When Day6 member Young K first announced his upcoming debut mini album, he was met with joy and sorrow from his fans. Joy because it was an opportunity for Day6’s multi-talented bassist and lyricist to display his colors as an artist on his own, and sorrow because he quickly followed up by telling fans his plans to enlist in mandatory military service in October. With that whiplash of emotions, it seemed fitting that Young K’s mini album would be titled Eternal.
Taking inspiration from the Korean word for “eternal” (young won) which shares a character with Young K’s real name “Kang Young-hyun,” it is fitting that the album expresses Young K’s hopes to be able to sing for as long as he is able to. Each song in this album truly captures that desire.
The album kicks off with “best song.” With upbeat piano chords carrying the verses and a high synth line in the chorus, it is the perfect feel-good song to begin with. In it, Young K compares his lover to a song, saying,
For me you’re the best song
Unless it’s a song called “you”
I can’t even sing a single verse
I want to be with you every single note
I miss you even for a day
You’re my last song
In the world where a song called you
The only melody that I’ll never find again
The theme of the lyrics is reminiscent of Day6’s song “Sing Me” off of their sophomore album, Daydream where the band compares themselves to a song, asking their listeners to remember them.
Please don’t forget me
Cherish me, so that you could feel me
Since me, remember me
So that I could last forever (sing me)
This theme of music being the thing that lasts eternally is woven throughout Eternal. The title song “Guard Me” takes a more aggressive approach. Here, we see Young K’s versatility in instrumentation. Though he acts as Day6’s bassist, Young K actually began as the guitarist, and his skills show as the electric guitar takes front and center. “Guard You” also showcases his effortless vocals as he slides between a deeper chest voice and his piercing falsetto, culminating in a beautiful belt at the end of the bridge. The variety in his vocalization makes this the perfect choice for a title song and endless re-listen value as new nuances appear with each repeat.
“Not Gonna Love” takes a sharp turn for the aggressive. Again, Young K’s variety shines as he kicks the song off with a rap that uses his lower range before transitioning to a repetitive melody, and finally, a belting chorus. The continual upwards climb in the melody perfectly captures the frustration that Young K feels as he declares,
I hate love, what is that really
Even if it’s love, I don’t
More than anyone
I want something hot in my heart
The fourth track “Microphone” is a poignant continuation of Young K’s desire to express himself through music, only this time, his focus is not on himself, but expressing other people’s hardships and struggles. In the chorus, he reassures listeners by saying,
I’ll be your microphone
Even if you scream or whisper, okay
Even if it’s not important,
I’ll take everything that flows
One can’t help but wonder if this particular song was inspired by Young K’s role as DJ for Kiss the Radio. During his show, Young K always reads listeners’ messages, often expressing their mundane frustrations, and acts as their voice as he encourages them. “Microphone” is a gentle reminder that there is someone who will listen and will also affirm all the daily troubles that plague everyday life.
This is a perfect transition into “Want to Love You,” a heartrending self-reflection about love and happiness. In it, Young K muses upon his own happiness, stating that,
So if someone asks, I’m…
I’ll never be able to answer confidently
No, I won’t be able to
This is contrasted to his lover, who loves Young K unreservedly and leaves him wondering how he can repay them. He vows to love them back to the extent that they feel the same happiness as himself when he receives their love. It is a song that is filled with yearning and wonder as Young K allows himself to be loved and then, in turn, love others.
This is where the album begins to wind down as “come as you are.” With only the acoustic guitar and a shaker for the first verse and chorus, this song feels like a welcome home after a long day of work. In “come as you are,” Young K has no expectation for the listener, nor does he want them to put up a front. Instead, he tells them to rest on him in whatever state they are in, until the very last sigh is gone.
The final song of the album is, fittingly, a lullaby. “goodnight, dear” is the final piece in the picture that Young K has drawn of his relationship to music. As he serenades the listener to sleep, he tells them,
At the end of this song
So I can’t remember
In a deep sleep
I wish you a pleasant morning
It is a song that Young K offers as comfort, and it is a song that carries him from night to day. Music is what connects the tiring moments to the hopeful ones, bridging emotions such as anger, protectiveness, and resignation. As for Young K himself? He is music’s messenger as he delivers his earnest love to the world.
Packed with sincerity, pathos, and Young K’s immaculate vocal range, this is truly an album that lives up to its title. While the instrumentals and melodies already speak for themselves, it is truly the lyrics that elevate this album into timeless status. While his lyrics might not be the most complex, Young K has a way of striking to the heart with his straightforward and genuine words.
While listening to this album, those who are familiar with Day6’s discography will recognize the familiar musical techniques and words that have made them so beloved to their fans. Released on the anniversary of their first showcase, Eternal is a continuation of their message of hope and comfort.
In a transient and fast-paced world, it can seem impossible for anything to last. There are disappointments, failures, betrayed expectations, and even good things seem to end too quickly. Day6 is facing those challenges head on as their members head to military duty and their future remains in flux. In Eternal, however, Young K doesn’t linger on any of this. Instead, he offers himself as best he knows how—as a song.
And it will surely be one that continues to be sung for years to come.