Young K – ‘Eternal’ review: the Day6 vocalist does what he does best

The singer’s solo debut is a striking reflection of his songwriting and finely tuned emotions, and also doubles as a temporary parting gift to fans

Kang Young-hyun, otherwise better known by his stage name Young K, has always been considered as one of the major creative driving forces of Day6. Having composed, written and produced a majority of the South Korean pop-rock band’s albums, including their most recent outing as a quintet ‘The Book Of Us: Negentropy’, a solo career for Young K was bound to happen sooner or later.

The time finally came at the end of last month, when the singer confirmed that his long-awaited solo project ‘Eternal’ was on the way. However, the news was overshadowed by another surprising announcement from his agency, JYP Entertainment, which revealed that Young K will be enlisting for his compulsory military service early in October. The timing couldn’t be more bittersweet, and ‘Eternal’ supplies those melancholic emotions in small but potent doses.

‘Eternal’ is split, intentionally or not, into two parts: the first half of the seven-track project is a sparkling display of the singer’s rockstar persona – an amplification of the image he’s already put forth through Day6 – while the latter is a peek at his true self. It’s no surprise that Young K shines the brightest in these softer and tender moments, particularly the spine-chilling piano ballad ‘Want To Love You’. The track opens with a whisper before it crescendos into a breathtaking bridge and then free falls into a whirlpool of emotions as Young K belts, “Want to love you / Until you are as happy as I am.”

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But don’t discount the upbeat offerings either – an obvious standout is the title track ‘Guard You’, a dramatic pop-rock anthem where Young K feels most at home. It has all the ingredients of a Day6 standard, a head-bopping earworm with a sentimental message at its core. Powered by a synthetic drum beat, the song starts out slightly cautious as Young K paints a delicate portrait of his significant other through his observations. “You’re walking and stumbling (Against the world) / You might break when you fall (Don’t you fall) / I can’t take my eyes off you,” he sings before the steady melody finally cracks and bursts into flames to match his passionate declaration: “I won’t ever let you cry.”

Apart from the raucous ‘Not Gonna Love’, which finds Young K playfully sticking his tongue out at relationships, the singer slips into the role of a guardian angel several times throughout the mini-album. On the Dvwn-assisted ‘Microphone’, the singer assures he’ll listen to every rant and rave with no complaints (“​​Even if it’s not important / I’ll take everything that flows”), while on ‘Come As You Are’, Young K reminds his other half that he’ll always “be here with my heart” over laid-back guitar.

At a glance, these all seem like touching love-struck confessions, but when you take into account that the singer will be spending the next 18 months away, the romantic gestures and moments suddenly transform into something more heartbreaking and poignant. When they’re stringed together as ‘Eternal’, the unspoken question that seems to linger between each track is: who will fill the gap when our narrator is absent?

The emotions later hit twice as hard on the closing number ‘Goodnight, Dear’, a four-minute lullaby that pairs Young K’s hushed vocals with an acoustic guitar. The song runs itself like a self-care checklist the singer has left behind for while he’s gone: “Did you lie down?” he wonders. “Did the fire go out? / Close your eyes now / Take a deep breath.”

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Young K’s ability to use simple language to convey so much feeling is exactly what makes ‘Eternal’ – and, by extension, Day6’s songs – memorable and heartfelt. Here he demonstrates that skill effortlessly but at his preferred pace, mostly over gentler melodies instead of throbbing synths.

If the point of ‘Eternal’ is to leave a permanent mark, then Young K has accomplished his mission to great effect. The EP is a reflection of his songwriting and finely tuned emotions, and each song will undoubtedly stay with listeners for a long time to come – if not forever, then at least until after he eventually makes his return.

Details

Day6 Young K Eternal cover art
  • Release date: September 6
  • Record label: JYP Entertainment
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