meta-scriptEric Nam Unravels An Existential Crisis On New Album 'House On A Hill' | GRAMMY.com
Eric Nam Press Photo 2023
Eric Nam

Photo: Kigon Kwak

interview

Eric Nam Unravels An Existential Crisis On New Album 'House On A Hill'

Korean American ace Eric Nam has done nearly everything in the entertainment industry, yet still found himself wanting more. But with his latest album, 'House on a Hill,' he found himself finally appreciating "the very basics of human life."

GRAMMYs/Sep 6, 2023 - 01:21 pm

Eric Nam is living proof that risk can sometimes lead to reward — or in his case, a booming career. 

Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, to Korean immigrant parents, the 34-year-old was once a business analyst at Deloitte Consulting in New York, but saw a chance to turn his dreams into reality by moving to South Korea and joining the music competition show "Star Audition: Birth Of A Great Star 2" in 2011. While Nam may not have won the competition (he placed fifth), he has since proven that entertainment was his calling — and now, he's one of the most influential figures in South Korean culture.

As a singer, Nam has released two studio albums, four EPs and a slew of collaborations with names like Timbaland and Armaan Malik. As a TV personality, he hosted shows like "After School Club" and interviewed several Hollywood A-listers including Will Smith and Robert Downey Jr. He is also the co-founder and creative director of leading digital media company DIVE Studios, which focuses on AAPI and K-pop communities, and Mindset, a mental health and wellness platform.

His next enterprising step is his forthcoming album House on a Hill (out Sept. 8), where Nam makes his directorial debut through four music videos and a short film. The release will also kickstart a 67-date world tour across North America, Latin America, the UK, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand, with more stops to come.

Ahead of his latest venture, GRAMMY.com caught up with Nam to talk about the highs, the lows and all the lessons of the past decade that led him to this moment.

When you participated in "Star Audition," did you imagine it would be such a defining moment in your career?

I don't think so. For me, it was just the first and only chance to try to become a singer. Going on an audition program and potentially making it is a dream so many young kids have, you never think it's going to actually work. But I ended up doing the program for about nine months, I got to the top five, and at that point, it was one of the highest-rated shows in Korea, so it ended up being very successful. And then I was able to sign a record deal, so that show was just a very, very important start to my career.

Since then, you have released several EPs and albums, and developed your singing and songwriting skills to best portray who you are as an artist. What do you think is the most important song you wrote?

Oh, my gosh, that is an impossible question. It's kind of crazy, because I feel like every album [represents] such a different point of my life, of my career. [Cloud 9], the first one from 2013, was where I didn't really know what I was doing — I was just following the direction of the label.

And then the album in 2016 was the first time [a song I wrote] became a single. What was interesting about it is that I started as a singer, but I became bigger as a TV personality and interviewer in Korea, so that was a big stress for me. People wanted me to just be on TV more, and not so much focus on the music. And so [me and my team] were like, "Well, why don't we just write an album called Interview that is more in line with where we want to go musically?" It was an interesting approach that fit with my personality at the time. Was it musically fulfilling? Not really.

2018 was the first time where I started to really dive into music that I wanted to do, which is a lot more popular. I think that 2018's Honestly [had] a lot of stuff that I wanted to do as a musician. And so if there's one [most important] song, I think it's "I Don't Know You Anymore," only because it's the first song that I put out as a fully independent artist, which was terrifying. It was the first time where there was no label [behind me]. If it doesn't work, it's just me completely failing out, on my own, and that's a scary thing. But that was the kickoff of my indie career.

What has the experience of going indie taught you about yourself?

Well, I already knew it was not going to be easy. It's really not easy. There's so many different challenges and things that happen, stresses and all that kind of stuff. But through the process I've learned that I'm pretty strong mentally, and I have a lot of perseverance to push through things. 

That's what was needed, and is still needed, to keep my head up and keep sprinting as an indie artist, because there is no right answer. The only person that can tell you what the right answer is yourself. So you have to really trust your instincts and also have the grit to push through anything and everything that's being thrown at you. That's probably been the biggest realization I've had about myself.

Was there any moment that you thought about giving up? Or that it wasn't going as you expected and you started to doubt yourself?

I think I have that very often. And I think it's because, as a creative person, you're putting out your baby, your creative child into the world, and the world can tear it apart. And it's very scary to sit there, and be fatigued, and yes, there are people who love it, but then, there's also people who are like, "This sucks." It's an emotional roller coaster.

That's why, whenever I do stuff, I always think of it as, "This is not going to be my last, but I have to appreciate it as if it is." Maybe I will retire, I don't know. That's a very real conversation I have with myself all the time.

More than a single moment, I think [this feeling] is always in the back of my head. I know I'm very lucky. I'm very blessed to be doing what I do, to write music and write about your feelings, your stories, and then perform them around the world. And so, as much as it is a blessing, I also know that it could go away at any point. So I'm just trying to appreciate it and live in every moment.

