Won’t you crawl up in this bed with me?

So begins Junny’s new earworm of a track called “Invitation,” a sultry song that was first teased on TikTok nearly three years ago. In Junny’s video, the darkness of a recording studio curls around him as he sways with the beat created for the #8barrelay. Then the downbeat and Junny leans in close to the microphone, ready to take listeners on a romantic ride.  

In 2020, Chord Share hosted an #8barrelay on TikTok with the theme of “Come over tonite!” Chord Share, home to the producing team Devine Channel, released eight bars of beats and encouraged participants to create original lyrics for the track. Held from July 1 to July 31, Chord Share then selected a winner of this songwriting challenge. The winner would be given the opportunity to release the track, pre-titled “Invitation.” 

The Korean-Canadian artist captured the crown, with his video entry garnering over three million views at the time of writing. Junny brought his smooth R&B sound and his airy, crooning vocals to the 35-second TikTok, while the comments section was flooded with people cheering for him and pleading with him to release the song. Now, three years later, Junny’s “Invitation” is finally out in the world for all to hear.

Born Kim Hyeong-jun, Junny grew up in Vancouver, Canada and then moved to Seoul in 2018 to pursue a career in music. Among the various hats he wears (podcast host being one of them), Junny is arguably best known for being a producer of some of K-pop’s top hits and a singer-songwriter. Crafting “Invitation” was a process that spanned from 2020 to 2023 and brought out Junny’s determination and tenacity to get the song to fans. 

“Honestly [I’m] just so glad to be able to release it after all these years,” Junny admitted to Seoulbeats over email. Otherwise, it “feels amazing [and] refreshing” to have officially released “Invitation” earlier this month on July 6. And what an amazing, refreshing relief it must have been, given the depth of the writing and producing process. “I couldn’t just release this song with a simple copy paste method. I couldn’t let that slide,” Junny said as he dove into the details of creating his newest track. “I needed it to be grand, and I wanted it to be worth waiting 3 years for.” 

To release the #8barrelay song under his name, Junny re-recorded it—”everything,” as he put it— creating a new bridge with new arrangements, and adding his “longtime producer” No2zcat into the world of “Invitation.” Furthermore, Devine Channel, the producers behind the #8barrelay challenge, collaborated with No2zcat on the bridge section. If this wasn’t enough, Junny also remixed and remastered the final track, all to create a “polished, complete package.” 

Of course, another voice has since been added to “Invitation” since the Internet first heard a clip of it three years ago: Gaeko of Dynamic Duo. A legendary force in the Korean hip-hop scene (as Seoulbeats wrote 10 years ago), Gaeko has been rapping and making music for over 20 years with the other half of the duo, Choiza. With a career spanning from the 1990s, when Gaeko was in an underground crew, to now as Dynamic Duo and as a soloist, the rapper is prominent in both the K-hip-hop and K-pop scenes. 

The feature from Gaeko for “Invitation,” then, was “just unbelievable,” according to Junny. Gaeko’s verse adds onto the singer-songwriter’s cozy lyrics and takes the “Come over tonite!” vibe one step further. While Junny keeps his lyrics sweet and straightforward, like with ”I just wanna get close to you,” Gaeko brings sharp clarity in his rap: 

Let us not calculate today
It’s already crammed with too many thoughts 
Best liquor saved for you, music and sofa
The atmosphere is cozy
It’s already spilled and we’re drunk and dizzy
Don’t take it personal
Let us just escape from this cold world

The collaboration came about because the rapper had also thrown his hat into the #8barrelay ring. Junny elaborated on the Gaeko story, stating plainly with a hint of an awed laugh, “To be honest, as a fan of his since high school, I just wanted him to hear my verse and maybe impress him, if he ever [got] to hear it.” (Junny even threw in a relatable “lol” at the end of his response.) 

“It’s surreal to have [Gaeko] on the song as a feature, and I would have never imagined this happening when I was uploading the challenge on Tiktok,” continued Junny on a more serious note. “It’s almost as if the song came…full circle and that’s why the song feels that special to me.” 

In 2018, Junny took another leap of faith and moved to South Korea. From there, the now Seoul-based musician captured producing and songwriting credits for numerous songs released by K-pop’s best. These high-profile stars range from Baekhyun, Kai, and Suho of Exo to all of the NCT subunits, Shinee, and even the “Nation’s Little Sister,” powerhouse IU. Multihyphenate Junny is also credited as a composer and lyricist for songs from Youha, Park Jihoon, and Jay B from Got7 (he even collaborated with the latter for the 2021 track “nostalgia”). 

