Renowned as a versatile alt-R&B singer-songwriter-producer, DEAN has made his mark on the Korean music scene. Emerging onto the scene at a young age, he honed his craft by creating hits for major K-pop acts, such as EXO, BLOCK B, and UNIQ. In 2016, he made a groundbreaking solo debut with his EP, 130 mood: TRBL, and subsequent singles. They showcased not only his compelling vocals but also established him as a dynamic and inventive force in the music world.
In January, DEAN caused a stir amongst fans when he deactivated his Instagram account, prompting widespread speculation and concern. The burning question lingered: Was this an official retreat from the music scene or a tantalizing hint at a comeback? It would seem the mystery is solved, as the 31-year-old is geared up for a spectacular return with his first single in four years. The alt-R&B track “DIE 4 YOU” dropped on November 18.
As fans anticipate a new chapter in DEAN’s musical journey, EnVi is here with seven essential DEAN tracks, offering a captivating glimpse into the artist’s sonic world.
When you think of DEAN, his 2017 hit song “instagram” is likely the first thing that comes to mind (and maybe his unfortunate tumble down the stairs on Instagram live). Set against a melancholic guitar backdrop, the singer captures the universal experience of late-night Instagram scrolling, resisting the call to sleep. He reflects on the impacts of social media, expressing the challenges of staying up-to-date and struggles with insecurity, singing, “There is definitely a problem / These days, knowing more makes you more miserable / As time goes by, it gets harder.” Battling the heartache, he confronts feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and emptiness, vividly conveyed as he sings, “There’s a hole in my heart / Nothing can fill it up.”
In a now-deleted Instagram post, DEAN shared, “I hope this song will be like a friend who cries next to you when you’re living a difficult and tiring life like you.” It’s not a song aiming to provide comfort or solutions; instead, it serves as a reminder that others share similar struggles, fostering a sense of shared experience.
Despite minimal promotion, this incredibly relatable song stands as DEAN’s most streamed track on Spotify, with an impressive 149 million streams. Notably, it earned him the Best Composer of the Year award at the 2018 Mnet Asian Music Awards. Its resonance extends beyond streams, exemplified by covers from prominent artists including K-pop stars IU, JUNGWOO and HAECHAN of NCT, and Hui and Yuto of PENTAGON.
“D (Half Moon)”
In the heart of DEAN’s EP 130 mood : TRBL, the standout title track “D (Half Moon)” unfolds as a melodic exploration into love and yearning. Teaming up with K-rapper Gaeko, the two artists skillfully weave a tale of heartbreak leaving a lasting mark on listeners.
Following a breakup, DEAN navigates a profound emptiness, coasting through life on autopilot, wrestling with seemingly purposeless tasks in the song. His introspection leads him to a powerful realization — he’s only half of himself without his lover, symbolized by the recurring motif of the half-moon. The singer croons, “Nothing comes even close to half of you,” emphasizing the depth of his emotional yearning. Gaeko, with lyrical finesse, adds depth to the narrative as he raps, “If only I can see your eyes, I would be able to fill up my empty heart.” He acknowledges the irreparable nature of their fractured relationship and the ever-growing distance from reconciliation.
The synergy between DEAN and Gaeko culminates in the track, where each note and word resonate with the profound impact of lost love. The aching line “On a night without you / Even when the moon is up, I can’t see it / It’s hidden by thoughts of you,” embodies the pervasive theme of yearning, revealing a haunting beauty that lingers in the emotional depths of this R&B track.
In 2018, DEAN collaborated with K-pop idol SULLI and K-R&B singer Rad Museum on the evocative track “dayfly.” The haunting and introspective track immerses listeners in the intricate depths of regret and the repetitive cycle of life. SULLI begins the song, delicately portraying the intimate moment of waking up beside a lover. As she sweetly sings, “You are filled in my eyes as they just naturally opened up,” she sets the tone for a profound exploration of human connection.
DEAN delves into the complexities of relationships, expressing the pain of uncertain love as he sings, “Am I the bad person or am I the sick person?… Nothing is for certain in every relationship / Even if it’s coincidence, I will be the one getting hurt.” Through the raw vulnerability of his lyrics, the singer reflects on the emotional toll of facing reality and the struggles that come with it. Rad Museum offers a different perspective, singing, “I don’t want anything / From this day on, in one single day / We are saying farewell.” Providing a sense of closure, he expresses a decisive desire to move forward from the past.
