I was wandering around Hongdae when the faint sound of a familiar song urged me to walk a little slower. Playing in a club basement was DEAN’s “I Love It,” and nothing made me more excited than the thought of hearing it live come the weekend. The track didn’t manage to lure me into experiencing Seoul’s club scene, but it did make me skip and snap my fingers to a few beats.

Just a few blocks away, another track by the R&B artist was blasting from the speakers, and like its chorus, I needed someone to tell me what to do when I met DEAN in person the next day for a one-on-one interview.

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“I heard your songs last night as I walked around Hongdae,” I managed to tell DEAN, who was now seated a few inches from me. It was the second time I was seeing him that day, and unlike our first encounter (he pointed me to the direction of the bathroom), I didn’t freeze.

Since his debut in 2015, DEAN has brought Korean R&B to the world, a genre he has grown up listening to. A genre he now hopes would connect its listeners, not just to his message, but his mission of sharing Korean contemporary culture.

“I’d like to think of my songs as alternative R&B. But it’s not like I purposely chose to make music under this genre, it just came naturally to me as it is one that I enjoy,” he said.

“90s music inspires me, mostly. Everything from Blackstreet, Bobby Brown, Mario, N.E.R.D.,—I listened to them all while I was growing up,” DEAN revealed.

The era’s influence is quite evident in his earlier work, finding the perfect balance between tender and vulnerable lyrics and irresistible dance grooves. But DEAN doesn’t like to play by the rules. He’s consistently creating tunes that are different from the last, hopping from melodies belonging from subcultures to the mainstream.

It is his experimental ear and grasp of music that solidifies his collaborative nature—a lifelong search and discovery of what exactly defines good music, a sonic journey pursued by those who wish to make their mark. And for DEAN, it’s one streaked with stories of rebellion and reflection.

I asked the artist if he ever had to decide if a song he had just composed was to be sang by someone else. DEAN shared that’s never the case as he always starts building a song with a person and a story in mind.

“It’s not decided that way. Every song has a different starting point, and it has to start with that person who’s singing it. When I’m asked to write for another artist, I think about it as a process of designing a song around that person,” he said.

As to the artists he would recommend to his fans, DEAN shared he likes Mild High Club, PREP, and Daniel Caesar.

“So, are you going back to the Philippines soon?” I asked. He said he didn’t know. I pressed on and said “But do you want to?”

We both laughed it off, but a grin was stuck on his face as he finally said, “I’d love to.”


In our 10-minute talk, DEAN told me “21” is his favorite song to perform live, a mainstay in every show. “I really hope ‘Come Over’ is part of your [Greenplugged] setlist though,” was my response, and the last thing I said as I wrapped up my interview. It sadly wasn’t, but a year later, it’s still that one track I look forward to witnessing on the stage.

DEAN will be having his birthday concert in Manila at the New Frontier Theater
on November 10. Tickets are available starting October 13 at TicketNet.
Interview for Inquirer Super courtesy of MCA Music Philippines.

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