Since Got7’s departure from JYP Entertainment, the members have been busy, busy, busy. We saw Jinyoung from the first season of Yumi’s Cells, which is gearing up for its second season. (That’s only the tip of the iceberg of his many acting projects. He even released a surprise single!) BamBam, Yugyeom, JayB, and Youngjae have each released an album under their new management, posed for magazines, and appeared in numerous events. Jackson Wang—probably the busiest of them of all—has released multiple singles, made numerous TV appearances, showcased a new fashion capsule collection, and established a project group under Team Wang.

And then, there’s Mark Tuan.

The Taiwanese-American rapper returned to his Los Angeles hometown and signed with Creative Artists Agency to expand his footprint in the US. Since then, he has made appearances in numerous magazines, expanded his fashion label, and scored big musical collaborations, particularly with Bibi for a song in Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

On stage, he is cool and charismatic. To his fans, he is thoughtful and bright. “Last Breath” introduces a raw and vulnerable Mark Tuan—not his idol persona, just purely himself.

Mark communicates this message clearly with the music video, which he happens also to be the executive producer. He rids himself from the idol formula that usually involves dynamic choreography, boxed sets, and flashy clothes. Instead, he takes on a more cinematic approach. He goes on a cross-country journey, stopping momentarily to drink at a bar, to refuel at a gas station, to make a call at a telephone booth, and even to take a walk in the wilderness. He is in deep anguish as he sits alone in the bar, smashes a glass to a wall, and lies motionlessly in a bedroom filled with sketches.

At first glance and listen, it seems that “Last Breath” is about Mark’s struggle in a toxic relationship. He feels suffocated while trying to still save the relationship. Eventually, he backs off and finally decides not to fight anymore so that he can let himself breathe.

Back off a minute

I need to be alone just to breathe

I try to hold it

Somehow it doesn’t do anything it’s hopeless

You come around I close my lips for you

You leave and I can finally let loose

I never really knew that we would end up this way (End up this way)

According to Mark, “Last Breath” is his most personal work yet (leading up to eventually an album in the near future), which gives the music video a whole new meaning. The song is his story of being suffocated from the perfect image an idol has to constantly bear.

In an interview with Teen Vogue, Mark spoke candidly about how the expectations of fans affect idols: 

I’m pretty sure some fans do know that it is really hard on idols. We do have a lot of stress, we do go through a lot of emotions, and we are just humans. At the end of the day we do mess up, we do make mistakes. I know that there are always going to be people that kind of just hate on you, no matter who you are. Even if you’re this perfect human being, you’re still going to have people that come try to pull you down. For me, I can actually look past all that and it doesn’t really bother me, but there are idols that take it harsher.

Over the years, we have seen how this toxic mindset of celebrity worship has affected many idols. Whether it’s their appearance, their behavior, or their music, they live under the constant scrutiny of both fans and haters. This has led some idols to struggle with anxiety and depression. With the lyrics penned by him, Mark knows it well.

One last breath in me

I know you wanna take it away

You got your hands around my throat

So I only breathe when I’m alone

There’s none left in me

You don’t really care eithеr way

It’s hard to inhale when you’re too closе

So I only breathe when I’m alone 

Toward the end of the video, we see Mark dressed in a black suit and tie (which is eerily similar to what is usually worn in funerals) as he walks towards a lake. The shot suddenly changes—Mark is now looking directly at the camera as it sinks slowly. He reaches out his hand, and then we are cut to him emerging from a bathtub filled with water. 

Mark’s first official solo single may be a painful one, but it also is his introduction to the world of who he really is as an artist and outside of Got7. He knows himself best. He could sink deep into his dark thoughts and emotions, but he uses these as strength and translates them artfully and musically. While Mark sings of his “Last Breath”, we know for sure that we wouldn’t see the last of Mark Tuan the artist.

(YouTube [1][2][3][4]. Teen Vogue. Lyrics via Genius. Images via Mark Tuan.)