Throughout the years, you collaborated with legendary names in music, such as Timbaland, Gallant and Epik High's Tablo. How important were these encounters as you developed your own sound?

Somebody asked me recently, "What's your favorite collaboration?" and I was like, "I don't know." They're so different and it's been so many people. Obviously, Timbaland is a legend, and to be able to be on a song with him and be on stage with him was a really, really cool moment.

And then with Tablo, he's a legend for Korean hip-hop, and as somebody who is also like him — I'd say more Western- and English-based than just Korean — I felt like there was a connection where I could talk to him and ask questions. Mind you, a few years before the song came out, I was sitting in my college dorm, listening to his music like, "Wow, this is so good." And then we're getting to work on a song together. That was so cool. 

And Gallant is the nicest dude ever, very talented. He was having this crazy year of musical success [in 2016] and touring, so for me, to be in the room, to be included on that song ["Cave Me In," featuring Tablo], was a really amazing moment, and I felt very grateful to be a part of it.

Fans always say your concerts are a whole experience, and you expressed your love for going on extensive tours as well. Do you have any remarkable shows or live experiences that remain in your mind?

They're all very memorable. So many shows and cities are special. Just thinking about the last tour, I was playing at House of Blues, Boston, and that's the first place I saw Adele play. Years ago, I played at The Tabernacle [in Atlanta, which marked] the first time I had paid for my own ticket. I saw John Legend and Robin Thicke in high school.

So many of these venues are just really special, but I still can't forget the first show I ever did in the States, on my own. That was 2017, I think, at Irving Plaza in New York. And then I did two back-to-back shows in Atlanta. It was the first time my parents and my friends were seeing me perform. It was probably a 600-person venue, very intimate, very small. But even then, I was like, "Wow, this is so cool."

Were you nervous in those first concerts? What were you thinking at that time?

Yeah, I think I'm always nervous. I think being nervous is a good thing. It means that you care and that you're trying to focus. 

When I think about those early days, I still didn't have a lot of songs because, again, I was so busy doing TV, radio, hosting, all that stuff. The label's perspective was, "Oh, Eric, if we keep you busy with other stuff, we make a lot more money than music, so let's just do everything else," so I was always self-conscious about doing my own show. I was like, "Do I have enough songs? Are they going to enjoy it?" It was always very scary.

As you mentioned, you have extensively worked as a host and interviewer, and you still do that today with DIVE Studios and the Mindset platform. You interviewed basically everyone in K-pop, and more. What have you learned from talking to so many different people?

Everybody's human. That's all. Like, I still get anxious sometimes going to interviews if I don't know much about the person, but at the end of the day, that's what an interview is. Let's just talk, and then I'll ask you questions so I can get to know you, and maybe we can become friends. And if we don't, that's fine, too. That's just us learning that everybody's the same.

The biggest stars in the world have the same concerns, and eat the same food, and drink the same stuff as we do. That's it. That's why I think people enjoy my interviews, because I don't like to think of them as the biggest stars in the world.

It's so funny that you were saying, "They do the same stuff that we do," but you are also a star. That shows how you truly don't see that distinction from yourself to others, or vice-versa.

[Laughs.] Yeah, I mean, if there's any criticism I ever get from the people around me, they're like, "You have to remember that you're a celebrity. Can you please not wear this in public? You should maintain an image." And I'm like, "Uh, I don't know, maybe."

People want artists to be more relatable, more human, they like that. And that's why I think your work is so popular, because you can bring that relatableness to the public in ways that K-pop usually doesn't allow.

Oh, thank you. I mean, it is kind of a struggle. I look at some of my friends and peers in their music videos, and they are wearing and doing the craziest things. They're going to outer space, and then they're going, I don't know, into the sewer, and I'm like, "I don't think I can pull that off."

So many of them are in these groups where it's all about the group's presence, not about the solo artist, so for me that's the one thing that is different. It is about me, not about five other people that I'm standing on stage with. I feel more comfortable being honest and open about "This is just the way I am," and not having to — I don't want to say pretend, but — put on an image.

**You say you couldn't pull off those things, but for House on a Hill, you directed a lot of stuff, like the music videos and the short film. What were you able to pull off as Eric Nam?**

We pretty much put together a screenplay and an entire script for this album, because I wanted everything to have a bigger purpose and meaning. It was a lot, like, going from writing the script, writing all the songs, writing the dialogue, to finding the locations with our team, and giving a lot of direction during the shoots and stuff. It was just very hectic. Luckily I had a great team working with me, and we were able to put it together. We are still editing stuff, and hopefully we get it all done, but it feels good.

Acting, writing and directing are things that I've always been curious about, but never had the time or the energy to really focus on it. But [this time] I was like, "Okay, how can we kill two birds with one stone? We're gonna do these videos, I might as well get a taste of it." 

