[ENG] Days With You, Baekhyun from EXO | 더블유 코리아 (W Korea)

[ENG] Days With Baekhyun

2023-02-23T18:10:56+00:002023.02.23|FASHION, FEATURE, 피플|

Returning after two years, Baekhyun used the word “comfort” often.

Baekhyun’s only wish is to sing heart-felt, timeless songs for us. Baekhyun talked about the days spent with us and the days ahead of us.

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<W Korea> How many days has it been since you were discharged from the military?

Baekhyun Today is precisely the third day since I’ve been out.


You have finally gifted flower shoes to the fans. (‘Giving flower shoes’ is a Korean phrase that means returning to the significant other who had been waiting for their partner to return from military service.)

I know. Before I left for the military, I told the fans that many things could change in a year and nine months. How could I make them wait? I told them to focus on their own lives but come back if they feel like it when I return. I said, if anything, I would try to win them back again.


So, you recently did a live show to celebrate discharge. Seeing you’re still as bright and youthful, fans recalled the time you promoted your second solo mini-album, “Delight,” released three years ago.

Honestly, I was super worried. But I was relieved to see their warm reactions. I’m grateful to my parents. Haha.


You talked about your time in the army during the live show.

Most of my training campmates were born after 1999, except for a few. I was the eldest there. Everyone followed me like their older brother. I still keep in touch with the friends I met then. Recently, I got a call from one of them. He said, “I am working out at the gym right now.” He was a skinny one, and every single day at the training camp, I told him to work out.


Baekhyun, as we know, was the life of the party among the EXO and SuperM members. Your bubbly personality would have shined in the army training camp.

There was no exception. I didn’t let anyone fall behind. Whenever I saw someone wanting to give up, I said, “You can’t lose to things like this,” “If you keep giving up, this becomes your habit,” and, “Real life outside is much harder than this.” I don’t let my friends give up or fall behind. I pull them together.

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I presume the past two years have been a time to realize and reassess who Byun Baek Hyun really is as a person, not just Beakhyun from EXO.

Yeah. My MBTI changed during the break from ISFP to ESTJ. I’ve been known as a homebody for a long time among my friends. But I’m actually an extrovert and a very active person. But when I look back on my childhood, I barely had time to spend at home. To the point where my mother always said, “How come I see my son only for breakfast?” I felt like I went back to my real self during the break.


Was it also a time to realize again what your fans mean to you?

Of course. I still have a long way to go to learn about the fans thoroughly. There’s something I learned this time, though. The fact that our existence to each other is a lot bigger than what we think. During the first year of my alternative military service, I looked back a lot. I watched a lot of the past concert videos. At concerts, I had a lot of fun with them. There were times when I saw my facial expression on the stage and thought I really did bust my butt to pull everything. Also, sometimes I felt really empty and felt this unfillable void. At one point, I thought, “Will they still be there?” while listening to the cheers of fans in those videos. They are like a really good teacher who would grade me and encourage me. They inspire me to do my homework. They have had me run, take lessons and become a better person. I want to do well to hear their acknowledgment. If they didn’t exist, I probably would not have tried so hard to come this far.


Your Namu-wiki page has a “Fan Love” section. As we read through the things you’ve said to the fans, we thought even a real boyfriend couldn’t say such sweet things.

Haha. Definitely my mom’s influence there. She speaks so gently. She is the sweetest person, really. And I am the youngest in the family. My family poured sweet love on me. Sometimes, fans ask me how I can speak so nicely. To be honest, I don’t know. I feel it’s nothing special, to me, a very ordinary and everyday thing.

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It seems like fans could rarely feel the army break. You filmed 20 pieces of YouTube content ahead of time and released them during the break.

I know how hard it is to wait. Even when we did the EXO concert tour, we couldn’t release an album during that time. So it had been a long-standing concern about how to fill the vacancy. In particular, no one was trying to do something special to fill the vacancy during the military break. At first, I thought about making a small game instead of a video. Like the Tamagotchi game, fans can foster ‘Baekhyun’ from level 1 for 641 days while I am away. Feed him, water him. Haha.


The background in planning the pre-created YouTube Content was to give fans something to calm their longings, but also in some parts, wishing your fans would not forget you by watching these videos, right?

Yeah, that is pretty much it. Actually, I was swamped when we were filming the YouTube videos. I had a hectic schedule. It was just around when my third solo mini album <Bambi> came out, and on top of that, SuperM’s promotion overlapped. But after filming them, I felt so indescribably proud.


