[Interview] Taeyang; GQ Man of the Year


Relaxing after the photo shoot.  Having removed the luxurious fur coat, Taeyang saunters over to us.  The editor and the photographer are in the midst of talking about a delivery crisis that occurred due to traffic backed up by a state function on November 11th.  The bonsai pine tree that was to be used for the shoot almost didn’t make it in time.  After listening quietly, Taeyang murmurs, “Why do they make such a fuss…” Having never been one for acting up or posturing – in a Korean mainstream music scene where, nowadays, it’s hard to even distinguish Idol from Ah-ee-deul [children] – Taeyang is stubbornly walking a different path.  Rather than insisting on a certain concept, he has the belief that he’s doing what he wants.  Rather than mindlessly complaining about the state of the music scene, he shows the determination to triumph over its weaknesses.  Rather than flaunting insistently, he has the maturity as a singer to sometimes just keep quiet.

Still, on this occasion provided to praise and congratulate him, Taeyang lets out a sigh. “Hmm… I guess looking back, it’s kind of bittersweet.  It was great.  After all, I finally got to release the album that I’d worked on for so long, the number of people that listened to and appreciated the album grew, the international response was a big support, and I got to have the concerts that I’d been wanting so much.  But I think when the curtain goes down, we all feel that way.  You’re happy, but a little sad, and you’re left with a lot of afterimages.  You can’t help thinking, ‘Maybe I should have done things this way.’  A sense of emptiness, maybe? Like there’s a corner that’s still unfulfilled.  ‘Cause I’m in a somewhat ambiguous position.” He trails off at the last sentence.  “What I wanted most when I released my album was to do a lot of gigs, whether on a small stage, a big stage or in the streets.  I always dreamt of being in the same space and exchanging with the people who listen to my music, and I still dream of it now.  But I’m not in a position where I can perform in just small theatres.  And yet, I didn’t want to just promote in a media-centered way either [i.e. via media, rather than person-to-person].  And I can’t just mix it up and do both – that’s why my situation is ambiguous.” Then, is sadness/regret something that’s unavoidable?

This year, Taeyang took the stage with the songs, “I Need a Girl” and “I’ll Be There.”  The contrast between the two songs is like that of a crisp white shirt and a heavy leather jacket.  One was pliant, almost bouncy; the other was dark and sticky.  And there was a focus on showing a complete stage.  In a sense, Taeyang completely eliminated the childish act of repeating embarrassing movements and attaching a name to it as “Something Something Dance.”  His was a method unfamiliar in the mainstream music scene.  In a system where everything becomes an issue, he was an instant name, but one who seemed to be trying to erase something.  When interest stems from being “Taeyang of Big Bang,” is going solo really going solo?  His effort to create his own lofty stage may very well be Taeyang’s foremost task to overcome.  But when even so-called music programs invite him, only to end up talking for laughs about what goes on inside the Big Bang apartment, could he have felt a little lonely? “If I hadn’t been a member of Big Bang, I probably couldn’t have started my career amidst all this applause.  So I’m grateful and thankful.  At the same time, on the solo stage, there’s a lot more I have to overcome on my own.  Ultimately, I think the only way to communicate my sincerity on stage is to sing with sincerity.  It’s what I feel when I watch performances of many of the artists I respect.”


His full-blown activities over the summer culminated with two concerts.  The second concert, in particular, created an unexpected encore stage, wherein session musicians who were ready to exit the venue with guitar cases in hand were called back to the stage.  Taeyang stood silently, his eyes glistening with emotion, while the audience was overcome with the energy of watching someone’s final stage.  “It’s fortunate that I do feel it’s my destiny to make music and stand on the stage like this.  I get the sense that this stage and the music I’m making is right.  Even if it’s not my own, I hope you will listen to all the good music in the world and find happiness.  That’s why I make music and perform on stage, so I really hope you guys will be happy.” This heightened atmosphere was only settled when he laughed after forgetting the lyrics to “Take It Slow.” “Strangely, I’m especially prone to forget that song.”

Having finished the concerts, Taeyang took off for Jaeju Island.  “It was my first time in Jaeju-do.  I didn’t think I’d see such scenery in my own country.  Mt. Halla stands out in my memory.  And I planned to see Mara-do but accidentally ended up in Woo-do.  The clear waters of Woo-do was unforgettable, too.  Everything about Jaeju-do was good.  And yet, I couldn’t rest fully because I was aware that I had to ‘reset.’  It was a short 2 nights, 3 days trip, but it made me think that I need to keep traveling in order to not lose what’s inside me.  I travel a lot lately since getting my driver’s license and buying a car. I enjoy the weather whenever I get the chance.  I can’t go far, but I have driven as far as Incheon Airport.  I haven’t felt anything particularly special about buying a car, but listening to music while driving is a new feeling.  It’s so different from listening while you’re walking.”