It was like my internship, I learned a lot. There's still so much that I don't know, and so much that I need to learn, but I do have this curiosity and this desire to write more, potentially act more. I don't know about directing, because directing seems like too much. But it is something that was really fun. Hopefully there will be more of it in the future.

You've said that "House on a Hill" felt like the start of the album when you wrote it. What was it about the song that felt that way?

Chronologically, it was the first song I wrote, in August [of last year], and that was kind of, "Okay, even though we're still on tour, this is going to be the start." I feel like, in order to put an album together, you have to live life and experience things, and get in trouble, and have fights, and fall in love, and all those things. But because I was literally touring nine months out of last year, and I have DIVE Studios and Mindset as well, all I do is work, so I was like, "I have nothing that I want to talk about."

And then I was starting to think, "Well, what's on my mind lately? Oh, I want to buy a house. And I want to be happier." And when I wrote "House on a Hill," that's the essence of the song. It's about wanting to find fulfillment and all that stuff. Once we had that [idea], I was like, "Oh, this feels good. What if we start just talking about more of the ways in which I'm feeling and thinking about life?" And that's the overarching theme of the album. It's very much an existential crisis that we're trying to work through.

Do you have the answer to some of the questions that you posed in "House on a Hill"? Like, what if more is never enough? What if nothing ever fills you up?

[Laughs.] I think we will always have those questions, but the one thing that I do believe is that I should be very grateful and happy. That's been my takeaway. We can always want more, want a nicer house, or a better car, or nicer clothes, or the newest phone, and all these things, but let's focus on why should those things be tied directly to happiness.

I think it's being appreciative of the fact that I'm able to do what I like to do, the fact that I am generally healthy, and that I have people that I love and people who love me, and that I have food on the table. It gets down to the very basics of human life. This album has been a big reminder of that fact.

After trying out so many different things, is there anything you still want to try in the future?

Oh man, I think I want to keep acting and writing. I guess something in fashion, but I don't even know what that means… That, or I'm just going to set up a coffee shop and retire. [Laughs.] That sounds pretty simple. 

I try not to think too much, I think that everything that I'm doing right now comes very naturally — and that's why I keep doing it.

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Members Of J-Pop Group JO1
JO1

Photo: LAPONE Entertainment

interview

JO1's Big Year: Follow The J-Pop Group's Rise, From Their First U.S. Appearance To One Of Japan's Biggest Venues

With a new album, 'HITCHHIKER' out in the world, JO1 are on a road to success. The 11-member J-pop act spoke with GRAMMY.com about their impressive past year, and their hopes for the future.

GRAMMYs/May 29, 2024 - 01:13 pm

Immersed in a sea of lights and basking in the clamor of tens of thousands of fans at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka, one of Japan's largest venues, JO1 felt a profound fulfillment. The 11-member J-pop group brimmed with gratitude at the realization that the road to their shared dream had stretched wide open.
Over a video call from Tokyo,
vocal leader Junki Kono reminisces about the power of JO1's two November shows at the dome — his former employer. "I was impressed by the fact that I was seeing the same view but from completely different sides – from the perspective of a security guard to the one of an artist," he tells GRAMMY.com. "In the next dome concert, I want our fans to be more excited about our performance, and I want to show them something even better."

This sense of conviction has been ingrained in JO1's DNA since the outset. In 2019, each member bet on faith and auditioned for the inaugural season of "Produce 101 Japan," a television contest aimed at creating a boy group chosen by the public. After 12 nerve-wracking episodes, Takumi Kawanishi, Issei Mamehara, Sho Yonashiro, Ren Kawashiri, Junki Kono, Shosei Ohira, Ruki Shiroiwa, Shion Tsurubo, Sukai Kinjo, Syoya Kimata, and Keigo Sato were crowned JO1

However, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the newly debuted group to build from scratch while their fans watched them grow from afar. Their tenacity prevailed and, today, JO1 is at a zenith where collective harmony coalesces with individual projects. 

The past 12 months have been a whirlwind journey. JO1 traveled to California for their first performance stateside at KCON LA 2023 and embarked on their second arena tour, which later expanded to Jakarta, Bangkok, Taipei, and Shanghai — their first concerts outside their home country. The tour drew a total of 200,000 attendees and led to a pair of encore shows at the Kyocera Dome. Moreover, aside from new music, their solo artistry was enhanced with acting roles and other creative pursuits.

And the group has no plans to slow down. "I know that many people have a final destination in mind when planning a trip, but for me and the rest of JO1, I'm not quite sure what that final destination is," says Shion Tsurubo. "I believe what's important is that we can enjoy the process and the journey itself."

The next horizon is their eighth extended play, HITCHHIKER. Confident and lively, the six-track production pulsates with versatility, and its funky title track, "Love seeker," is a sonic adventure where to be enamored is the ultimate goal. Or, as JO1's leader Sho Yonashiro puts it, "love for everything. For our songs, our fans, and our members."

