“When I was in Milan and had some free time, I got to enjoy drinking coffee at a café and took some walks around at nighttime,” recalls JAEHYUN, one of the members of SM Entertainment’s supergroup NCT. “I got so much inspiration from just being in those moments and in that space.”
It’s this introspective energy that comes through on JAEHYUN’s new single, “Forever Only,” his debut solo release. NCT is one of the largest K-pop groups ever, and the largest working today (with a whopping 23 members!), operating on a relatively unique structure in which the group is split into different sub-units, showcasing various members in different combinations. JAEHYUN is a member of Seoul-based unit NCT 127, which features a total of ten members.
It’s a lot of moving parts within the already demanding role of being a K-pop artist, which means that when JAEHYUN has moments like the memory he recounts from Milan, it’s understandable for him to store it away as creative fuel for the next project. In this case, that project turned out to be “Forever Only,” a smooth, sneakily sultry R&B track. “Where have you been all my life?” he asks, crooning over soft guitars and a throwback beat.
The accompanying music video for the song is shot like an A24 movie, all golden-hued, nostalgic and romantic footage of a subject filled to the brim with yearning. “For this track, I had the chance to participate more in the music video and concepts. I realized that it takes a large group of individuals and a lot of effort to create one track,” he shares. With NCT, he’s always been ingrained in the writing and recording process, but “Forever Only” gave him the opportunity to spread his creative wings a bit more. “I am very thankful for the experience,” he confirms.
R&B is his favorite genre, he explains. The sounds and musical trademarks associated with the genre can sometimes make an appearance in projects for NCT, which he describes as the perfect place to try out “new, neo concepts.” “Forever Only,” though, is a far cry from NCT 127’s no-holds-barred, wonderfully infamous 2021 single “Sticker.” “I wanted to show a relaxed side of myself to fans that’s a bit more raw,” JAEHYUN explains.
The track is part of a project called NCT LAB, a series featuring solo releases, self-composed songs, and unit collaborations from members of the group. The timing feels like a calm before the storm, for listeners, at least, as NCT 127 is preparing for a September 2022 album.
“I’m inspired by my surroundings and the people around me,” he shares, describing how he finds moments to recharge and find ways to prepare for the next project, whether it be a solo release like “Forever Only” or a project with his NCT bandmates. “There are a lot of sides of myself that I want to show and share through music.”
Subscribe to our K-pop column, Fan Chant, for an expanded version of this interview coming soon.