The 2021 album <Bambi> leaves much to be desired in some ways because it had no official activities due to your military service. Nonetheless, it recorded high sales, enough to bring the double million-seller title. It was also the album released in the year of your 30th birthday, showcasing your finest skills as a vocalist.

<Bambi> was created strictly with my own needs and vision. I tried everything I wanted to do without looking at anyone, and I wanted to free my mind by doing so. You are right. I put in everything I could as a vocalist. I first rearranged my vocal tone around the time of my first solo mini-album <City Lights> in 2019, and I wanted to see how much I had grown since then. I became very dedicated because I thought I could make a better sound than two years ago. I tried the vocal ranges that I wouldn’t have chosen in the past because I was too nervous. I purposely chose difficult music because I wanted to experience both failures and trials.


In particular, the title song Bambi seems to have been a regular song for the music school entrance exam that year. It’s perfect for showing off your vocal skills going back and forth freely with your falsetto, modal, and head voice.

Well, I don’t really recommend it. It’s a high-risk song, the beat and rhythm are tough. It’s a pretty challenging song to sing well.


With the release of <Bambi>, Baekhyun’s genre and brand have become more apparent. “Baekhyun” reminds us of groovy R&B beats from UN Village in the album <City Lights> and Candy in <Delight>.

R&B is a genre that I’ve been attached to for a long time, so I’ll continue with it. However, I also want new challenges. I want to try this and that without being too picky. I want to be an all-rounder. I’m interested in singing-rap these days.


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Which musician are you paying attention to as a reference these days?

I’ve gotten closer to Colde recently. I like his singing style, and it’s fabulous that he pulls off the melody rhythmically as if he’s rapping. I’ve requested songs from Colde. I don’t know what kind of work will come out yet, but we’ll work together soon.


As a musician, there’s no more valuable experience than getting a “response” to your song. All three solo albums released so far have recorded respectable sales. Did you expect such success?

Not at all. It exceeded my expectations. This record was possible thanks to the efforts of many K-pop singers ahead of me. In particular, the sales volume of the second album <Delight> was the highest in 20 years of Korean pop music history.


<Delight> became the first solo album to achieve the million-seller title, and you became the second artist to hold such titles for both the group and solo albums, following after Seo Tai-ji.

Yes, but it’s all thanks to the dedication of so many Korean musicians. As K-pop became more known worldwide, more people started paying attention to K-culture. The Korean artists before me had already paved the roads and I just got to piggyback on them.

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I don’t feel any guilt when I listen to your music. Maybe it’s a complete anachronism, but there’s still a certain prejudice regarding idol music. Similarly, some idol music is referred to as a ‘hidden masterpiece.’ But when I listen to Baekhyun’s solo music, I feel like I’m just listening to really good music.

Thanks. I indeed paid a lot of attention to that. I chose a lot of genres that wouldn’t come from SM. SM prefers strong and intense sounds, but I wanted to focus on easy-listening music. It was partly because of my preference and strategic choice to differentiate between EXO and solo activities. Seeing that many of the tracks from my solo albums are still receiving a ot of love, I think it was a good decision.


It is common to spot excessiveness in solo albums by Idol group members. It was rather unique that Baekhyun has an easy mood, as you’ve just said.

I pushed for that. I kept thinking, ‘I’ll make more easy-listening music,’ ‘The music should not change in the middle,’ and ‘The melody should flow as expected.’ I wanted to minimize statement sounds and focus on the lyrics. There was even some feedback from the company that it fell short. But I kept pushing. My motto was to do something that sounds easy to people’s ears, like passive music, even if it may not feel ‘sophisticated or innovative’ for some.


What you just said seems connected to the question of, ‘what is good music to me as a musician?’

Probably. In a way, I’m making music that’s pleasant to listen to. But I don’t usually listen to a lot of music. My ears are so tired. Since I’m a singer, I need to know a lot of songs, but when I find one I like, I listen to it over and over. There’s something in common when I look at the songs I’m hooked on. It’s not too much, and it just has one or two significant factors.


For example?

I especially like old-fashioned pop songs. Fibo Bryson’s Why Goodbye is also a song that I love, for example. If you listen to it, there’s a particular section once in the bridge, once in the chorus, and once in the verse. You can listen to it comfortably, and the sound is completely filled with only vocals.

