to name a few. Before ‘Vibe’, his last solo release was 2017’s ‘White Night’.
‘Vibe’, which is out today (January 13), carries elements of retro, R&B and New Jack Swing – genres that Taeyang has always loved. Its intro especially was inspired by R&B from the late ’90s and early 2000s, he tells NME. Watch the music video for ‘Vibe’ below:
‘Vibe’ has been released on The Black Label, the YG Entertainment affiliate Taeyang signed to after parting ways with YG at the end of 2022. A new label home is just one of the ways Taeyang is entering a new era this year – one he says he’s embarking on with humility, honesty and choshim, or a “beginner’s mind”.
“I wanted to go back to my core values of when I first started my career, both in music and life, and be more down to earth because the past six years made me think more about relationships with people and life, not only about the music,” Taeyang tells NME over a call from Seoul just hours before release day. “I really had this heart of rebuilding and going back to basics and starting fresh. I see this timing as the second chapter of my life, a big turning point where I can start fresh.
“I’m a little nervous but also very excited at the same time for the release. Overall, I’m just happy to be able to finally meet fans after such a long wait.”
The lessons Taeyang took away from his six-year break from music also manifested in the positive, upbeat message of ‘Vibe’. “I really believe that a vibe, a good vibe, comes from the love that forms from the relationship that you have with someone or the things you love and the harmony in between. And this is what stemmed from my time spent away.”
‘Vibe’ was first was created two years ago by Teddy Park, acclaimed and prolific songwriter and the co-founder of The Black Label, who also made a passing and surprising suggestion to Taeyang about collaborating with Jimin.
“I didn’t think that was possible because we didn’t know each other back then. So I was actually surprised, because it occurred to me like, ‘Wow, I never even thought of that,’” Taeyang says of the prospect of working with Jimin. “But starting from last year, there were some events and private gatherings where I got to meet the BTS members and got to know Jimin naturally. From there, we just started to talk about music and we both agreed that we wanted to collaborate and it became very seamless after that.”
“The song that was pitched to Jimin was actually not ‘Vibe’. It was another track,” Taeyang reveals. “And when I invited Jimin to the studio for the very first time, Teddy called me right before I played it and said, ‘I don’t think the song will be that song, ‘Vibe’ will be much better and people will love it.’ And Teddy was right. Teddy is always right!” he laughs.
“But at that time, I had so many songs! I was writing three times a week. ‘Vibe’ only had the backbone with the composition incomplete and none of the lyrics in there but just gibberish. And I didn’t want to show Jimin the song in that state. So, I apologised to Jimin for not hearing any tracks that day and invited him to meet another day. And within a week, Teddy and I composed and wrote the track and then invited Jimin.”
Taeyang. Credit: The Black Label
Those familiar with Taeyang’s work will know that he has up till now only collaborated with artists on his label and its affiliates. (Though he emphasises to NME, “I don’t normally collaborate based on work, it has to happen naturally.”) But Taeyang says that after teaming up with Jimin, he’s become more open for future collabs for an upcoming project. “There will be an album in the future,” he teases. “And I am looking forward to collaborating with other artists in my next project.”
Does Taeyang, a second-generation star whose influence on K-pop’s current crop of young artists is clear, feel any pressure promoting in a fourth-generation landscape?
“I’d be lying if I said there was no pressure!” he replies with a small smile. “But I think there needs to be some kind of pressure coming back to this scene and wanting to show fans and everyone a reborn image of Taeyang.”
Taeyang, too, is adapting to the myriad different ways K-pop artists promote themselves today. “I never thought that I’d be doing dance challenges because my life is a challenge,” he laughs. “Every day is a challenge!”
And at the end of the day, what does Taeyang consider a ‘vibe’?
“I think people picture [vibing as] going to parties, dancing, or making music and jamming out. But actually my true ‘vibe’ doesn’t come from any of that, but from my everyday life. When I look out a window, bask in nature while hearing the trees whispering through the wind, or when I see a sky and it’s a beautiful sunset, I feel calm, relaxed. And to me that’s what a vibe is. And my true happiness comes from my child. My baby. When he laughs, it just brings me ultimate joy.”