Maybe it’s a little soon for such reflections? He is calm throughout, as calm as the fields at night.  It may be that what he needs is bigger, bigger, even bigger ovation.  So let’s applaud him once more before continuing.  “I heard a lot of praise, too.  I was really happy when I heard [your] comment that I sang like ‘crazy.’  But I think this now and then – what if I step on stage today, and the lights come on, but there’s no one there.  There’s really no one.  Or there are, but they aren’t focused on my music.  Would I be able to sing with my heart?  As a singer, I ought to be able to sing passionately even in such circumstances, but I get doubts.  Would I really be able to…?”


While we were watching his overwhelming performances, what did he, himself, experience standing on that stage?  Our appreciation of Taeyang’s music is built on a certain belief, and the praise for his stage performances is such that one can’t even find any of the all-too-common “anti-”s.  (Park Jin Young has said that Taeyang has gotten to the level of playing with the rhythm.)  Yet, he speaks of fear.  Well, there are easy solutions.  He could just continue to show us.  He could just overcome it and prove it.  He could be sly and occasionally give the public what it wants.  Say, leak a “legendary video” of him singing a song that can display his amazing singing skills – a very common occurrence today.  “Um, I don’t know.  If I wanted to, I would have done it.”

He stutters a little, “It’s… It’s like… I think it’s like this.  If I really like that artist, if I truly like that song, then I can sing it.  But to sing a difficult song simply to show off how accomplished I am… I’ve always felt that a song is meant to share its sincerity and to move people.  Singing just to show off your level and craft is meaningless.” He is unsparing.  It wasn’t anything to dither about, but it was such a rare kind of comment that it vibrated with me.

His singing is not about how many octaves he can climb, or how amazingly he can sing the climactic section of “Nothing Better.” It’s not the kind you can contend against someone else’s.  In fact, he may not be able to win such a contest.  Instead, we give ear to Taeyang’s singing because of his voice color and his supple vocal expression.  It’s because he doesn’t sing with an acquired technique of “this must be sung this way.”  Rather, his sincere effort to always put himself into his singing is beautiful.  When I joke that he would get an express ticket to legendary status if he sang “Creep” [Crip?  Clip?] or “She’s Gone,” his eyes smile first – instant baby face, and after such mature conversation.

“When I was younger, my nickname was “Ddongbae” [potbelly] or “Ddong” [dung].  But mostly “Ddongbae.”  At the time, I hated “Dong” more than “Youngbae.”  Because they made fun of it no matter what.  Even to this day, I’ve yet to meet anyone with the last name, Dong, who isn’t a relative.  No matter how uncommon your last name is, you’re usually bound to find at least one other person in school with the same name.  So I had this feeling of being remote and alone.  Now that I’m older, I just see it as rare, unique.”

Twenty-three years old.  It’s an age when you know some things and don’t know some things.  That goes for anyone, but not everyone thinks deeply about it.  “I know my faults very well.  In the past, I was really afraid that others will find them out.  But early this year, there was an instance when I really opened my heart, and I also changed a lot while releasing and promoting my album.  I’m still young, and I think it’s an age when it’s okay to show myself hitting against [struggling, going against] something.  That doesn’t mean I can be a spoiled child, of course.” Nonsense.  A spoiled child plants himself in one place and throws a tantrum.  Taeyang is moving forward.  “I think the next solo album will take as long as this one.  I was working hard on this album, and it still took this long.  Then again, if I change the mindset that it needs to be a full album, I can release singles now and then when there’s time and promote that way.  It wouldn’t be bad to promote the way I did with “Wedding Dress” last year. At the time, it bothered me a little that I couldn’t commit fully to my solo activity.  But, looking back, it meant a good song didn’t get lost [amongst the album tracks], so it was pretty good.”

Until Solar came out Taeyang rarely left the studio, to the extent that his boss had to push him to meet people, so there is no reason for me to advise the same again.  I only suggest generally – wouldn’t it be nice to just do what you want to do freely?  “I’m a singer, not a producer, so I enjoy being on stage the most.  Being on stage is more fun than leaning too much in one particular area.  In a way, I’m able to endure the time in the studio because of the thoughts of being on stage later.” Then shouldn’t he get out of the studio more?  “My ideas, whether they are melodies or lyrics, begin outside the studio.  That’s why I’m sensing increasingly that travel is important, and I make memos on my iPhone now and then.  If I were more outgoing, I would have probably written more songs.  But because my natural character isn’t that way, it takes a lot of time and effort to get one song out.”

