Kang Daniel explores mental illness and its impact through “YELLOW”

“Am I just crazy or dreamin’ awake?”

On Apr. 13, Korean solo artist Kang Daniel released his new mini-album, YELLOW.

Serving as the finale to the singer’s “Color” trilogy, YELLOW is a follow-up to his previous albums, CYAN and MAGENTA, and to no fan’s surprise, it was a hit. According to Forbes, the album’s tracklist debuted as a top 40 hit in South Korea. The album’s title track, Antidote, was No. 1 on the Gaon Album Chart with sales of around 316,542 copies within the first week of release.

On top of the album’s immense commercial success, it hits a different note in another category. Essentially, the sentimental value of the album, serving as a reflection of his career concerning mental illness and its lasting effects, makes for a meaningful piece for many alike. To start, the album’s successful delivery is within its visuals. In efforts to convey the effects of hate comments, the album’s pre-release, PARANOIA, included intense imagery, such as demons, to illustrate the inner monsters he was fighting with. Or, more specifically, the criticism and judgments of other people as the video showcases huge importance in the word “failure” imprinted on his hand. This theory is further conveyed through the lyrics in his song with phrases such as “wasn’t with me back then, but they here right now” and “I lay expressionless, again and again… an endless fear, a terrible night.”

As we look further into the album, Kang Daniel’s latest release of Antidote’s music video gives fans another picture of his stress and anxiety. In this, Daniel is seen performing in front of an audience holding cell phones. This explicitly indicates his pressure from being in front of the public every second of his life. In another scene, Daniel’s reflection is distorted in mirrors and water, which gives the message that his image of himself is being skewed: a direct callout towards the idol industry. Specifically, as a celebrity, companies often assign personas to talents to attract a larger fanbase. Daniel himself is in a split between his celebrity and regular life, once again, attempting to escape the camera and crowds throughout the video, physically showing how little privacy he is given due to his job as a celebrity and performer.

It does not stop there as the album consists of three more equally hip but depressing tracks.

Based on the literal title, MISUNDERSTOOD elaborates on the stress Daniel gains from being underneath the spotlight where every action he makes could start up a possible rumor. Following that is a total 180 of the upbeat and retro song, Digital. But, while it sounds lively and fun, Digital continues to tell the story of devastation and cyberbullying. “Like a shadow-filled with lies” and “so critical” are some of the lyrics that describe the harassment he had received in late 2019 that caused him to take a long hiatus. However, the album comes back in full circle with his next song, Save U, which was written to express his hopes to support others who share similar feelings. Save U is to inspire those to believe in themselves and to assure that there is more in the future.

When asked what the color yellow meant to him, Daniel replied that the color had always given off cold and distant vibes while also representing a new day. He states that the color is a perfect fit for the ending of the trilogy because it also represents the beginning of something new within his career. He affirms that he wants to show himself as a proper artist by incorporating real emotions and sincere stories into his music, performing his title, and a few sidetracks during the online event at KCON.

From releasing great music to exploring future passion projects, it seems like it is only up from here for this multi-talentend artist.

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