As JO1 prepares to continue running "with top speed," they pull the break for a bit and unravel the most important year of their trajectory so far. Fasten your seatbelt.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Developing Their Artistry From The Stage To The Silver Screen

Ruki Shiroiwa: Seiji, my character [from the film You Made My Dawn], is very free-spirited, but he's also very realistic and believes that there's only life, so he does what he wants and clearly expresses what he thinks. I must say his perspective is very similar to how I live.

JO1's activities are also this way, and each performance is treated as if it's the last one. In a way, I was replicating the strength he has, which somehow also made me feel supported in all the work I did with JO1 [last year]. Seiji felt like a source of power.


Takumi Kawanishi: When [reflecting] on the current music market, it seems like there is a higher demand to create viral or trendy songs. But within that, there is always music and sounds you want to play and things you want to say. [Playing Kiyosumi in Buzzy Noise] made me realize that it's important for me to try my best to showcase the [message] that I want to convey [with my music] as much as possible.

[For my song "Heaven,"] I wrote what Kiyosumi would feel and think, and then tried to capture what I felt as Takumi Kawanishi. I had a slightly strange feeling of being both Kiyosumi and Takumi when I was writing the song, but I think that sentiment aligns with the emotional nature of the film.

Performing Stateside For The First Time At KCON LA 2023

Sukai Kinjo: We couldn't attend KCON LA when we were first invited in 2022 due to [some of us contracting] COVID-19, so when we heard that we could go the following year, we [asked] every member and the surrounding staff to stay indoors and not go outside at all. Going to KCON is a big step, so we asked our managers if we could take a break before the event to rest and [prioritize] our health.

Ren Kawashiri: We performed three songs, with the third one being a cover of "Super" by SEVENTEEN-san, and we felt the crowd's excitement increasing with each performance. Many people might not have known who JO1 was at first, but I think we were able to enjoy ourselves with the audience and have fun on stage that night. We all felt very welcomed.

Shion Tsurubo: There was a moment in the cover of "Super" where we had to lift Syoya as part of the choreography. My first thought was that I couldn't let him fall.

Syoya Kimata: I was very nervous! I could just imagine it would be so bad if I failed on stage [during my first time] in Los Angeles. I took extra care, so I was very happy when I landed [after they threw me into the air], and I continued dancing throughout the performance without worrying or thinking about it.

Junki Kono: I was proud of my members, and we were all satisfied after our performance ended. We loved Los Angeles and we actually did some filming and photoshoots around the city. We met many local people, and it was fantastic. I want to return sometime soon. I miss In-N-Out. [Laughs.]

Expanding Their Musicality On Their Third Album, EQUINOX

Takumi Kawanishi: The "colors" of JO1 have been changing little by little. During the EQUINOX era, we were allowed to produce music with a nostalgic feel, but it also had a "power-up" element. I believe everyone in our group was looking to convey this as well.

Shosei Ohira: This album has a wide range of styles. For instance, "Venus" has elegance in its melody, and "RadioVision" is a pop song with an old-fashioned, retro charm. We also had our unit songs – "Itty Bitty" and "Mad In Love." This is something that we didn't do in our previous releases, so we were able to show a new [artistic] side of JO1.

Sukai Kinjo: I believe that every time we release a new album, my vocal ability has improved a lot compared to the previous one. I will work even harder and try my best to bring my "miracle voice" to the world.

Seeing Asia On The BEYOND THE DARK Tour

Issei Mamehara: It was our first overseas tour, so I was very happy! The experience made me recognize that I love and enjoy performing with our fans, JAM, at a close distance. Jakarta was especially memorable because it was the first show, and even though there were some sound problems, JO1's performance covered it up.

Ruki Shiroiwa: We had some technical issues [in Jakarta] while performing "Venus" that caused the song to stop playing. However, we usually practice during rehearsals in case something like this happens. It became a real situation, so when the sound stopped, we all knew we had to continue dancing. Everyone who gathered in the concert venue also joined us by singing and livened things up, so it feels like a success that we were able to avoid some trouble.

Keigo Sato: The size of the venues was smaller compared to those in Japan, but we could feel the high pressure from the audience, and it was amazing.

Watching Their Dreams Become Reality At The Kyocera Dome

Shosei Ohira: It was our first time stepping onto the Kyocera Dome [as headliners], which was a stage that all the JO1 members admired. The moment I stood on [that stage], I felt my dream come true, and it was an unbelievable time. I experienced many things [in the past], and many people supported me before I got here, so I was really thankful.

Junki Kono: When I was working at the Kyocera Dome, the stage seemed to be shining, and the artists who filled the venue also looked radiant. I remember being impressed by the sound of the concerts — it shook my heart. I don’t know why, but I remember feeling like I could stand on that stage in the future, and I was telling everyone around me, including my colleagues, that I would make it happen.