In an era when everyone is clamoring for attention, when ridiculous sayings and music that isn’t even music gain popularity based solely on celebrity, Taeyang says he wants to spend more time.  “Truthfully, my personality doesn’t really suit this era or its trends.  You have to make things quickly and always be doing something.  Ultimately, in order to express something fully, I need to gain a lot through experience.  And, most of all, I want more time for myself.” I ask again how old he is.  And suddenly wonder about a twenty-seven year old Taeyang. “I’m curious, too… How I’ll be.”

I ask this earnest young man two rather juvenile questions to close.  They both begin with “when.”  Firstly, when will he have a romantic relationship? And secondly, when will he go for his military service?  “As far as relationships, I trying to first meet a lot of people.  Starting with the people around me, I feel like I need to get to know a lot of people.  And of course I’m going to serve in the military, but I’m praying every day that the reunification will happen sooner rather than later. ^^” I won’t explain his expression after he said that.  (By Jang Woo-Chul/Editor)

Translations by Sylvia@ALWAYSTAEYANG.COM | Do not remove credit when posting elsewhere

Thanks to Sol-mate for the photo scans

32 thoughts on “[Interview] Taeyang; GQ Man of the Year”

  1. Well his photos may not make him the most GQ but his interviews really push his ballot up the latter. good stuff. thanks for the translations

  2. i love his interviews so much, very insightful and meaningful! he’s beautiful as his words.

    thanks for translating and sharing! 🙂

  3. GQ never ever fails. NEVER. I gotta say, this interview was great. After being so frustrated with him/the promotions/the circumstances (sorry..I don’t forget easily) I felt like this interview really gave me some closure. I’m glad he’s satisfied…and Youngbae is absolutely right. There’s always regrets and “could haves” and “should haves,” but he always has next time.

    I always appreciate his honesty..yet I really never know what’s going on with him. -_-

    And what can I say…Jang Woo Chul is a major fanboy. (how many times has he interviewed TY?) lol. GQ are all fanboys and fangirls. I agree with what the article said about YB..He just does his “thang” unbeknown to what the industry is like…or what he should do. Yes..Youngbae has an old soul. He isn’t “trendy” but he’ll last forever!

    ” Instead, we give ear to Taeyang’s singing because of his voice color and his supple vocal expression. It’s because he doesn’t sing with an acquired technique of “this must be sung this way.” Rather, his sincere effort to always put himself into his singing is beautiful. “ EXACTLY. EXACTLY!

    1. lol, I agree. This interview does give me closure cause I had a lot of frustrations too – with him, YG, promotions, etc.

      But yeah, every time I read a YB interview I’m always left with the sense that I know him but I don’t. Like we’re only scratching the surface, which I true cause there is only so many questions and he can only be so honest.

      However, I’m proud that he’s satisfied, I’m also proud that he has so much more he wants to do. Hearing what he’s been up to, that he’s dreaming of traveling and is opening himself up makes me happy. I’m excited for the next album, I’m hoping it’s the long awaited REAL.

      And of course, GQ never fails to deliver a great YB interview but they always make sure to ask the difficult stuff that us fans want to know, cause they’re fans too.

      1. REAL…I’m hoping I’ll get to hear it eventually.

        I think bittersweet is the perfect word. I’ve used it before as well (YB+tofu=soulmates? lol) There were really some great moments with this album despite all the mishaps. It pretty much defined my summer. ❤ There's much to respect because his work is really well-produced, high detailed, and has something to say. I think if he keeps up this mentality and puts the same effort into everything he does, he'll continue with this success.

        Two years is a long time to wait to be honest, but I do believe anything worthwhile takes time. (yeahh singles inbetween would be fantastic Youngbae lol)

        1. Haha he should so release REAL. I mean if he ends up never using any of those songs what a waste cos i just know the songs on that album are dope.

          @ tofu: definitely worth waiting for…..definitely worth flying to Korea to watch his next concert. I’m already hyped and theres still another 2 years to wait -___-

    2. You speak out my exact thoughts.

      just wanna say want thing.. the stylist noonas must have been kidnapped or something. the pics aren’t great looking.

  4. i’ve forgiven GQ for taking unfortunate photos that looks recycled coz they gave us once again,thought provoking interview.a big thumbs up to jang woo chul.
    and thank you ATY,for the translation.

    his accomplishments even the smallest of things like him driving his own car made me so happy.and i’m glad he’s starting to come out of his shell.went to jeju for a vacation,being spotted here and there,eating out and meeting a lot of people.

    YoungBae is an old soul trap in a young man’s body and with a heart of an innocent boy.
    and just like his name,the reason why the music industry appreciate him is because of his rareness.and i’m so proud to be his fan and so glad to have found him and being able to witness his journey.

