Let’s dwell for a moment on the idea of creative freedom… While there are many differences that arise from an artist working under another’s agency versus their own, one prominent outcome is found in the ownership/direction of their music. Creating music under one’s own agency certainly allows more freedom and experimentation, as the artist is now the sole representation of their work. For this particular artist, the allotted freedom proved to have brought pleasant surprises and increased potential delivered with every comeback.

Since last summer, Wanna One’s beloved center turned soloist Kang Daniel challenged himself through taking ownership of his entire career. Having set up KONNECT Entertainment after a brutal lawsuit with LM Entertainment, he became solely in charge of his musical concepts and direction. One outcome of this has been a wide spectrum of approaches to his music. His debut track “What are you up to” has been a definite contrast against his follow-up track “Touchin’,”  which in turn led to the surprise of “2U.” Regarding both genre and concept, it’s been hard to “box in” Kang Daniel to a single category, as he quickly (and successfully) went from light and easygoing to groovy and suave.

With every release, Kang Daniel has shown us ideas that only he can pull off with his distinct color, talents, and one-of-a-kind musicality. His creative freedom further enabled him to take these challenges in a fun, meaningful way — while his debut track was more reminiscent of the previous journey that led him to that point, “Touchin’” was more about highlighting his potential as he sought to pave his way as an artist. With his third track in a year, Kang presents himself as a polished artist that can master his creative independence. Particularly after he took hiatus in December due to mental health issues, his return is even more welcome for the spring season.

On that note, “2U” is the title track for his first mini-album CYAN – the first of a trilogy that Kang has referred to as his personal “color project.” As his aim is to showcase his creative colors, “2U” is an apt start. While it may be interpreted as a spring love song on the surface, Kang’s theme is to remind those who are worn out from life that there is someone who loves and supports you simply for who you are. As a result, there are multiple nuances of love that can be discerned from his title track.

His take on the MV, however, seems a little detached from the track itself. To start with, the setting is in a theater throughout its entirety – the same theater, actually, where BTS also filmed their “Black Swan” MV. Both performance and acting shots are filmed within the cinema, as Kang Daniel and his friends play a sneaky game with the security guard. Surprisingly, Kang has opted for a more Western approach, both with the actors and even with their wardrobes. It was interesting to see the outcome of juxtaposing culture and language — put together, (whether intended or not) the whole MV played on urban, youthful vibes that were refreshing to see from a K-pop industry.

Quality-wise, the MV had its fill — it was entertaining in a simple way and showcased Kang’s concept and choreography with fewer frills and more detail. Most of the attention was solely on his performance and individual shots, if not for the simple, humorous plot. The camerawork and editing further showed the moments in choreography that, while it may look simple on the outside, is actually more complex on second look. The key movements showed, both for the back dancers individually and the entire group together during choruses. Again, diversity was a key thing for this MV which enabled it to be even more distinct. And despite the MV only using one full setting it’s far from boring thanks to the balanced combination of plot, choreography, and profile shots. The vibe of the video also fits with the upbeat mood of the song in general.

But considering the message and mood of the song, it seemed like two separate ideas conjoined into one. In other words, the visual and auditory aspects of this MV were a little disjointed. Generally (or perhaps personally), one would either expect the MV to showcase either the surface meaning of the song (in this case, love) or the deeper message that Kang Daniel has intended for listeners to discern (healing love and support). Previously, the MV for “Touchin’” achieved both the theme and the mood, invoking a groovy, retro production that fully displayed the song into live-action. And as endearing it may be to see Kang Daniel and his friends play hide-and-go-seek with security, I’m left unsure of what this approach may have to do with this song in particular. Perhaps in regards to the mood from the track, the MV is a representation of the youthful vibes heard from the bouncy instrumental and synths. Otherwise, it’s not hard to imagine a better, more accurate depiction of the track.

Nonetheless, the quality of this comeback proves that Kang Daniel has the ability to consistently maintain — and build off of — his growing potential. Clearly, running his own agency is not an easy feat, but with this choice, he’s continued to deliver promising outcomes. Aspects such as choreography, track quality, and more are increasingly set in stone for this talented, budding artist as he marks milestones with every return. What did our readers think of Kang Daniel’s message “2U”?

(YouTube, Images via Konnect Entertainment)