“I’m Not Sorry”
DEAN joined forces with singer-songwriter Eric Bellinger for the 2015 all-English R&B track, “I’m Not Sorry.” The dynamic duo explore their unapologetic lifestyle, emphasizing their commitment to hustling and personal success over romantic relationships. The hype song features DEAN reflecting on his ascent in the music industry, celebrating his come-up. Both DEAN and Bellinger drive home the message that they’re “not sorry” for choosing money over their romantic ties. DEAN expresses his determination, singing, “I’m just getting started and my life’s a party.” He captures the essence of living life to the fullest by dedicating himself to his career and reveling in the party scene. Bellinger adds a cheeky and brazen touch to the track, revealing, “I’ve been too busy out gettin’ my yaper / I ain’t got time to be thinking ‘bout you.”
“Put My Hands On You”
In the sultry rhythm of the 2015 track “Put My Hands On You” featuring Anderson .Paak, the duo seamlessly blend R&B and neo-soul, creating a sensual ode to the appreciation of their partners’ bodies and beauty. The song creates an intimate atmosphere, exploring the physical connection between lovers. The chorus conveys the essence of the song, as DEAN sings, “I just wanna put my hands on you.” The straightforward declaration of want reflects the longing and yearning felt throughout the track.
DEAN emphasizes his appreciation of his partner’s natural allure: “She don’t need to try / She don’t have to act the part / I love your body.”.Paak’s verse adds a more explicit take on the mix of passion and vulnerability, singing, “All this love, I hope it don’t hurt ya / All this work, I hope it’s all worth it / Perfect, in an imperfect way / Jerkin’, tuggin’ on my shirt like / Aye, I know you wanna get a taste.”
“I Love It”
DEAN takes another musical journey into the realm of intimacy with the 2015 track “I Love It” featuring K-rapper Dok2. DEAN’s opening lines beautifully set the stage for a cozy Friday night: “A small room, you and me, the phones are turned off / We don’t rush, never, we have time.” This poetic introduction captures the essence of an unhurried and meaningful connection between him and his partner, creating a serene atmosphere that lingers throughout the song. The chorus adds another layer of sensuality to the story, as DEAN serenades, “I love it and I like it / The lipstick smudged thickly on your lips / You love it and you like it / When I unbutton my shirt.” Through this it celebrates the physical aspects of love. The repetitive hook reinforces the theme of love and intimacy, creating a rhythmic expression of the deep connection they share.
Dok2’s words exude confidence and availability, creating an atmosphere of immediacy and responsiveness within the story. His playfulness, encompassing everything from kisses to teasing, injects a dynamic energy into the song, seamlessly blending with DEAN’s portrayal of a deep and nuanced relationship.
“풀어 (Pour Up)”
The 2015 K-hip hop and R&B scene witnessed a harmonious fusion, courtesy of DEAN and rapper Zico. Their collaboration produced the sultry and undeniably sexy R&B anthem, “풀어 (Pour Up).” The song begins with a pitch-downed mantra — “Drink, smoke, drink, smoke, drink, smoke / Pour up —” reminiscent of Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools.”The almost-hypnotic prelude unfolds into a narrative of a night blurred by partying and an attempt to escape the emptiness through an intoxicating sexual experience.
DEAN cleverly doubles the Korean word “풀어,” which means “loose,” as a homophone for “pour up.” He sings about his partner’s shirt getting loose as he also gets loose. DEAN uses drinking and smoking as an escape from the loneliness and confusion following his break-up with his partner. The verses chronicle the descent into the intoxicating allure, with DEAN admitting, “The more time passes, the more unfocused my eyes get.” Zico joins the track, exploring the sensuality of being with a stranger, adding, “When the lights go off, it gets hotter / We’re having a conversation deeper than ever / But we can’t get any closer than this / It’s only sexy when there’s an air of unfamiliarity.”
DEAN’s Musical Mosaic
Beyond this spotlight of our favorite DEAN hits, the multi-hyphenate artist’s expansive discography is a treasure trove of gems waiting to be discovered. DEAN offers a rich and diverse listening experience, ranging from soulful ballads that tug at the heartstrings to experimental tracks. Whether you’re drawn to the soulful harmonizing in “love” or the rhythmic beats of “Bonnie & Clyde,” there’s no denying DEAN’s versatile talent.
Want more music recommendations from EnVi? Check out our Relaxed Workflow playlist here!