“I really love The Rolling Stones. It’s my one and only wish to meet them. If I ever do a concert in England, I’m definitely going to cover a Rolling Stones song!”
A collaboration between YESUNG and The Rolling Stones – it’s the sort of fantastical musical scenario that would bring the internet to a halt for weeks. The SUPER JUNIOR singer’s love of Mick Jagger and co. was one of the endearing moments in an interview that let us get to know the person behind the famed K-Pop star.
And really, letting the world know more about YESUNG has been his major mission in the first half of 2023: he finally released his first solo full-length Korean album, Sensory Flows, earlier this year.
The album was an unsurprising hit in his home country, also impressing audiences in Japan, Australia and beyond, and wonderfully showcased his genre-hopping abilities and allowed his solo sensibilities to unfurl away from his world-conquering main group.
Read the rest of our interview with YESUNG below, in which he discusses the vision behind Sensory Flows, touring with SUPER JUNIOR, and his strong connection with his fans.
YESUNG’s Sensory Flows is out now.
Rolling Stone AU/NZ: It took you quite a while to drop your first full-length Korean album. What was the reason for waiting so long?
YESUNG: Honestly speaking, the company just gave me an opportunity now to be able to work on my first full-length album.
We’re used to seeing a lot of glorious, elaborate productions from SUPER JUNIOR, but your album had a very understated, subtle, indie pop/bedroom pop vibe. Why did you decide to go this way, and how do you feel connected to this aesthetic?
SUPER JUNIOR’s music is for everyone so the focus isn’t on showcasing my own music preferences. But when it comes to doing a solo album, I’m able to design everything from the concept to music, and express the music that I like and want to do. Right now, I enjoy the music that I’m currently working on.
What song on Sensory Flows / Floral Sense feels most personal to you – and why?
All of the tracks feel personal to me. My new album includes not only the title track but also a song that I worked on that’s about my mother, which makes it feel more personal to me.
Why did you think Sensory Flows was the kind of topic that you wanted to start with? What did you feel about the concept when you first interacted with it?
It all started from me – the album concept, the story, the music, even the music video. For the first full studio album, I wanted to emphasise the point that it came from all the sensibilities that are from me and inside me. I wanted to tell you that the first full studio album special version of Floral Sense is a mid-stage where all the sensibilities of mine bloom. I am currently preparing the next album which is another series of the senses I have.
I read that Floral Sense was inspired by your own sensibilities about winter and spring. Could you elaborate on that a little bit?
First of all, what most of the fans talk about the style of music that I do is that they try to compare it to winter. They say that it’s closer to winter. But actually I really enjoy listening to R&B and and pop and jazz, which is more of the warm side of music where I could say it’s close to spring and summer. I know that people are looking forward to listening to my winter tone music, but in this album I tried to contain both band and jazz and the winter and the spring. I wanted to have both of those moods and atmospheres in this album.
Since we’re talking about spring and winter, is it safe to say that Winter represents winter in the title track and you represent spring?
This doesn’t actually have anything to do with winter and the season. “Floral Sense” was a song I prepared as a solo. I do have both the solo version and the duet version. When I first prepared the version that I sing alone, I thought that it was really good, but I did think something was missing.
I decided that I wanted to release it right after I came back from the Latin American tour with SUPER JUNIOR. I focused more on trying to express what’s in the lyrics and the true meaning that it has. I felt that it would be better expressed if we had a girl’s vocal inside of it. Coincidentally, I was listening to a song and I heard Winter’s voice and I thought that it’s very close to spring and had a very bright vibe to it. That’s why I reached out to her and thankfully she liked the song.
aespa’s Winter is also your junior in the industry – you and SUPER JUNIOR are veterans now! What kind of changes have you seen in your juniors compared to how you guys were back then?
Compared to how it was back then, it’s freer and the way of expression is much more diverse.
Sensory Flows and Floral Sense felt very shy in a lot of places. It seemed like you were trying to decide between saying something or staying silent. you’re famously an introvert in the group, right? Did you feel that connection with these songs?
I actually haven’t thought about this that deeply. I did really focus on emphasising the whole teen theme on this album, which contains my own sensibilities. One of the songs I did write myself, “Mother”, I focused on trying to say and express what I would like to tell the audience. For “Small Things”, it was very focused on the music, my musical colour, and I wanted to show who I am.
I saw this video recently from a SUPER JUNIOR concert where a fan handed a baby to the group. It felt very heartwarming – it felt like a symbol of how far you and your fans have come together now babies are attending concerts with their parents. When you guys have moments like that on stage, how do you feel about it?
I would like to say that I’m very thankful and grateful when I do see and witness these kinds of incidents. I’m very grateful to the fans. They are the motivation and source of energy for me and the group. Honestly, the last tour wasn’t easy, but by seeing the fans like this, it made me feel grateful and once again I received a lot of energy.