In Billboard’s first-ever track-by-track review for a K-pop album, the singer/rapper gets deep and reflects on his new tracks
While fans around the world knew and loved Taeyang through his group BIGBANG, it wasn’t until the release of his second solo album, “Rise,” that the K-pop singer earned support as a superstar in his own right. The LP set a record for solo Korean acts on the Billboard 200, soaring to No. 112 on the Billboard 200 and beating out chart positions from fellow international stars like BoA and labelmate G-Dragon. It’s currently sitting pretty on Billboard’s World Albums chart, too, at No. 9 for its fourth week on the ranking.
Billboard met up with Taeyang at YG Entertainment headquarters for an exclusive video interview where the singer could discuss each track. WatchBillboard’s first-ever track-by-track video review from a K-pop singer with Taeyang below. Find out which track he had a tough time recording, why he enlisted his “best friend” G-Dragon for a collaboration, the song he feels allowed his album to finally be released and much more in this rare, in-depth chat.
1. “Intro (Rise)”
“The concept of the entire album was based off this song. If you hear the song you’ll understand, but it has a nature-like vibe to it with repetitive tropical sounds. The feel of the song reminded me of ‘Taeyang’ [which translates to sun in English], which led to writing songs based on the theme of ‘rise.’ You could say that this song is what started this album.”
“This song is the title track of the album. It’s also the last song that was completed. My album was basically released because of this track. Both [producer] Teddy and a foreign writer named Becca [Johnson] wrote this song. I remember feeling very excited about it, because it came about so unexpectedly. While Teddy was writing out the chords, Becca came along and wrote out the melody on the spot. I liked it so much, and I believed I could put a fresh feel to it with my voice. After finishing the demo recordings, I discussed my personal experiences with Teddy, which he thought would be cool to incorporate as lyrics. We were able to write a song together about missing an old lover, reminiscing about their eyes, nose and lips. It’s a very emotional track.”
“This song was written last year, I believe. Boyz Noize participated on this track. It has a very fun beat with a tempo that allows you to sway along. The lyrics are about thinking about a person you loved every night at 1:00 a.m. — no matter what you’re doing at that time. It’s about how you end up thinking about her every day at 1:00 a.m. despite drinking, wandering the streets and hanging out with friends to forget about her. The content meshes really well with the uptempo beat, which allows the listener to feel an array of different feelings.
4. “Stay With Me” featuring G-Dragon
“Stay With Me” was produced with my best friend G-Dragon. This song was also completed towards the end. Towards the completion of my album, I realized that there were no songs with a featured artist. I thought it would be nice to have at least one song with a featured artist, so I chose the track and produced it along with G-Dragon. I believe it’s an awesome song that shows the best of both G-Dragon’s current musical style and color along with mine.
There’s a long back story to this song. When we first produced this track, Teddy had downloaded a program for the first time with which this song was created by. The track turned out different from the original track. The original piece had a harder, electronic feel to it. The final track came when I joined in on arranging it. As you may know, the song is about a female’s body. It’s a song that I wrote based on the things I feel when seeing a female body.
“It’s a very fun and sexy track. This song went through a lot of editing before it was put on the album. If you hear it you’ll understand, but it’s got a heavy electronic and digital vibe to it yet the verses and bridge have an old-school disco sound, as well as Michael Jackson and Daft Punk-styled guitar riffs. I personally like the song and believe it’s a lot of fun.”
“This is my pre-release track, I believe many people have already heard this song. Producer Shockbit created the beats and G-Dragon arranged it. While my producer and I were working on this track, G-Dragon came in and told us that he had a melody he was working. I really liked the melody so G-Dragon ended up arranging the entire track. I thought it would be refreshing to release this song as the first single, because I believed I could add on a cool performance. The song is great but what I think makes the track stand out is the performance that I worked on with choreographer Parris Goebel.”
7. “This Ain’t It”
“‘This Ain’t It’ is a track that I had a hard time recording. The track deals with different emotions and musical colors than my previous projects. It’s very British-pop heavy. It’s the only track [on the album] that I recorded multiple times. The lyrics are about how one will feel when bumping into an ex by chance.
You could say it’s sort of like reminiscing about an ex while driving in a convertible. The track has a very fresh and sad feel to it. I believe it’s a song that fits well if played right before the sun rises. Please listen to it and decide for yourselves.
8. “Let Go”
The eighth track, “Let Go,” was produced a long time ago, maybe three years ago. While I was waiting for the elevator to go home, I heard an instrumental coming from one of the many producer studios at YG. Immediately upon hearing the instrumental, I went into that producer’s room and told him that I had an idea for a song. The melody was finished so we started working on it right away. The song is very different from my usual musical style, mostly because I think the idea came out of nowhere. I didn’t realize it until after the song was completed, but it’s got a gospel feel to it. Due to its sound and melody, I requested lyrics from one of my label mates, Tablo, since he’s good at scripting poetic lyrics.”
9. “Love You to Death”
“When working on this track, there were a lot of artists I liked at that time like, Frank Ocean and Miguel. I listened to their mixtapes and albums a lot. When I first heard their mixtapes, I believed that this type of music was going to be huge in both Korea and the States. I really enjoyed their music and was extremely excited. Luckily, someone I know in the States connected me to [producer Happy] Perez, and we had a writing session for about five days. We wrote about five to seven songs together. Out of those songs the song that fit my color the best was ‘Love You to Death.’ This song was not approved by my CEO until the very end but I pushed for it persistently, which resulted in the song becoming my last song. If you hear it, you’ll understand why I liked this track.”