DEAN - An artist who leaves a long-lasting impression on those who find his music despite his modest discography. Amassing over 72.5 Million views since its release almost 4 years ago, his single “instagram” still speaks volumes. Not only did it top all music charts in South Korea, but it’s also one of the tracks that strengthened his international presence.
DEAN sat down for an interview with 1theK for the release of the song and said that while in the studio for almost 13 hours straight, he started comparing himself to people he saw on Instagram and expressed that it made him feel “infinitely small and lacking”, like he was on a lonely island, alienated from them. This feeling is expressed strongly through the lyrics, and is amplified in his monotone music video, where he is the only protagonist.
The song starts off with a stripped back guitar melody. The lyrics talk of the inability to put one’s phone down, even though time is passing by, almost mocking the fact that the artist is shown “wasting time” by playing air guitar on a skateboard. Simultaneously, the camera starts panning backwards, revealing a well-lit room, somewhat representative of the mind. The beat finally kicks in and paint starts leaking from the walls, while brilliantly showcasing an array of visuals this also illustrates how our minds are constantly violated with information we have no say over, all while the lyrics “this damn information age” are sung. He goes on to sing “knowing more makes you more miserable” later clenching his hoodie in question “am I the only one?”. At this stage, most of us can relate to the desperation displayed. Life is non-stop and becomes overwhelming at times which is conveyed with another rhetorical question by DEAN, he asks: “is life always this hard?”. This not only places the listener in close proximity to the artist but also reminds us that musicians are no different than us. As the music video progresses, the room is completely consumed by paint and the lights start glitching. Suddenly the walls are untouched, and the room starts wasting away like ink dissolving in water, perhaps the journey of a twisted sense of reality. Incredibly satisfying to watch, you also feel like someone understands the constant effort required to manage simple daily tasks while constantly being hounded with information, creating a unique sense of unity between you and the artist.
The single-shot used throughout the music video mimics the endless struggle of trying to manage society's expectations and managing the constant presence of social media and other people’s portrayal of how your life should be in order to find happiness. The lyrics “틈 만나면 바뀌는 게” (change when you have the chance) brings attention to the unjustified yearning to conform to the norms dictated by society. Unfortunately, though, nothing will ever be enough for the public, DEAN realizes this towards the end of the music video. He is shown laughing from a distance as the camera closes in on him. He stops laughing and gets up and leaves. It's as if he has decided to live life the way he wants to live, without social media influencing his mind. Although it sounds simple, it tends to be very challenging.
The incredible collaboration between the directors, DEAN, 96WAVE, and FLIPEVIL truly lead to an extraordinary form of therapy for many - especially in countries like South Korea where mental health is still heavily stigmatized. DEAN and Co-Composer Highhopes won the “Best Composer of the Year” award at the 2018 Mnet Asian Music Awards which is equally a big honour as having people afford a reserved reservoir of sentiment not only for the song but for DEAN as an artist as well. Although his solo career has been dormant for two years now, his music is still widely discussed and continues to inspire emotions in people.
- Zandri Rossouw