After a long wait, Kang Daniel takes the stage: The former Wanna One member finally makes his solo debut with his EP ‘Color On Me’
“I never expected so many people would be waiting for me,” said Kang at his debut showcase held at Yes24 Live Hall in eastern Seoul on Thursday afternoon. “I appreciate every single person who has come to see me.”
Kang first made a big impression during the second season of cable channel Mnet’s “Produce 101” series in 2017. He was ranked No. 23 among the 101 contestants after the first episode as a trainee from MMO Entertainment, a subsidiary of CJ ENM.
Kang gradually climbed up the ladder week by week and eventually made it to the No. 1 spot with 1,578,837 votes on the last episode, making him the most popular member of the 11-member project boy band Wanna One.
Wanna One was the group of 2017, and Kang was the star of the band. He enjoyed a year and a half as the center of the band, shooting advertisements and editorials for magazines, going on TV shows and winning various entertainment awards. When his contract with Wanna One ended in December 2018, fans hoped that 2019 would be an even bigger breakout year for the singer, giving him the chance to finally shine on stage with the spotlight to himself.
“I prepared this album ‘Color On Me’ for the fans,” he said. “I could have waited more and added more songs to make a full-length album, but I couldn’t keep them waiting any longer.”
Kang debuted with Konnect Entertainment, an agency he founded in June, after legally - or temporarily - breaking ties with LM Entertainment. MMO Entertainment broke off from CJ ENM and changed its name to LM Entertainment in January 2018. Kang filed an injunction against LM Entertainment in March to have his exclusive contract with the agency nullified, on the grounds that the agency had sold his management rights to a third party without notifying Kang. While LM Entertainment argued that it had notified the artist of the deal, Kang’s attorney claimed that no such notification was made.
The court took Kang’s side in May. LM appealed, and the court is set to make another ruling in the coming weeks.
“I was not aware that the management rights were sold to a third party at all,” said Kang. “And when the court ruled that I could act on my own [without LM Entertainment], that’s when I realized that I wanted to do this - for the fans.”
When asked about the details of the legal dispute, Kang answered, “We can’t give you a detailed answer yet. We ask for your understanding. But I hope to tell you more in the coming days.”
Complications aside, Kang is grateful for everything that happened, which led him to where he is now. The EP sold more than 450,000 presale copies, a number that’s rarely achieved by an artist making their solo debut.
“Honestly, the number came as a total surprise for me, too. And more than the numbers, I feel so sorry towards the fans. I kept them waiting for six months without any news. But they waited for me and told me they were always waiting. I think more than the number of albums, the fact that they did that was so touching to me. I want to become a better singer for them,” Kang said.
Kang showed off his talent mostly as a rapper within Wanna One, but with this EP, he’s proven that he can do more. Not only did he flaunt his vocal skills with his songs, he participated in writing lyrics for four tracks, including the lead song “What Are You Up To.” The synth pop dance track allows for fans to see Kang’s smooth dance moves as well as hear him rap and sing - all by himself.
“I’ve realized how big the stage is on my own,” Kang said. “I’ve thought about the things I did wrong or I could have done better while I was a part of Wanna One. And I realize being alone, the stage seems a lot emptier than when I had 11 other people, who were like brothers to me, next to me. But I think it will be a good opportunity for me to fill those spaces and conquer the difficulties.”
An upside to being a solo artist, he said, is getting “to show you who I am just with only my voice, my clothes, my style and my performance. I hope that I get to fill the stage better.”
Kang doesn’t plan on recruiting anyone to join him at his newly-founded agency at the moment, and he has no clear plan to appear on TV music shows or concerts at the moment. The agency “lacked the time to properly communicate” due to the short turnaround it’s had since the court ruling in May. But he does hope that he can keep himself busy for the fans who have been waiting for him.
“I know that they had a hard time waiting, but I’m here now and I want to tell the fans, that there’s nothing to worry about anymore,” he said. “I’ve thought a lot about how I was as a member of Wanna One, and how I will be on my own. But I think right now, I want to show a new side of myself that the fans haven’t seen before. I’ve been spending day and night preparing myself for it.”
It’s just the beginning of Kang’s journey. No member - whether they debuted alone or as part of the group - has had their debut track sit No. 1 on local music charts yet, but Kang’s not concerned about the performance of his songs.
“I want to be someone that gives other people hope,” he said. “I want people to listen to my song, look at my performance and think, ‘He’s working so hard. I should too.’ I want to give other people hope.”
BY YOON SO-YEON [email@example.com]