[Performing at Kyocera Dome with JO1] was the moment when my efforts and words were rewarded. But I also understood that standing at the Kyocera Dome is not a goal but a passing point on the road to my dream. I found a new challenge from this experience — a dome tour.

Sho Yonashiro: When the stage doors opened, I felt like a hero. But at the same time, there was a feeling of nervousness because we were the protagonists [that day]. If we had made a mistake, Ren, our performance leader, would have been angry. [Laughs.]

Ruki Shiroiwa: The concert is now available on Amazon Prime Video in Japan, and I've already watched it. While on stage, I felt that everything went smoothly, and I was really happy. However, looking back, I noticed that there are also areas where we need to improve. In the future, if we perform at the Kyocera Dome [again] or the Tokyo Dome, we would like to increase the quality of the performance. 

Winning The Excellent Work Award At The 65th Japan Record Awards 

Issei Mamehara: During a period when we were looking to make exciting songs, we had the opportunity to do "Trigger," and it received the Excellent Work Award at the Japan Record Awards. We were really honored. I wouldn't go as far as calling it our representative song, but we would like many people to truly listen to it.

Keigo Sato: I'm still skeptical about why "Trigger" wasn't a title track. I knew it was going to go viral. [Laughs.]

Returning To "Kōhaku Uta Gassen," Japan's Biggest End-Of-The-Year Television Special

Sho Yonashiro: "Kōhaku" is a [major] television show in Japan, and we had the opportunity to be invited [to perform] for a second time. There are a lot of K-pop artists coming in [as guests], and we know there are some comparisons between us and them.

All I can think of is that we need to demonstrate we can be competitive and shouldn't be satisfied with our position. After being there for two years, we need to continue expanding our [performance] skills and be more charismatic on stage.

Ren Kawashiri: It would not be an exaggeration to say that our role as top batters [for the White Team] somewhat determined the show's momentum. Back in 2022, we didn't know what we were doing, so we just tried our best, but the second time around, we had more room to think about how to create a good ambience.

Heading Down A New Road With HITCHHIKER 

Keigo Sato: My favorite song [from HITCHHIKER] is "Lied to you" because up until this point, we didn't have a track with this kind of Western-style [flow]. The lyrics talk about heartbreak and the inability to express your feelings, and the singing is really great. It's very similar to an Olivia Rodrigo song.

Junki Kono: The bittersweet atmosphere of [our B-side] "Lemon Candy" illustrates the emotion of "I can do anything for you." These may be extreme words, but I put the message in the lyrics that I feel [about] you that strongly.

When I heard the song, I instantly knew that it was composed by Yonghwa-san [from CNBLUE] because it really conveyed his vibe. He taught me many things during the recording session, such as how to sing with more of my own personality, which made me a little nervous. 

Syoya Kimata: Our title track is called "Love seeker," and I believe our trajectory is like hitchhiking as we search for the love of the audience in Japan and people who don't know about JO1 yet. I hope we can continue spreading our music and gain more recognition, so we will keep working hard to achieve that.

Ren Kawashiri: I feel we have a common understanding that has developed over the past five years. We are taking advantage of the fact that we have 11 members, which, in some cases, may be considered too many people, but we believe that each one of us injects strength into the group.

Steering Towards A Bright Future

Sho Yonashiro: We still feel that we must become more famous – even though we have achieved a lot as a boy group [in Japan]. It's been almost five years since our [formation], and we have gained experience and grown significantly compared to our beginnings. However, when we look outside Japan, many don't know who JO1 is, and I think this is a challenge worth taking over and over again. 

Sukai Kinjo: JO1 is very strong and unique on stage, and that’s where we can show how powerful we are as a group. I think our artistic [essence] resonated well with people in Los Angeles, and we do have the potential to reach more international fans. I believe it will be a matter of time before we go viral around the world. [Laughs.]

Ren Kawashiri: We will be superstars!

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RM of BTS in 2023
RM attends W Korea‘s ‘Love Your W' breast cancer awareness event in Seoul, South Korea in November 2023.

Photo: The Chosunilbo JNS/Imazins via Getty Images

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Stream RM's New Album 'Right Place, Wrong Person': See The Tracklist, "LOST!" Video & Special Guests

The second solo album from BTS' RM further displays his knack for genre-bending experimentation, while also delving deeper into his vulnerable side. Listen to the new album here, and get to know the project's featured artists, tracklist and more.

GRAMMYs/May 24, 2024 - 04:08 pm

As the world patiently awaits the return of BTS in full force, each member continues to deliver solo projects to show off their individual talents. And 18 months after his last album, RM is back.

With a discography that hops between pop, R&B, and hip-hop, RM returns to the spotlight with his second solo album, Right Place, Wrong Person. The project tells the relatable story of an individual who is a creature of habit, but slowly comes to find solace in foreign spaces.

