Credits: M-ON! Entertainment
English translation: Hazy from ECI (edited by tenshi_akuma)
Portraying ‘Myself’ through monochrome pictures
Releasing his 3rd full album ‘Monochrome’ since he last debut in Japan 5 years ago. Very different from his past album, expressive lyrics were used to portray himself in this album. Let’s get a closer insight into through this in this long interview and his self liner notes.
J: JKS R: Reporter
J: Don’t you think it’s very different?
R: Indeed totally different.
J: Compared to the past 2 albums, the title and overall feel of the cover is very different. Naturally there are changes in the content, too.
R: Yes, hence it will be good to start with the question about the reason for the change.
J: Ok. Do you still remember the theme color of my first album ‘Just Crazy’?
R: It’s purple?
J: Yes, how about my 2nd album ‘Nature Boy’?
J: You remembered very well (laugh). And this album ‘Monochrome’, just as the name suggests, expresses a monochrome (black and white) style. But, to be honest, we decided the title after we completed the album. I have a thought that this noticeable change of colors in each album came from growth…
R: Growth? Portraying JKS’s own growing process? Is that the meaning?
J: Yes, not sure if it is appropriate to say growth, but at least I think it describes well now. Because I wanted to take an up-front approach this time. I mean I wanted to portray the real me. Hence when I started producing the album, I set the main theme as something like ‘my own life’ and ‘one to one’.
R: Calling it ‘Monochrome’ removes the need for any exaggerated décor, it’s liken revealing the truth to all.
J: I’ve been wondering “What is the real purpose for the existence of this person called Jang Keun Suk in this world?” Having such deep thoughts about my own life motivated the idea for the title. In my past 2 albums, the image was “Come and have fun with me! Let’s Party!”, however the prime image in ‘Monochrome’ is “Hope you comprehend my inner heart”, “These are my words, are you willing to listen to me?”
R: I see, so it captures your growth process.
J: Perhaps I can also say that in my previous 2 albums it’s ‘Geun chan and everyone’s album’, but for this new album, it’s ‘Yours and mine album’.
R: Indeed, compared to the previous 2 albums, this album has a close personal touch.
J: It’s not Geun chan but Jang Keun Suk. ‘Monochrome’ is Jang Keun Suk’s album.
R: I got a shock when I first listened to this album, as it was unlike your past albms. No glamorous tunes nor cheeky expressions. That’s why I felt worried about your mental health.
J: Hahahaa, I admit the overall feel is indeed solemn and serious, yet putting it more accurately, it’s not exactly solemn, but a work of openness, which maybe adds to the seriousness. The main theme is not about seriousness, the honesty and openness is what I wanted to focus on, but I know it probably shocked many, and the title did cause some confusion when I first shared with the producer, too.
R: Is the producer the same as the past, Mr. Choi Chul ho?
J: Yes. He seemed to have an idea “Is Red the image of your next album?” But, I shocked him with my sudden change talking about ‘Life’ and ‘One to One’ that were never expected. However, he subsequently said “maybe it’s a right time to incorporate your personal growth in this album”.
R: What triggered you to have such deep thoughts about your own life? Any ideas?
J: Hmmm… It’s probably related to my own graduation from the University one year ago…
R: Huh? You were still an undergraduate a year ago?
J: Yes (laugh), and now I am going to post graduate school. I started to live on my own since last year. It may be partly the reason. And I suppose my age is also related in a sense. Based on the Korean calendar, I am 29 years old (27 based on Gregorian calendar). I am already approaching 30. There is a growing urge for myself to grow and mature.
R: Didn’t you have worries that the audience would find this album too simple? What if many fans are still looking for the charmingly vibrant Jang Keun Suk?
J: Yet, it is only when one is able to put a halt to the past, only then the true self can be revealed, isn’t it?
R: Aren’t you afraid that the past image will be destroyed?
J: Absolutely not. Till now, there is still much of me that has not been revealed to all, hence, there is this strong desire to show that to everyone.
R: By the way, I found you had a determined attitude to sing fully in Japanese. I think it’s one uniqueness of ‘Monochrome’.