But Junny’s love for music began even earlier. “I enjoyed singing my whole life,” the rising star noted. However, he grew more committed to this musical career path when he was in high school. Junny cited honing his singing and performing skills through appearances at open mics, talent shows, and even through uploading covers on YouTube. It is no surprise then, knowing his dedication to music, that he eventually wanted to write his own songs.

“One day I just got tired of singing covers and wanted to write original songs. I knew how to play guitar, so I played around with chords and started writing my own.” Junny added a beat later, “It was terrible, but it was that moment when I fell in love with writing original songs.”

The love continued to blossom. Junny went on to attend college in British Columbia and studied recording and production. These steps in his long but ongoing journey plus persistence, years of experience in the studio, and advice from fellow musicians “[led him] to where [he is] now.” 

Yet we’re here for Junny as himself, too, not just producer Junny. “Junny is me, and it will always be ‘me’ even after all the experiences, the blood, sweat, and tears, and beautiful moments,” he reflected in response to the question “Who is ‘Junny’?” This honesty, transparency, and clear groundedness is part of the reason why the Korean-Canadian chose “Junny” as his stage name: the moniker is his English name as well. He continued thoughtfully, “Junny will be who I am as a musician and a human being.” 

Junny’s new song brings him back to his R&B roots, but in a way that it is clear that he is not the same Junny from 2018. Junny in 2023 has not only worked with some of the biggest names in K-pop, including Chungha, who collaborated with him for “Color Me,” but has also released a full-length album under his own name and has embarked on a worldwide tour for the same project. “Invitation” honors this growth. Subtle harmonies, emotional vocal inflections, and layered textures that only time and experience honing his craft can build is evident in Junny’s newest track.

Blanc was my attempt [at] stepping out of that R&B circle and writing a pop album,” Junny mused. “‘Invitation’ brought me back to how things were but in an upgraded scale.” This connection between his older discography and latest release prompted the artist to pair “Invitation” with “Get Ya!,” a deep cut from blanc. While both tracks feature well-known Korean rappers—Gaeko on “Invitation” and pH-1 on “Get Ya!”—the paired songs have similar stories. “Invitation” takes a cozier, coaxing tone, and “Get Ya!” stumbles over itself in a jumble of feelings, but together, they show two sides of the same coin.

Unsurprisingly, Junny readily answers our question about what parts of his journey he reflects on frequently. “I reflect on my career often,” he admitted, and this truth also came with another honest remark, “There’s actually a lot that it’s hard to name them all.” 

However, he specifically called out the first single he released in Korea and under his own name. Aptly titled “Thank You,” Junny thanks his fans in the 2018 track. Backed by a slow and steady R&B beat, he sings from the bottom of his heart, “I wanna thank you for believing.” 

Another moment he tends to reflect upon is connected to the aforementioned memory: “[his] first time going on tour and seeing [his] fans overseas” is also special to Junny. “If it wasn’t for my fans, I wouldn’t be here,” he later declared when we talk about his recent “Blanc” tour in the U.S. and Europe. “It’s always the fans’ interactions, the meet & greets, seeing them in the crowd,” Junny continued, taking a little trip down memory lane. 

Most importantly—and what forms the foundation of everything he has said thus far—it’s all about “creating…special memories together.” Special memories like performing his #8barrelay track after fans requested it with great enthusiasm (despite him “getting in trouble” for doing so), singing other K-pop songs like “Mmmh” acapella with the crowd, and laughing with his fans over their sly (or not so sly) pick-up lines. All of these memories he holds close to his heart.

On the topic of touring, Junny wants to bring the love to his fans in Asia, Australia, and South America, as these are the continents he has not toured in yet. He concluded with certainty, “They deserve the love, and we are doing our best to make that happen!”

Like the first single under his name “Junny,” thankfulness, especially thankfulness for his fans, characterizes the ever-expanding artist besides his versatile vocals and producing skills. There is always this thread in any interview he gives and in his responses to Seoulbeats: “There’s just so much that I’m taking in, and I’m very thankful [for] all that’s happening right now.” 

What’s happening now is an invitation: an invitation for casual listeners who heard the catchy hook on TikTok and those who are dedicated fans. It may have taken three years for “Invitation” to officially be released as Junny’s song, but in every lyric, every thought, every detail and decision he made leading up to July 6, Junny clearly says, “Thank you always.” 

*Interview was edited for clarity.

(YouTube. Lyrics via LyricsTranslate, Genius. Images via Mauve Company.)