Below, listen to RM's latest album, and discover more about how he's revealing a new side of his artistry with Right Place, Wrong Person.

The Tracklist

After RM's debut solo album, 2022's Indigo, had 10 tracks (including features from the likes of Erykah Badu, Anderson .Paak), he ups the tally with an 11-song tracklist this time around.

Here is the complete tracklist for Right Place, Wrong Person:

1. Right People, Wrong Place
2. Nuts
3. out of love
4. Domodachi (feat. Little Simz)
5. ? (Interlude)
6. Groin
7. Heaven
8. LOST!
9. Around the world in a day (feat. Moses Sumney)
10. ㅠㅠ (Credit Roll)
11. Come back to me

The Creative Visuals

Two weeks before the album dropped, he unveiled the music video for "Come Back to Me," the lead single from Right Place, Wrong Person. Directed by the critically acclaimed actor Lee Sung Jin, the music video narrates the tale of feeling like an outsider and yearning for a sense of belonging in unfamiliar surroundings.

Then, on the day Right Place, Wrong Person arrived, RM added to release-day excitement with another intriguing visual, this time for "LOST!" The five-minute clip sees RM as the star of "The Lost! Show," where he and a group endure an eerie whirlwind of scenarios they can't seem to get out of. It's equal parts dramatic and slapstick, and another clever display of RM's creative versatility.

Noteworthy Guests

The featured artists on Right Place, Wrong Person — British rapper Little Simz on "Domodachi" and art-pop artist Moses Sumney on "Around the world in a day" — underscore RM's ability to interlace his own musical style with artists from various genres.

The album also has some notable behind-the-scenes collaborators as well. Production credits include Kim Han-joo, keyboardist and vocalist from the South Korean rock band Silica Gel, on "LOST!" and GRAMMY-nominated jazz duo DOMi & JD Beck on "? (Interlude)."

On "Come back to me" — which RM initially debuted last August during a surprise performance at BTS bandmate Suga's encore concert in Seoul — he delves into the album's central theme of wanting to venture into unknown areas, but feeling the intense urge to stay with what's already known. The track was composed and arranged by OHHYUK from the South Korean indie-rock band Hyukoh, but also features credits from artists Kuo, JNKYRD, and San Yawn.

But no matter who RM is working with, his own talent and prowess as a creator always shines. Right Place, Wrong Person presents a diverse array of tracks marked by sheer vulnerability, honesty, and sensitivity — a masterful continuation of a remarkable solo journey.

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Seventeen
Seventeen

Photo: PLEDIS Entertainment

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5 Songs To Get Into Seventeen, Ahead Of New Album '17 Is Right Here'

The 13-member K-pop group has been going strong, selling over 16 million albums since 2015. On April 29, they'll release '17 Is Right Here,' a compilation of some of their most impactful songs. Dive into the world of Seventeen with five essential songs.

GRAMMYs/Apr 29, 2024 - 02:40 pm

Seventeen is more than just a K-pop group; it's a musical phenomenon that challenges conventions and redefines what it means to be a star in the South Korean music scene. Formed in 2015, the group consists of 13 members who are divided into vocal, hip-hop, and performance sub-units.

S.Coups, Jeonghan, Joshua, Jun, Hoshi, Wonwoo, Woozi, Dk, Mingyu, The8, Seungkwan, Vernon, and Dino have garnered a growing and dedicated global fandom known as Carats, who closely follow their every move. For the group, their fans are a significant part of their growth.

"We're definitely more confident than before through our growth. The growth of our Carats and the amount of support that they show us just gives us so much confidence", member Joshua told GRAMMY.com in 2022.

The self-produced group has a clear philosophy: Create relevant and innovative music that resonates. They don't adhere to stereotypes or definitions, but constantly strive to evolve and explore new sonic territories. This creative and authentic approach has been an integral part of the group's enduring success.

Seventeen wrapped up 2023 with over 16 million albums sold. On April 29, they'll release 17 Is Right Here, a compilation of some of their most impactful songs. For those looking to dive into the world of Seventeen, here are five essential songs to kickstart this exciting musical journey.

"Don't Wanna Cry" (2017)

The lead single from the mini album Al1, "Don't Wanna Cry" details the struggle of dealing with pain and loss. The track delves into the complex feelings of no longer having a loved one around, while holding onto the hope that they might return.

"Don't Wanna Cry" is a striking example of the group's openness and vulnerability with their fans. The song's raw emotions are deeply personal and relatable, depicting a struggle with pain and loss.

"To You" (2021)

The lively and heartwarming track "To You," from the ninth mini album Attacca, is a beautiful reflection on love and gratitude. It's the kind of song that inspires you to throw your arms open wide, sing out loud, and feel every word with your eyes closed.