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옐로 골드 케이스 및 옐로 골드 브레이슬릿에
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What is the vocal tone you pursue?

If I could have a voice that doesn’t go out of date, I couldn’t ask for more.


It’s also the most challenging thing.

I know. I once imagined, “Will Baekhyun’s episode of ‘Hidden Singer’ come out?” I don’t think so. Because my voice doesn’t have a distinctive feature. But it’s definitely a voice that can give you some comfort. A good tone depends on the time and taste. It’s something that keeps moving without being fixed. So I just want my voice to be peaceful and stable. I hope I can make the sound warm enough to relax your body. That’s all I want.


It’s been 11 years since your debut, and you’re still taking vocal lessons every week, right?

Yes. I have a big desire to evolve. I thought about it when EXO received a lot of attention with Growl in 2013. ‘Why are so many people going crazy? Am I really that good? I don’t think so. If the heat goes away, they will see me.’ That’s why I kept trying. I always criticize myself more than others do. It’s not a matter of high self-esteem and low self-esteem. I’m just continuing to make up for my shortcomings because I know my weaknesses better than anyone else.

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To me, Baekhyun is not a person with low self-esteem but one who constantly and carefully self-censors himself.

Yes, that’s right. Maybe I am a perfectionist, and I hate it when there’s no complete ending. If I don’t think I can finish something properly, I don’t even start. I tend to get extremely disappointed with myself if I don’t do something perfectly at work.


A perfectionist who pursues easiness… It sounds hard. Haha

Haha. As a musician, I want to be an easy person who can blend in with the public. I don’t want to be a musician who is so cool that people admire and want to follow. I want to be someone people can talk to easily when they meet me on the street while listening to my song.


The only regret for Baekhyun as a solo musician is that he had little opportunity to tell autobiographical stories in music. What kind of stories do you want to tell through your music as 32-year-old Baekhyun?

I want to deliver encouraging lyrics. And deliver the message that you shouldn’t give up easily and try to face more challenges. I think the disappearance of the “Jeong” culture played a role in making people get easily tired these days. In the past, when a neighbor moved in, we used to make steamed rice cakes. If the next door neighbor cooks a lot of food, they would share it with others. But living in a disconnected world without affection, people seem to think only of themselves. I want to put a hopeful message in my song that we can all unite in harmony again.

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It’s been two years since W Magazine and Baekhyun met—, since the cover of the March 2021 issue, right? Throughout today’s shoot, the staff said you were sexy. Baekhyun’s “soft sexiness” that you’ve shown in your solo career seems to be reflected in today’s shoot.

Sexy… Haha. I don’t think the sexiness that I have is the sexiness that’s full of intense emotions. It’s more like this. Sometimes you play with your friends, and you feel unexpectedly sexy. I think I have the sexiness to make people a little curious about me. Haha


Today’s shoot was with Cartier’s Tank Frances Watch and Icon Collection. These are pieces that have been called Wannabe by many artists for their timeless classic aesthetic. Regardless of timea and nationality, who is the greatest artist for Baekhyun?

Michael Jackson! Michael Jackson was the only artist who stood still on stage for a few seconds or minutes and people couldn’t stop cheering. His songs have made many people cry for a long time, giving them joy and happiness. So just seeing him standing still on the stage makes them tear up. There isn’t an artist who can beat Michael Jackson.


Still, what would be your secret weapon that you could win over Michael Jackson?

Hmm… My gentle way of talking? Haha.

EXO recently announced the news of EXO’s 11th-anniversary fan meeting. What would it look like if you were to compare EXO to family?

Children who were raised by a strict father but had an infinitely sweet mother? Maybe the stage is our dad. We work hard on stage until it feels like our bodies would break literally. But when we get off stage, we act like kids. Not one friend is rude, and everyone is so kind. When we talk to each other, there’s no difference from when we debuted 11 years ago or when we were trainees.


What are the three things Baekhyun is focusing on these days?

I’m into golf. Out on the golf field, my arms got so tanned, dark enough to leave a watch mark on my wrist. I feel very relieved when I go rounding and see the open space. The second one is the direction of the vocals. And for the third, I was going to say exercise but I’m going to change that. (Kim) Jong-kook, whom I became close with through workouts, said, “It’s time for you to focus on your back.” But hip workouts are too hard. Haha. The last one is EXO’s comeback. We will return as soon as possible with a high-quality album this year.

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