Only two months after the release of his single “Paranoia“, Kang Daniel returns with his fourth EP Yellow, which marks the conclusion to his color trilogy. Since his 2019 debut “Color on Me“, Kang Daniel’s releases have been exploring diverse musical directions through the use of the CMYK color model. While Cyan and Magenta were more on the bright and energetic side, exploring themes of love, passion, and dreams, with Yellow, the solo star digs into darker issues and reflects on the severe depression he suffered, which eventually led to his hiatus.
Kang Daniel is among those stars who need no introduction. He has faced all kinds of ups and downs in less than five years: his meteoric rise to fame through Produce 101 Season 2, and his intense popularity and impact during his promotions with Wanna One and his immensely successful solo career, alternated with darker periods. Since founding his own company Konnect Entertainment in 2020, he has assumed full control over his career and musical choices.
After the sinister and magnificent “Paranoia” (included in this album), Kang Daniel traverses through more of the same, but reflects on the different challenges and struggles his fame comes with. For Yellow, Kang worked with diverse international producers and delivers the strongest and most coherent work of his career that oozes sincerity and rawness. Kang highlighted that the five tracks take listeners through a cohesive story that showcases his emotional turmoil.
The opening track “Digital” is built over a thumping drum beat and fuzzy 80s synths, fitting perfectly into this genre’s current trend. While the beat doesn’t show any notable development, it’s the song’s lyrical substance that shines; it revolves around the online hate Kang Daniel is subjected to from his haters. The lyrics overflow with words conjuring ideas of hate, a battlefield, and pain. Clearly, Kang is not able to deal with this loathing, leading him to hide from it all. It’s an emotionally loaded, yet cold opening track.
From here, Kang Daniel hits rock bottom, and details this on the songs “Paranoia” and the mellow “Misunderstood”. The latter is a monologue to himself, shedding light on the troubles his fame brings and the powerlessness to take any action against it:
My mind is like a prison, it’s a jail
I feel like I’m trapped in the dark
Any words are meaningless (Yeah, yeah)
Another terrible reality begins
Similar to other tracks on the album, “Misunderstood” blends diverse musical elements. It is built around a heavy and outstanding bassline and contains traces of electric guitar and synth distortions. The song doesn’t build towards a positive outcome or an uplifting conclusion, choosing instead to objectively detail Kang Daniel’s struggles.
Lead single “Antidote” is the fourth track, which may seem slightly unusual at first glance, but a closer look at the lyrical content reveals why. Now, Kang Daniel has left the period of anger, madness and hopelessness behind. He is looking for a way out of this time of affliction, thus the title “Antidote”. His emotional turmoil translates into the song’s production; vocal-heavy verses, impressive timbres, and rap sections combine to create this intriguing track.
Please let me go
Take me out of this long darkness
Just let me go
I’m looking for the Antidote
Kang himself described the track as one of the darkest periods of his life, which combines various emotions such as anger, frustration and, hopelessness. The interplay of these sentiments is most evident when he desperately sings out, “Please let me go”. This part is also an ode to Kang Daniel’s improved vocal skills, as he flaunts his timbre without hesitation. There is still room for improvement, but he is going in the right direction.
Yellow concludes with “Save U”, which Kang Daniel wrote in memory of his past self, but it also presents a universal message, which hints at a realization that his struggles are not exclusive to him. The sonically layered and EDM-infused track comes with a more uplifting message about salvation and strength.
When the cold darkness
Locks you up in loneliness
I’ll be there to save you
I’ll be there to save you
Even if everything falls apart
Don’t lose yourself
In these lines, Kang’s struggles are still present and as a result, the album stays true to its storyline: the pain and suffering may not go away in an instance, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Kang Daniel pointed out that he didn’t want to end the album trilogy on a negative note, and with “Save U”, he finds the perfect equilibrium. It is a raw and hopeful, but not a happily polished track.
The biggest strength of Yellow is its immaculate and realistic narration. Every track reads like a continuation of its predecessor and takes listeners into the deepest and darkest struggles of a young artist. Kang Daniel’s thorough involvement in the writing and production adds to its sincerity and honesty. This is a great conclusion to a trilogy and makes the listener hope for one thing: that Kang Daniel can heal and find peace to create more great music.