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Shaun, the Way Back Home hitmaker back from military service in South Korea, talks about his new singles Blue and Closed Ending

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 16/5/2021 Tamar Herman
a young boy in a blue shirt sitting on a table: Shaun’s new songs “Closed Ending” and “Blue” come nearly two years after he took a break from music to complete his mandatory military service. Photo: Warner Music Shaun’s new songs “Closed Ending” and “Blue” come nearly two years after he took a break from music to complete his mandatory military service. Photo: Warner Music

South Korean singer Shaun returned last week with singles Closed Ending and Blue, the latter of which features rapper Wonstein. Both songs were released on an album titled #0055b7 - the hex code used in digital art for the colour blue. His first songs in nearly two years come after he took a break from music to complete his mandatory military service.

Closed Ending is reminiscent of his dreamy super hit from 2018, Way Back Home, he tells the Post over a video call - but not because he's banking on it being another sure-fire, copycat chart-topper.

"After a massive hit, you may want to do something similar because of the success, awards and the recognition," the singer says. "But, as a musician, that's not what I strive for. I believe in talking about what I'm feeling, expressing it and sharing it. It's how I've made and presented music since Way Back Home. I think that's the feeling an artist should have, and the music I'd like to release."

So why did Shaun want to return with a song so imbued with parallels? Although it does not necessarily help him grow as an artist, he felt it was worth revisiting the stylistic tone of his 2018 hit to express his recognition and gratitude to those who think of Way Back Home as a soundtrack for their own memories.

a person sitting in a room: Shaun's new songs Blue and Closed Ending were released on an album titled #0055b7 - the hex code used in digital art for the colour blue. Photo: Warner Music © Provided by South China Morning Post Shaun's new songs Blue and Closed Ending were released on an album titled #0055b7 - the hex code used in digital art for the colour blue. Photo: Warner Music

"Through my military service, I realised Way Back Home is packaged in different memories for many people. I heard it from a lot of people and realised it had a special meaning. Closed Ending came out of the appreciation that people had for Way Back Home, so I arranged it with a similar style."

Though the new tracks draw inspiration from his earlier music, Shaun says writing them helped him explore his artistry and reflect on how to express himself musically. "I think the moment when a music creator and the listener connect is when some kind of meaning is created. How the artist presents their thoughts and meanings to listeners ... that's when the special moment is created."

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Shaun - a keyboardist and singer in indie rock band The Koxx - has been a professional musician for more than a decade, and says he makes every moment of his creative process count.

"Every second when producing music is different for me. Basically, my approach is emphasised in these two songs. When I was writing the lyrics for Closed Ending, it brought about ways for me to be more expressive. I found new ways to represent me and express myself. In the future, I hope to ... discuss (a variety of things) in my songs."

Blue, inspired by co-writer and hip-hop artist Mad Clown, isn't about the colour blue. "I was thinking about bluesy feels," Shaun says, referring to the fact that both songs, while they sound upbeat, explore separation and break-ups.

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"Even though break-ups are (concepts) that can be saddening, Blue represents it in a witty way, while Closed Ending is a bit more desperate. The words 'blue' and 'break-up' are what I think connect these two songs."

Shaun has released the songs despite allegations of music chart manipulation - sajaegi in Korean - to make Way Back Home the hit it was still hanging over him. The singer and his team denied they had engaged in manipulation at the time and a government committee determined, through data analysis, that it was impossible to differentiate between the success of it and other chart-topping songs.

Regardless of how Way Back Home got to the top of the charts or how people believe it got there, the song did resonate with listeners - and that's all that matters to Shaun.

"To the people who criticise and don't believe in what I do, I don't think there's any way that I can explain," he says. "I don't even want to, because they will take it how they (want to) take it. My music is presented for the listeners who are waiting for my music and appreciate it, and I hope (the songs) create memories.

"I really believe in a special connection between artists and listeners. I don't want (it) to be a one-way street, I want there to be changes happening when people listen to my tracks."

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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