On November 25th, Kang Daniel released his new digital single “Touchin’”, the second solo release of Wanna One’s center after this summer’s mini-album Color on Me. The public has been familiar with Daniel for a couple years now, but he’s just starting to cement himself as a solo performer in the fast-paced K-Pop stardom. “Touchin’” puts under the spotlight his best talents and multiple sides of his personality.

When it comes to male soloists in K-Pop, most of the times we’re talking about key members of idol groups venturing into different sounds on their own — think about the early Taeyang or Zico. All the most popular currently active soloists are R&B singers like Zion.T or Crush, in order to find pop stars who sing and dance without being part of an idol group we need to go back to the early 00s with Rain and Se7en. It is true that Kang Daniel was part of Wanna One, but considering the temporary and extremely peculiar nature of the group, it is safe to say that he’s following the footsteps of these two seniors.

In 2018 and especially 2019, female soloists like Sunmi and Chungha (also a former contestant of Produce 101) released some of the most interesting songs of the year and brought high-quality entertainment to the table with impeccable singing and dancing. With “Touchin’” Kang Daniel does the same with a fresh groovy song — Ryan S Jhun’s signature sound — led by a strong bass line mixed with electronic guitar synths reminiscent of Charlie Puth and Shawn Mendes. The song allows him to showcase fully his voice’s potential: while not being extremely powerful, he has a nice falsetto and warm bass tones. 

Daniel’s dancing has always been impressive and unlike his first solo effort, this time he has the chance to tackle a more complex choreography, showing his best moves. “Touchin’”’s dance routine is the style that Daniel excels in and every move is executed smoothly, yet with extreme precision. Perhaps the cast of back-up dancers could have been slightly reduced; in fact, Daniel captivates the attention enough on his own and he did not need the stage to be filled up as much.

A large part of “Touchin’”’s music video is composed by choreography shots, but overall it manages to create a good balance between cool and cute, with plenty of tongue-in-cheek references about Daniel that fans will surely find adorable. There are two different yet parallel narratives in the music video: one sees Daniel as a homebody eating pizza in front of the TV, the other one in black and white sees Daniel as an action movie star in the same movie the other Daniel is watching.

As previously mentioned, the music video is filled with trivia about Daniel. It is a well-known fact that Daniel is a quiet person who enjoys relaxing indoors, unlike what his charismatic and sexy persona on stage would lead to think. The juxtaposition of homebody-Daniel and movie star-Daniel seems to be reflecting this. He is also known as a cat lover and the movies villain (simply called “The Villain”) is seen petting a white Persian cat. Lastly, Daniel admitted to being a huge fan of Hong Kong action movies and the movie-part of “Touchin’” appears to be an homage to those movies.

The two parallel realities seem to be weirdly connected somehow: as movie star-Daniel is about to get hit by a presumably fatal bullet, homebody-Daniel realises he stained his sweatshirt with a ridiculous amount of tabasco and pauses the movie to get his sweatshirt cleaned. The moment he unpauses the movie, his remote controller starts working as a gun and he shots “The Villain”, saving his love interest — mafia boss turned damsel in distress “The Co-Conspirator”. While there isn’t a strong plot and most of the video is dominated by the dance shots, overall the expedient of the two parallel realities feels fresh.

Kang Daniel’s debut has been one of the most hyped of the year considering his massive success as Wanna One’s golden boy that gained him a lot of fans and CM deals. Unfortunately the stars didn’t align for him and legal controversies regarding his contract prevented him from freely promoting his first single on music shows. With “Touchin’” he’ll be able to finally promote his music and he had his comeback stage at the AAA in Vietnam.

“Touchin’” is exactly the kind of release one would expect from Daniel when it comes to concept, style of choreography and sound. The music video is dynamic and tongue-in-cheek appealing to both his fans and the general public. Only time will tell if Kang Daniel will live up to the legacy of his male solo seniors Rain and Se7en, but so far he certainly has a promising future ahead and “Touchin’” is a step in the right direction.

(YouTube, Images via KONNECT Entertainment)