J: That is a very important element. It was really tough, though. (laugh)
R: Many of the chorus parts are also totally sang in Japanese.
J: This time all lyrics were written by Japanese from scratch.
R: How about your past tunes? The lyrics were written in Korean first and converted to Japanese?
J: Almost half were produced in that manner. However, this time I asked to write all Japanese songs from the start.
J: This is a little complicated to explain…
R: It’s alright. Go ahead.
J: I wanted to sing a neatly packaged perspective rather than sing about my own story.
R: More detail?
J: Japanese lyrics are full of sentiments and emotions. Expressing such uniqueness of Japan, I wanted to touch the hearts of the listeners closer. That’s why I asked Japanese lyricist for help.
R: So you thought not an outright account of your personal emotions, but portraying a perspective through the lyrics of the songs is better?
R: Wouldn’t that contradict with what you earlier mentioned about “hoping the audience comprehends your true inner self”?
J: How can I say… Maybe it is similar to when an actor is participating in a drama or TV program production, well, actually that’s not exactly the same either. To express myself is the utmost purpose, at the same time, settings by professional lyricist was also necessary for that. With their help, I believe I can convey my true inner self better.
R: So we can say that the essence in each and every song conveys the feelings of Jang Keun Suk?
J: Right, there were many communications with the lyricist on every song. To have the lyrics written, there were people who came to Korea all the way from Japan. For those who couldn’t manage to come because of the challenging schedule, the producer flew to Japan instead to convey my thoughts. Like this, we made the songs.
R: Hence, we can also feel the unity from the whole album.
J: Every song starts with my personal emotion. Speaking of expressing emotions, a special consideration has been made even in the singing style. For example, “Gu tto La kku – Good Luck”, I would have used the English pronunciation “Good Luck” to sing previously. However in this album, I chose to clearly sing out every syllabus “Gu tto La kku”, as I felt that will better connects with my Japanese fans.
R: So we would hear “Ra Ji O – Radio” such pronunciation in ‘Road Race’ of ‘Monochrome’?
J: Right! That has been unprecedented to date. Not using the English pronunciation “Radio”, but deliberately use the Japanese way of pronunciation to sing out.
R: Allow me to ask next about your lead song ‘Hidamari’. I think it represents a ‘Yours and mine’ song.
J: Just as the name suggests warmth, it conveys a lot of messages of hope.
R: Pop melody, with a friendly singing tone.
J: The lyrics in the chorus is “If you shed even a single tear, I just want to stay by you without a word”.
R: Indeed, liken the sun shining softly in a cold day, the song brings warmth to our heart.
J: I especially love this chorus. That’s why I was totally captivated by it since I first heard it. And the melody is also easy to remember, so I hope we can sing it together in live shows.
R: I can imagine hearing it live, the blessed feeling would multiply.
J: To tell the truth, the lead song was initially ‘Fragile like snow (awai yuki no yoh ni)’, not ‘Hidamari’. However, as soon as I completed the recording of ‘Hidamari’, all the staff said “I like this!”, “this should be the lead song”, and collectively agreed the change.
R: ‘Fragile like snow’ is the first track, a winter love song in this album, less subtle compared to ‘Hidamari’.
J: It’s rock, and inherited some style from my past 2 albums, which is why during the early stage of production, it was considered as a potential for the lead song.
R: Both the lyrics and singing tone are lively.
J: Typically sentimental and lonely songs would leave a deeper impression with the listeners of this album. However, ‘Fragile like snow’ is dynamic, portraying the image of a charismatic guy. I can say maybe there is a tendency for feeling Do-S character.
tenshi_akuma’s note: Do-S is a Japanese way of describing one’s character. Do means extreme. S means sadistic. Like his past role in YAB, such a bossy character is sometimes called as Do-S in Japan.
R: This (Do-S characteristic) is quiet similar to Jang Keun Suk’s style (laugh). By the way, it appears the love describes in this song is something like a forbidden love.
J: Hmm… a forbidden love. In a sense, you may feel so, listening to it.
R: ‘Before Dawn’, ‘Road Race’ and ‘To the place where the sun shines’. I think these 3 songs give this album snap.