With its repeated phrase of "I always need you," the song emphasizes the comfort of having someone dependable in your life. "To You" exemplifies Seventeen's remarkable ability to seamlessly combine emotional depth with infectious dance rhythms, showcasing their talent for creating simultaneously heartfelt and energetic tracks.

"Hot" (2022)

A song to enjoy not just in the summer, but on any day of the year, "Hot" was released in 2022 as part of the album Face the Sun.

Through metaphors involving fire and the sun, the group repeatedly chants the word "Hot" reflecting a sense of confidence and the freedom to live passionately, while also encouraging listeners to express themselves boldly without fear. 

Reflecting the group's identity, "Hot" embraces themes of confidence, passion, and fearless self-expression — qualities that resonate with the group's image and message.

"Super" (2023)

An authentic anthem about unity, "Super" celebrates the power of teamwork and mutual support, as highlighted by the iconic chorus "I love my team, I love my crew." "Super" exemplifies how Seventeen functions as one cohesive group despite its numerous members, emphasizing their strong bond and collective spirit.

The song's title — a reference to Son Goku (손오공) from the famous anime "Dragon Ball" — is featured on the album FML, which in sold over 6.4 million copies in 2023 according to Pledis Entertainment, earning the title of the world's best-selling album.

"God of Music" (2023)

An anthem to the universal language of music and its remarkable ability to forge connections across continents, "God of Music," from Seventeen's 11th mini album, Seventeenth Heaven, is a track that moves you to dance from the very first beat.

The group emphasizes how music breaks down barriers, turning strangers into friends and uplifting people worldwide, regardless of language differences. In their accompanying music video, the members conclude with a heartfelt message: Music is a force that brings people together.

SEVENTEEN Performs A High-Octane Version Of "VERY NICE" | Press Play At Home

(G)I-DLE’s YUQI
YUQI

Courtesy of the artist

interview

(G)I-DLE’s YUQI Is "A Certified Freak," Just Like Everyone Else

"You only live once, live yourself whatever you want to do," YUQI says of her official solo debut, 'YUQ1,' which encourages listeners to embrace their uniqueness.

GRAMMYs/Apr 24, 2024 - 03:49 pm

On her debut solo EP, (G)I-DLE's YUQI has one wish: for all the "freaks" around the world to confidently sing along with her.

YUQ1 boasted a whopping 500,000 pre-order sales prior to its April 23 release, demonstrating the singer/songwriter's tremendous popularity. YUQI's creative flair permeates everything from the music itself to its accompanying visuals, as does her desire to stand alone. "I’m a certified freak," she sings, celebrating the liberation she feels when embracing her uniqueness.

YUQI is the third member of (G)I-DLE to make her solo debut, and the quintet's second member to release a solo EP. While YUQI has released her own music before — including the digital album A Page and singles "Bad Liar" and "Fire!" with Alan Walker and JVKE — YUQ1 marks her first lengthier release. 

YUQI added an additional level of authenticity to her EP by contributing compositions and lyrics to most of the tracks, meticulously working on crafting her unique artist identity as she dabbles in different genres. From the red rabbit mascot on the concept photos to the lyric in "FREAK" that mentions her Zodiac sign Libra, YUQ1 is a reflection of the singer's free-spirited yet delicate artistic qualities. 

This isn’t the first time YUQI has preached about being proud of yourself and your life. Her trendy 2021 house-inspired single "Bonnie & Clyde" (from A Page) similarly depicts a high level of confidence, as well as a fearlessness when it comes to facing whatever life throws at you. And YUQI has truly lived this bravery as an artist who moved from her home country to Korea, learned a new language, and experienced the strenuous K-Pop training system.

While YUQI has grown exponentially over the past six years as a member of (G)I-DLE and as a solo act, she still feels the need to be perfect. And while (G)I-DLE is the only K-Pop girl group to achieve a "perfect all-kill" on major domestic charts with four consecutive releases, YUQI believes she hasn't succeeded yet.  

As her understanding of creating her crafts deepens, YUQI’s self-awareness also grows. "The depth of my understanding of the songs I create has significantly changed and improved," YUQI tells GRAMMY.com. "I, personally [and] as an artist, have matured a lot!"

Perhaps she picked up some of these facets from her father. "Honestly, even without joking, my father taught me everything when I was 3 years old," she says with a laugh.

While in Seoul, YUQI sat down with GRAMMY.com to share why she thinks everyone is a "freak," and how this era marks the beginning for her as a solo artist.

The interview has been edited for clarity.

This is just your first mini-album, but do you already have a vision for your solo career?

I tried to capture the YUQI that’s real and confident in this album. No matter what other people say about me, I’m not the weird one. But, in fact, I think everyone is a "freak," too. 

This album expresses my confidence and emotional life through music. I wanted to convey that you just have to live confidently too, just as I do. When preparing for my solo album, I also tried different hairstyles that I’ve never tried as a (G)I-DLE member!

