As JYP Entertainment’s first band, Day6’s debut was met with curiosity more than anything. Immediately, several things stood out about them: from how JYPE’s subsidiary label Studio J granted them strong creative control over their sound right from the start, to how all members are vocalists instead of just one lead singer like in conventional bands.
Starting off with a poppier sound that is reminiscent of earlier K-pop bands like CNBlue, the band’s sound has evolved greatly over time, all while retaining their reputation of being a group with “no bad songs”. The members have actively shared their songwriting process with their fans, with each each song written with the intention of making it a title track. The B-sides in Day6’s discography thus offer rich versatility to their credibility as artists, as opposed to being filler tracks. Recent B-sides like “I Need Somebody” and “Man In A Movie” are clear favourites, but a deeper look into their discography reveals overlooked gems.
While most K-pop groups are embarrassed of their earlier work, the same cannot be said about Day6. They have released multiple versions of their debut title “Congratulations”, and still perform songs off their debut EP The Day till this day. Final track “Colors” is the earliest indicator of their niche in ballads. Perfectly blending the use of synthesiser and traditional band instruments, the song starts off quiet and unassuming as it steadily builds up to a soaring, cathartic chorus, carried by Sungjin’s signature rasp and former member Junhyeok’s emotional timbre. “Colors” is anything but the boring obligatory ballad, and as the song draws to a close with a clever contrasting use of a sharp electric guitar riff and gentle harmonies, Day6 proved that they were a force to be reckoned with even in their early days.
Day6’s sophomore effort Daydream was a turning point for Day6’s sound, representing their shift from a safer sound to one that is unique to them. “First Time” flaunts aspects of Day6’s music that feature heavily in their subsequent work. Before the reggae-inspired rap in “Dance Dance”, there was Young K’s pace-altering rap in “First Time”. The track’s anthemic, harmony-rich throwback sound inspired later B-sides such as “Whatever” and “I’ll Remember”. Day6’s strength has always been the ability to capture the ambivalence of emotion through their lyrics and melody, and the track manages to express a dreamy yet melancholic retrospection perfectly.
The Every Day6 project in 2017 was birthed because Park Jinyoung believed that their music needed to reach a wider audience. Every month, a title track was released alongside with a B-side, and its success in foregrounding the indisputable quality of Day6’s music led to the band gaining a steady following. The unassuming March B-side, “I Would” is a bit of a sleeper track and is easy to dismiss as just another of Day6’s soft rock ballad. However, its true strength lies in its line distribution, resulting in a song that manages to highlight each member’s vocal colour at its best.
Young K draws listeners in with earnestness and quiet grief with his seldom-utilised yet gorgeous lower register, before the sharp transition to Wonpil’s piercing timbre for the pre-chorus. Sungjin’s power vocals opening Day6’s choruses might be predictable for the ardent listener. But the band continually sticks to this formula simply because it works, and his phrasing and enunciation make for an especially emotive delivery here. Jae’s gentler, softer tone is normally reserved for verses for fear of being washed out by loud chorus instrumentals, but ending the choruses with the aching desperation his voice evokes could not have been more fitting in bringing out the bittersweet emotions of the song. Listening to the song with earpieces is a treat, in particular with the second pre-chorus’ alternating use of drums and louder harmonies in accordance to the building momentum of the song.
Summer tracks are a staple to K-pop, and Day6 manage to introduce their fresh twist to this song type in last year’s Shoot Me: Youth Part 1. “Talking To” packs an interesting combination of laid-back and light vocal delivery, as well as upbeat instrumentals that give the song tension and purpose. The song’s textual and modal complexity is a result of different members taking charge of writing different parts of the song, which makes the seamless transitions through the song even more impressive. Colourful synths always make for enjoyable listening, but in the case of “Talking To”, they add a magical quality that leaves listeners feeling like they are in a trance.
Of course, talk of Day6’s B-sides is never complete without mention of their Japanese releases. Rock has always been a more popular genre in Japan than it is in South Korea. Day6’s 2018 Japanese promotions not only gave them the opportunity to experiment with a heavier sound, but also allowed them to hone their skills with more experienced artists and producers. While they have always struggled with mixing, the end result of their work with these producers is the improved, polished Unlock album. “I Just” is an excellent example of the rich listening experience their Japanese discography has to offer. The song manages to combine familiar elements of Day6’s music — vocal-centric with a consistent use of harmonies — with richer sounding instrumentals, most prominently with the use of an electric guitar riff as the song’s main hook.
Day6’s latest title track is the mellow, retro “Days Gone By”, and the rest of album continues to offer new sides to the band. “So Cool” is flamboyant, playful, and attention-grabbing, its hook coming in the form of a group chant. The song is reminiscent of classic glam rock with its excessive reverb, and the irresistible contrast between smooth falsettos and dirty instrumentals. Although rapping has featured less in Day6’s later work, it is appropriately incorporated here, and it is always nice to see Dowoon‘s drumming foregrounded, even if the beat in the song is kept intentionally straightforward with a pounding quality.
As artists that have continuously made their music their core focus, it is heartening to see the sheer creativity of Day6’s music composition gradually being acknowledged. Their hard work is paying off as they deservingly embark on their second world tour in the coming months. Less than four years into their career, Day6 have already managed to create a distinct sound for themselves, even as they continuously experiment and grow, and for that they have plenty to be proud about. The band show no signs of stopping and with their comeback this week, fans are left anticipating what Day6 will introduce to their already stellar discography.
(Images via JYP Entertainment)