    1. “YoungBae is an old soul trap in a young man’s body and with a heart of an innocent boy.”

      So true. You captured him exactly.

      And yeah, even seeing him go on vacation, eating out with friends, driving his car – it all makes me proud even though it’s the smallest things. I’m happy that he’s finally getting out of his shell and I hope he keeps moving forward, and I hope he gets the opportunity to travel like he wishes.

      Being Taeyang has given Dong Young Bae a lot of opportunities but also sets limitations too. He’s the type that needs something big to shake him up -like last year – and hopefully that shake up will continue to push him forward. As a fan, it’s exciting to see his growth as a person and as a musician, excited for the next go around.

      Haha, I’ve commented so much in my own posts.

  5. military service? I hope all is resolved before he goes. but his interviews get more and more personal and inciteful to who he is.

  6. His interviews are always gripping. You don’t exactly know if he’ll answer the question directly, at face value, or share what he’s thinking/thought about the subject beforehand. Regardless, no matter what he says there’s always conviction. I love how each word is weighted, it’s like a short story, each word counts toward the whole interview even the ^^ at the end was genius. :p
    Really so much props to the interviewer. 🙂

    As for the whole promotion cycle, I didn’t mind the YG screw ups, but was happy that it’s helped him and the company grow. YB inadvertently became the guinea pig, so whenever he decides to release another album, billboard chart, better watch out ^_^.

  7. This really convinces me more why I like this artist. He is a old soul in a young man’s body. He has the heart and he understands why music was made. I like him, both as an artist and as a person. Way to go Young Bae…. may you continue to grow in this journey of life…

    Agree with you guys, the interviewer knows the right questions to ask and knows that he/she is talking to a person and musician not just another idol.

    Thanks for this share

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  9. Seriously good interview…it was more like a conversation rather than an interview, thats what made it good. No questions being fired at him, but more like encouraging him to say what he wants to say and think.

    I love the way he thinks…haha that seems weird. But hes right…we don’t listen to music to hear how high pitched someone can go or how good someone can rap. I think because he has that ability to be so sincere when he sings and move you….its what i like about his music the most.

    And i love the comment “But to sing a difficult song simply to show off how accomplished I am…”
    That pretty much sums up YB. He doesn’t get pulled into all that popularity media crap. He sings because he enjoys singing and he wants to make people happy with his music. Nothing else to it.

    Finally people need to shut up about Big Bangs comeback. It’s not as if they are sitting on their asses doing nothing. If anything 2ne1 tv shows they work on their album till like 3am. There all about making great music…not releasing it as fast as possible just to get the money in or win awards.

    The solo concert live DVD is original versions for Japan!

    Release day:January 26th(Wed)


    Contents:3DVD+Photo Book
    DISC 3:MAKING DVD(B I G B A N G / 2 N E 1 / S E 7 E N / G U M M Y)

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    1. Oh is that the concert DVD to be released in January 2011? man why are they announcing it now and making us go through Christmas without having it…grr

  11. wow this has got to be one ,if not,the best interview by Taeyang so far I’ve read.GQ and that editor Jang Woo Chul really are amazing, they always capture the essence of who Youngbae is and therefore they’re actually able to see him for that rare and precious person/musician he is =)

  12. Isn’t Taeyang 23? If so then why is there 27 explain to me please!~ Anyway thanks so much! We love him here in the US

    1. they were just saying that they were wondering how he’ll be when he’s 27 considering he’s such an old soul.

  13. GQ has done it again…great interview!
    Is this the same editor that interviewed YB for the past GQ articles? This guy seems to really know about YB’s performances and personality.

  14. GQ has proved again that they never disappoint. THIS INTERVIEW WAS EXCELLENT. 😀

    Like Bluemaid and Tofu, I feel like I know YB even more through each interview, but somehow there’s still more that I don’t know. =\ Weird feeling, but hey with each and every Q&A you can feel his sincerity and honesty put into each word that he says.

    What I love about YB (and the reason I really am proud to be his fan) is his attitude towards music, and his abilities to portray the emotions in the songs. You can tell he is serious about what he does, and wants to do well. He’s not influenced by the media crap either, or the money hype that happens when you enter the industry and soar in popularity. He’s not blinded by those things, and I really really admire him for that. =)

    True, in a time like this it’s best to come out with as many songs as possible, regardless of the quality. But personally, I’d want to see that my money is going to a good place, that QUALITY is what I’m getting in return for buying their work.

    I would no doubt support him again in his next album, maybe next year or two or who know’s when, but I know it will be worth the wait. FIGHITNG YB!

    BEBEluv put it real well: YB’s an old soul trapped in a young man’s body with a heart like an innocent boy.

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