You've previously shared that moving to Korea alone to pursue this career was difficult, and your parents were strongly against it at first. Do you think those uncertainties and challenges played a huge role in making who you are?

Definitely! That situation did play a huge role in my career. I just kept on believing in myself and moving forward for my dream and what I wanted to achieve. And through the journey, I discovered that believing in yourself is the best way and that mindset helped me a lot.

I was insecure about my voice when I first came to Korea. But then, everyone told me how precious my voice was. Just like my unique voice, I believe there were many aspects of myself that I wasn't initially aware of, which contributed to my growth as an artist. 

I’m always open and working hard to listen to many people’s opinions so I’ll be able to have a broad perspective. It helps me and makes me develop myself in many ways!

Your music often tackles common worries about growing up, and some of the songs on YUQ1 are inspired by your personal experience such as "My Way" and "Everytime." How do you feel about sharing this side of yourself with the public?

When I talk about my worries and tell a story about them, I feel that everyone actually shares similar experiences regardless of the circumstances they’ve been through or will go through.

In a previous interview with GRAMMY.com, you said that your biggest takeaway since debuting in (G)I-DLE is to always be proud of yourself. Do you feel that way now, or is there a gap that you think you need to fill in order to achieve that pride?

Honestly, my thoughts have not changed over the years. I still feel proud of myself, always! Something that would not change, is that I would still [like to] challenge myself and try to do anything I want to go after. 

Also, I always think that I’m not perfect and always try to make up for what is lacking.

You believe you haven’t succeeded yet. However, you’ve already come so far in people’s eyes. At what point in time do you believe you can proudly say "I made it"?

When people only see me in the media, they would think that I have succeeded a lot. But for me, personally, I don't think so… I still have many things to do in order to succeed in my career. And I always try to keep moving forward with my goals.

My biggest dream, both now and in the past, has always been to live a happy life. It changes from time to time often, but I guess living a happy life is my ultimate goal.

You never forget to mention how you want to always keep improving in interviews. How would you describe YUQI who works really hard to showcase her growth right now?

While preparing for this album, I have experienced so many things that I haven't experienced fully before. For instance, there are so many genres I explored while preparing for this album. Also, it was the first time where I designed my own album, came up with the concept, and had a full album with all the songs that I composed! 

This album definitely allowed me to grow as an artist. Even though there were a lot of difficulties, I believe that those are part of the journey and made YUQI even more mature, have more responsibilities, and be aware of them.

Could you share some insights and walk us through your involvement in the songwriting process?

I have participated in composing and lyrics for (G)I-DLE’s songs in our previous albums. However, this was my first time composing an album on my own. 

It makes me think I can actually do more diverse things, and I believe I was able to do what I wanted to do for myself in this album. It was a great opportunity to include many songs in my own way and style and was able to show new aspects that I have never shown before with my group.

You worked with MINNIE, pH-1, and Lexie Liu on the album’s "Everytime," "Drink It Up," and "On Clap," respectively. What made you choose to feature them on those particular songs, and what was the experience like?

I think and feel that [MINNIE’s] unique voice always suits every song! I’ve always wanted to work with her and I’m glad that she was able to be part of my album. 

And pH-1 was an artist that I’ve always wanted to work with. There was a rap part in "Drink It Up" and I was trying to look for a rapper that would perfectly fit into that part, and pH-1 came into my mind. I had so much fun working with him and he perfectly matched the style that I thought of. Even though it was our first time working together, he was very friendly! 

Lexie and I have been close friends for a long time. We always promised to work together, and I thought this time was the perfect opportunity to do so. I’m thankful that we worked on a song together.

The main character on the track list photo is a red rabbit. It’s also in the music video and some of your concept photos. Could you tell us the backstory of who that is and what that represents?

I was born in the year of a Rabbit and my favorite color is red! So, I decided to have a red rabbit as my main character. And that represents YUQI itself. When you look at the track list, you can see that the rabbit’s facial expressions and comments change depending on the song. In that sense, I think it is a character that shows YUQI’s day in various aspects!

When most people think of a red rabbit, I think that what comes to their mind is that it could be mysterious and scary. And so, I wanted to add some fun elements to the music video and give that feel of a horror movie. 

What’s one line from a song on YUQ1 that hit you the most? And what's something you want the listeners to resonate with the songs?

[A line] from my title track "FREAK"! I think it’s going to be the chorus part, "I’m a certified FREAK." I often talk about my strength as an artist and I saw a lot of comments asking, "Why is she like that?" and "Why is she talking about her own strength?" 

These comments actually gave me a lot of inspiration while writing this song. People who judge me… that way, they are also "FREAK" like everyone else. This is the reason I chose this part. The song contains a message that since you only live once, live yourself whatever you want to do without worrying about what others think.

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