South Korea not only dominates when it comes to technology, but it is also a leader when it comes to pop music. While K-pop plunges through the globe, there are various other genres that deserve one’s attention, not only Korean hip-hop, but also R&B.
R&B is not unknown to the Korean market; although it has been almost 30 years since the first noteworthy R&B debut (Solid), the past decade has seen the R&B genre disorganize the K-pop music industry – just look at Samuel Seo, Dean, Hyolyn and Babylon. In addition, hundreds of underrated, independent, and overwhelmingly talented R&B and Soul artists have started to climb up the musical ladder, and might soon bring proper competition to Korean pop.
Photo © Courtesy of Jvde
One of those rising R&B stars is Kim Dong-hyun, a.k.a Jvde, a 25-year-old who is no stranger to the music industry. Jvde began his adventure with music back in 2012 when he signed a deal to be a part of a boy group called Big Star. While working hard and becoming the first idol group to hold 100 concerts in Japan, each of the members were looking for better directions for themselves. As a result, in 2019, the group disbanded and the members began to pursue different career paths. Jvde stuck with music, however, he chose R&B over K-pop, and one can only be grateful for that as his voice palette suits the first aforementioned genre much better. His beautifully controlled voice and impressive falsetto can melt even the coldest of hearts. Close to the likes of Dru Hill, Brian McKnight, and other old school American R&B artists, Jvde also brings his own twist to the genre itself.
Lyric Video © Jvde
In 2017, Jvde started to upload cover songs on Youtube and the year after, he released his 1st mixtape called No Time for Chill on which he demonstrated his full vocal abilities. In 2020, the singer released Shower, a collaboration between Zelo, a former member of B.A.P, and Lil Oppa. Along with Zelo, Jvde featured on Feeldog’s song Friends. The singer also released a digital single called Time, which was produced by Way Ched whose producing skills grab many by their throats. In addition, Jvde collaborated with Gabby Onme, an emerging rapper, on Esta Noche, a song that beautifully combines Jvde’s vocals with deep, yet clean, rapping from Gabby.
We recently had a short chat with Jvde and spoke about his music, artistic challenges, and his various collaborations with Way Ched, Zelo, Gabby Onme, Wheein of Mamamoo and his former group’s member, Feeldog.
Photo © Courtesy Jvde
Before discussing the scope of your work, do you remember the first moment when you felt that music was your future?
Yes. I think it was when I was 13 while studying in Australia. I used to play clarinet in a school band, classical music was everything to me at that time.
You started your career back in 2012 when you became a part of a boy group called Big Star. However, in 2019, after disbanding, you became a solo artist. How much did your life, and you as an artist, change since you went solo?
Well. A lot of things changed [laughs]. The good thing is that I get to do my own music that I like, and people started respecting me as an artist.
Looking at the Korean music industry, and since you became a solo artist, have you suffered any ‘resistance’ or scepticism from within the industry? What would you say are currently your main artistic challenges?
It’s kind of a challenge that I’m being involved in this industry. There are some budget problems that I’m struggling with due to working as an independent artist. And the marketing system too. But I don’t regret it.
Music Video © Jvde
As an R&B singer, you represent the minority of the Korean music market. What was behind the move from pop music to the R&B and Soul genre? And in what ways do you hope you can bring the spotlight back to R&B/Soul talents?
I was always into R&B and hip-hop music since I was in high school. But when I got signed to Brave Entertainment, they wanted us to sing pop music. I think the key is that I should make music that I like, because I definitely know what’s fresh and [I am aware of] people’s taste.
Now that you mainly compose and sing R&B and Soul, how do you keep your sound fresh and stay relevant with what’s happening in the music market?
I study my sound a lot to see if it sounds good or bad. And I try to take out everything that’s old and cheesy. I also listen to music every day, even in the shower [laughs].
Have you experienced anything in your life that influenced your music?
I had a tough life as an idol [he was 17 when started] and made regrettable decisions, I tried to please too many people, and as a result, this affected me and made me regret things in life. No Time for Chill was written purely based on those experiences. After all that experience, I tried to focus on myself and making music I like.
Photo © Courtesy of Jvde
You recently released Esta Noche, a song on which you collaborated with an emerging and undoubtedly talented artist, Gabby Onme – the track was also produced by Nekoblue. As the three of you are different artists, were there any artistic differences between you during the recording process?
We all have similar music tastes, and I believed that they would do great on this track, so the process was really fast. I get inspired a lot by both of them.
You also collaborated with Wheein of Mamamoo on the song Miss U, Zelo (a former member of B.A.P) and Lil Oppa on Shower, Feeldog (a former member of Big Star) and Zelo on Friends, and many more. Could you tell us something about the beats and the music production on those releases? What was the creative process behind these songs?
Miss U is the song I made with NOD, a great producer. By the time we finished up the first verse and the hook, I needed someone to sing the second verse to make the song better, and Wheein came to my mind, so I just asked her. She got into a booth straight away. Friends was made when Feeldog and Zelo came to my flat. We were just drinking, talking about some stuff, and Feeldog played this beat on the speaker, so we just started freestyling on that beat, and that’s how it came out [laughs].
Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music-making process excites you the most and which aspect discourages you the most?
The fact that I get to make all the music and finding opportunities are both exciting and discouraging.
Music Video © Feeldog
What kind of approach do you use to write your lyrics?
I write down everything in my notes that comes into my mind. Every experience is very important to me.
Which song (songs) in your catalogue best describes the sound and style you ultimately prefer and why?
No Time for Chill and Esta Noche are the songs that represent me, and I prefer them at the moment. I like the little mixture of hip-hop and R&B.
Usually, it is considered that it is the job of the artist to win over an audience. But listening is also an active, rather than just a passive, process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?
First of all, I want the listeners to vibe with the music, not just analyse it. Of course, the lyrics are important too, however, I would like them to feel the music. Or they could use TikTok and express it by dancing.
Photo © Courtesy of Jvde
Are there any artists who inspire you musically? Who motivates you to work hard and stay on track?
[The artists that inspire me are] Lucky Daye and Bryson Tiller.
When you’re not working, what do you do to get away from it all and relax?
I go skateboarding with Zelo, but I’m not that good at it [laughs]. [I also like to] grab a beer [and relax].
What’s your wider vision? What do you hope to achieve within the next 12 months?
I hope that more people and artists start to recognise me [laughs]. In addition, my EP album is coming out in September.
Official Audio © Jvde
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
Featured photo © Courtesy of Jvde