There’s a regal quality to Golden Child. It starts in their lush name - a golden child is “a perfect infant who only appears once every hundred years,” as the group said in 2017, during their debut showcase. Except that, in this case, there are ten of them.
Daeyeol, Y, Jangjun, TAG, Seungmin, Jaehyun, Jibeom, Donghyun, Joochan, and Bomin made their entrance in K-pop with the vibrant 'DamDaDi'. Bursting with exuberance, the release set them apart as the gilded children their name promised them to be. Living together in a dorm since before debut, main rapper Jangjun tells Clash that “the good thing [about it] is that there is never a boring day. On the other hand, the hard thing is that there is never a quiet day.” Busan-born vocalist Jibeom agrees. “While there's never time to be bored, sometimes it is difficult because we’re always loud.”
Like the metal gold, GolCha - as they are commonly known - can’t help but to flash and shine. This was evidenced through the first year of their career, as singles 'It’s U', 'Let Me', and 'Genie', bloomed with unrelenting energy. And then a 13-month hiatus fell like a rock to their building momentum. Due to general setbacks, Golden Child couldn’t face the public and had to face themselves instead - after all, being born into royalty also means carrying a heavy crown.
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Formed by South Korea’s Woollim Entertainment, they bear the weight of being “little brothers” to Infinite, one of K-pop’s most influential boy groups. To Daeyeol, the leader and eldest member of Golden Child, this phrase takes a literal turn. He is the younger brother of Infinite’s Sungyeol. “Thanks to Infinite's great activities and great music, we are able to promote as Golden Child. I think I have a bigger sense of responsibility as I don’t want to cause any trouble to [them],” he tells Clash. To main vocalist Y, Infinite is a group he respects and wants to resemble. “I think being known as INFINITE’s ‘little brothers’ helped [us] a lot. At the same time, I do feel more pressure [because of it].”
The long-winded break ended in November 2019, when the group released their first studio album, 'Re-boot'. With a complete turn in image and sound, it was the first part of a musical trilogy in search of their true selves. Title track 'Wannabe' is a mysterious, spacious tune, and in its MV the members confront the burden of their name: walking on a yellow brick road, escaping golden meteorites, staring at gold paint dripping from their hands.
'Without You', released in January of last year, furthers that descent as they question who they are once more - an answer later found in July’s 'One (Lucid Dream)', the surrealist, monumental conclusion to the group’s journey. “I would appreciate it if [people] could see how much more mature Golden Child has become,” says the soft-voiced vocalist Seungmin.
This doesn’t mean the change in image and sound was a definitive one: the group finished 2020 with 'Pump It Up', a cheerful throwback to the times of their debut. Seungmin admits feeling more comfortable with bright, peppy concepts, “because I’m able to laugh and enjoy the moment with my members on stage,” while Y adds that he feels at ease in both, and that “for the darker concepts, I am able to confidently appeal to my different charms and show fans more charismatic aspects of myself.”
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Determined to unveil their newfound charms even more, Golden Child kicked off 2021 with a new EP, '[YES.]', out now. “These days, more people are consumed with worries and are having a hard time due to the pandemic. I hope our [album] is able to heal any painful moments,” says Daeyeol. TAG, the other main rapper in the group, hopes that “2021 will be a happy year for people all over the world. More than anything, I hope that those who have suffered due to COVID-19 will stay healthy and do well in everything they do this year.”
To the striking Jaehyun, he and his members have been “working with a positive mindset and lots of energy these days” - a necessary outlook while they prepare for the busy weeks of promotion ahead. Joochan, who is known for his prowess in singing and playing multiple instruments, sees this album as a vessel for Golden Child’s unique music. “While I always did my best during recordings for past albums, I tried to enjoy the moment and have an especially positive time as I prepared for [YES.],” he says.
Jangjun, in his characteristic enthusiasm, adds that “you can look forward to our members’ extreme transformations.” And if by extreme transformations he includes the MV for title track 'Burn It', the statement is spot on. Over six minutes long and supported by an external webtoon, 'Burn it' is more of an ambitious short film. In it, the members of Golden Child showcase their acting skills while trying to survive a zombie outbreak that ends in a dramatic cliffhanger. Recalling the times where plot-driven, lengthy MVs were recurrent in K-pop, it conveys “a story of not giving up, even in difficult situations, and overcoming challenging times together,” says the multitalented Donghyun.
To TAG, 'Burn It' is a “really sad, empty song.” Indeed, there is an underlying melancholy in its whistles, but the reggaeton chorus is resonant, and the song climaxes with TAG and Jangjun’s appealing raps. Jibeom is particularly fond of the track, exclaiming that it is “so addictive that I’ve been humming the melody ever since I first heard it.” And for Jaehyun, 'Burn It' is a “warm message” that he would like to embrace fans with “while it's a hard time right now and the weather is cold” - the Korean title, “안아줄게,” means “I’ll hug you.”
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While the MV for 'Burn It' focuses on their cinematic narrative, the choreography is also one of Golden Child’s finest. In millimetric precision, they sway like flames, drop to the floor, and serve as human props to hold and imprison each other. “Our [dance] style changed a lot this time. There were many difficulties in the process of learning, but I think I was able to produce good results because I practiced consistently with the members,” says Donghyun, the main dancer of the group. Jangjun complements, revealing that “this was our first time learning with choreographer Choi Young Jun, so while it was difficult, it was also a lot of fun.”
The rest of the mini album keeps up with overarching joyfulness. To Joochan, all the songs are good, but the guitar-driven ballad 'Milky Way' is his favorite. “The lyrics are beautiful, and it truly feels like a song I would listen to while admiring the Milky Way.” To Seungmin, the groovy 'Cool Cool' is “competing with the title track for the top spot in my heart.” Along with the intro 'YES.' and deep cuts 'Round N Round' and 'Breathe', the EP relays Golden Child’s mastery over their flavorful vocals and addictive synths.
“Our ten different charms come together to create an attractive synergy,” says Bomin, the youngest in the group. In addition to being part of Golden Child, he is also building a promising career as an actor and MC. Like him, several other members have had the chance to showcase their talents in solo activities, such as Jangjun’s Dingo show JangStar or Joochan’s DJing at Casper Radio. “I think the fact that our members have experience in different areas helps Golden Child, as a group, to have a more positive influence on others,” he adds.
Gold is the most malleable of all metals. This versatility is reflected in Golden Child’s growth through the past three and a half years together, and in their ability to use halcyon qualities as a beam of comfort to their fans - known as Goldenness. As the group grows into their inherent preciousness, the crown that was once so heavy now sits elegantly atop their heads. “I learned that I am responsible for clearly portraying my own future,” concludes Y. “My efforts after debut are equally as important, if not more, than my efforts before debut.”
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'[YES.]' is out now.
Words: Tassia Assis
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