J: They are up-tempo tunes.
R: Compared to previous albums, the balance in up-tempo and soft tunes are reversal. I suppose singing ‘Before Dawn’ is hard for you?
J: Very tough (laugh). Compared to a typical short tune, there are more words in one song, which made it more difficult. In contrast, the recording of another quick tempo song ‘Road Race’ was completed in a blink. I could sing naturally as my heart flows with the strong beat of the song.
R: Placed as the last song in the album ‘Let’s go back sweet home’, the leisurely acoustic music brings about a carefree atmosphere. Very touching.
J: It’s a confession song from me to myself. I think this song has such an aspect. I previously never have time to reflect on myself, however, since last year, I’ve finally had time to stop and asked myself “Why am I running till here?” . This song reflects such a feeling.
R: The last verse “Seeing tomorrow, it’s time to move forward” sure leaves a deep impression.
J: Right. Returning home means not the final stop.
R: So, I suppose the idea connects to the character of album ‘Monochrome’? You stop to reflect on yourself now, but…
J: There is a feeling that it’s a temporary break. Even though taking a break, it is also a time for growth. So there is a possibility that I’ll become hyper again. If it happens, it could bring about a new perspective. ‘Monochrome’ is an album that means a lot to me, even till death.
1. 淡い雪のように (awai yuki no yoh ni; Fragile like snow)
I think only this track leaves a similar impression to the past 2 albums. Hence initially it was intended as the lead song. Don’t you think it gives an upbeat feel of a charismatic guy?
2. 鳴らない目覚まし時計 (naranai mezamashi dokei; The alarm clock that doesn’t ring)
In contrast, a sad song. It is rather unthinkable for me to sing such a lonely song, but it set a new challenge for me in a sense. This is a broken-hearted song which speaks of the stories from the past till now.
3. 夜明け前 (yoake mae; Before dawn)
A fast beat, up-tempo song, which uses many lyrics, hence was the toughest to record. There is a line in the lyrics “Even if the answer is unclear, look at your yesterday self and look forward” which speaks of the various hurdle one has to cross.
4. ひだまり (Hidamari; Sunshine)
The lead song of this album. As soon as the recording was completed, the staff and I collectively said “this is the one!”. A song that resonates, with a chorus full of hope! I have not confirmed, if possible, I hope to sing while playing the guitar during the live show.
5. 空と君と (sora to kimi to; The sky and you)
Only included in the normal edition, a mid-tempo song. This is also a song of hope, however, unlike the past zikzin ahead style, this is slightly more controlled, touching directly the inner hearts of those listening to the song.
6. ロードレース (Road race)
A fast beat song, in fact the fastest song in this album. With the strong tempo, singing out naturally with the beat of the heart. It feels like singing on a moving train.
7. 一つ傘の下 (hitotu kasa no shita; Under one umbrella)
Not a lonely song. I really like “tu tu tu ttu~” accompanying parts. There is a movie “Begin Again”. I felt this song has the same atmosphere as that movie.
8. 風 (kaze; Wind)
Full of emotions. Hence it requires a lot of energy to sing. In fact, after recording the song, I was so tired and fell down on the car on the way home. It seems one sings the song on the stage alone.
9. 陽の射す方へ (hi no sasu hoh e; To where the sun shines)
A fast beat, energetic song, with a strong message of moving forward, suitable in a sports environment or soundtrack of animation. During the demo, the initial title of the song was set as ‘World Cup’. (laugh)
10. 春になれば (haru ni nare ba; When spring comes)
It would be more appropriate to say that the lyrics sounds like a conversation. When I first read the Japanese lyrics, I thought so. Even after singing the song, I felt the same. I felt like I was speaking to friends in junior or high school days. It’s my favorite song in this album.
11. 家に帰ろう (uchi ni kae roh ; Let’s go back sweet home)
Placed as the last song in the album, a warm and reminiscing song. “There was no fear at all. I lived a life of my own feverishly”. Maybe these phrase are quite symbolic of my life thus far, the present-day me, presenting my true self through this song.