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Seo Taiji sheds ’90s icon persona in ‘Quiet Night’ return

K-pop veteran unveils family-inspired ninth album

Although still considered an unparalleled iconic musician by the generation that grew up listening to him push the envelope with his controversial and politically defiant lyrics, Seo Taiji, who recently released his ninth album, says his relevance as an artist has faded over time and that to him, the heyday of his career actually ended decades ago.

Legendary musician and media-shy Seo, 42, finally unveiled his new family-inspired comeback album, “Quiet Night,” on Monday, and turned heads when he solemnly admitted he no longer feels he is in his prime.

“I no longer think of myself as a cultural representative. Those days are long over,” said Seo during a news conference at Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas in Gangnam. “My era ended in the ’90s’.”

Widely considered as one of the most revolutionary and influential figures in the music industry, Seo shared unprecedented fame as the leader of popular ’90s hip-hop trio Seo Taiji and Boys. Throughout his career, Seo has remained one of the industry’s most elusive celebrities, shying away from the media and rarely revealing anything about his personal life.

Along with the lead track “Christmalo.win,” the recently released nine-track electronica pop “Quiet Night” album ― written and produced entirely by Seo ― also features the single “’90s ICON.” The track is a heavyhearted glimpse into the singer’s sincere confessions about reaching the acme of his celebrity status by becoming an “obsolete” icon, and whether or not he would ever get another opportunity to return to the peak of his epic popularity. 
Seo Taiji speaks at a press conference on the release of his ninth album, “Quiet Night,” in Seoul, on Monday. (Yonhap)
Seo Taiji speaks at a press conference on the release of his ninth album, “Quiet Night,” in Seoul, on Monday. (Yonhap)

“Now that I’m getting older, every day I would think to myself, ‘could I ever go back to my prime like I was in the ’90s?’” Seo said, referring to some of his emotional struggles while producing his new album.

This is the first full-length album from the singer after a more than five-year hiatus ― a period that was riddled with publicly shocking scandals regarding the musician’s past secret marriage to and divorce with actress Lee Ji-ah.

Late last year, the public was hit with yet another shock when it was revealed that he had secretly married lesser-known actress Lee Eun-seong over the summer. The couple had their first child, a daughter, two months ago in August.

“My daughter was my muse,” said the singer, claiming that she was one of the inspirations behind his latest album. The album cover features a drawing of a young girl, which the singer claims is how he imagines his daughter might look like when she is around 6 or 7 years old.

Although in the past Seo was well known for his trademark psychedelic hip-hop tracks and hardcore shout-fest rock songs, “Quiet Night” shows off a far more refined side of him and is considered by some as one of the artist’s most mainstream solo releases.

“I guess you could say my personality is changing. … Now I am a family man. I thought about performing music that my daughter would be able to listen to one day,” Seo explained. “I think this album is a little, just a little more mainstream compared to what I released in the past. I think this is one of the reasons I have changed a bit in terms of appearing more in public; I want the album to appeal more to the masses.”

Regardless of his attempts at shoring up public enthusiasm for his return ― with a grand outdoor concert over the weekend and even creating substantial media hype after making a very rare appearance on the popular KBS2 TV program “Happy Together 3” earlier this month ― Seo’s new album, somewhat surprisingly, made relatively no impact on the music charts.

“Just like when I was in school, I never really paid too attention to scores,” Seo responded, when asked about his reaction to younger K-pop idol boy band Beast taking the No. 1 spot on the charts with its new EP “Time,” which was also released on Monday.

“What’s important is the music,” he said. “This album represents the kind of music that I want to pursue at this moment.”

Seo says he plans to continue public promotions for his latest album and is expected to take his “Christmalo.win” concert tour across cities nationwide.

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)
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