Following Mino’s consecutive solo projects with “Fiance” and “Run Away,” the torch has now been passed down to Winner’s youngest member and leader Kang Seung Yoon. It was a long time coming, and warranted plenty of cheer and excitement from Inner Circles around the globe. While Yoon’s belt is full of multiple solo projects, a mini album and solo promotion were quite overdue. Knowing this, the theme and message of his MV hit home that much harder, as fans got a glimpse into his long journey here — as both his own artist and the leader of Winner.
But first, let’s backtrack for a moment and briefly observe his discography.
Having reached stardom at the young age of 16 through Superstar K2, there were expectations fuelled by the urgency to remain in the spotlight. At first, the signs were promising, as his K2 single “Instinctively” shot him to fame and showcased his potential. Following this initial success, he signed a contract with YG Entertainment, embarking on his next step into growing as a full-fledged, public artist. Subsequent releases “Wild and Young” and “Stealer” only heightened anticipation, but also left fans wondering when a boy group debut would happen. Altogether, it was a lot accomplished at a young age, and naturally the anticipation for his career ranked pretty high.
However, there were some stumbling blocks before reaching this long overdue solo project being reviewed today. For instance, the infamous 2013 survival program WIN: Who Is Next, which birthed both Winner and iKON. Or the nightmare that was Winner’s 2014 post-debut hiatus, an empty period of time that still haunts Inner Circles today. Not to mention how Nam Taehyun, a strong vocalist for the group, left quarter-way into their long-awaited 2016 EXIT project.
In the midst of these struggles, Yoon persevered and led the group as they solidified their discography overtime. More albums, collaborations, OST’s, experimental b-side solos, and even acting roles have finally yielded to 2021, where Yoon gets to present his own mini album Page and title track “IYAH.”
To memorialize this long journey, Yoon took it upon himself to get personal and raw with his walk here. “IYAH” traces back Yoon’s current standing as a singer to the moment he fell in love with music as a young child. As the song goes on, we as the viewers get to travel back in time with him, from performing onstage, to playing his electric guitar in his room during high school, and even cradling his original acoustic guitar to sleep. We also get a glimpse into the K2 audition that would change everything for him, having our hearts melt at seeing baby Yoon take his first step.
To expand, what truly makes this MV come to life are the details. First and foremost is the group picture of Winner from their most recent comeback and album “Remember” — a nostalgic track gifted to fans before half of the group enlisted.
As an Inner Circle myself, I was elated to see this snapshot, though it was a bittersweet reminder of the group’s last promos altogether. Nonetheless, it was a great starting point for the MV and Yoon to start traversing back in time, dwelling on new moments every time. Yoon’s nervousness precedes what turns out to be a great performance to a packed stadium: representing the peak of stardom. Including Mino in as a brief cameo further serves to make the experience more vivid and realistic.
All may seem dandy and well from that scene alone, but then the camera takes us to August 2014: the month when it all started. Fans will experience another burst of nostalgia from seeing Yoon dressed in his debut era clothes, with the date cleverly revealed on a calendar. However, what else catches the eye is Yoon’s apparent exhaustion and forced smile. This scene carries a number of implications, but most likely centers on pressure and anxiety that can come from carrying out a long-awaited debut.
Next is the pre-debut era, which highlights Yoon’s love and passion for music. We as viewers see him cross over from simply enjoying music to pursuing it as an actual dream. Nothing makes him happier than finally obtaining the expensive guitar that’ll allow him to explore music, and here’s a nod to the real struggle of a price tag slowing down our dreams. Yoon keeps it real, as tough moments are balanced with times of euphoria and hours invested into music.
As the climax builds, the MV backdrop deviates from memories to return to now, where Yoon performs his heart out on an empty stage, entirely to and for himself. This symbolizes the freedom he feels upon encapsulating the song’s very message: that he can’t be perfect and is a child at heart, still growing and capable of making mistakes. Despite being recognized as a fully-fleshed artist, he breaks free from the expectations of perfectionism. Further visible is the mirroring between baby Yoon and current Yoon, who are the same person; grown, sure, but still on his way.
On another note, the editing and filmography of this MV were flawless, enabling a smooth transition into deeper moments of Yoon’s past. In some ways, it even felt like viewing a summary reel of his musical journey: the moments of dreaming, experimenting, relishing, and even feeling burnout from the pressure of it all. Yoon portrayed these complex feelings vividly, and the numerous sets he worked with were all impeccably created. Every set truly helped capture the moment as a fleeting memory, particularly when Yoon was left to himself amidst the backstage fervor around him.
Overall, both the music video and song are utterly vulnerable and real, when viewed as a purely human experience. Yes, it is human to crumble under pressure; to lose the passion that once started a dream; to make mistakes and still feel too young to tackle the world and meet its expectations. Through “IYAH,” Yoon reassures us of this human truth, while encouraging us to keep pursuing our goals and dreams regardless: since, mistakes and all, we can still reach them so long as we keep going.
(YouTube. Images via YG Entertainment)