Returning to the Music Industry as Lee Gikwang from ‘Junior’


[by Kim Young Jae] Ace has returned.

Singer Lee Gikwang’s album preview show of his first mini album ‘One’ was held on the morning of the 4th at Seoul, Seongdong-gu Les Philosophies. The music video and music chart release is at noon but reporters were able to meet Lee Gikwang’s music an hour early.

The title song of Lee Gikwang’s ‘One’ is ‘What You Like’. ‘What You Like’ is an impressive future R&B track with minimal arrangement on top of a basic house rhythm. Yong Jun Hyung who is also a member of highlight co-produced and co-wrote the lyrics of ‘Good Life’ with his producing group partner Kim Taejoo. The witty and truthful lyrics to the girl he likes, along with Lee Gikwang’s unique voice is grabbing the interest of the fandom ‘Light’.

Lee Gikwang introduced his position, “I was worried about whether I should do a album preview show or a showcase. I thought it would be better if I had an opportunity to properly present all 8 tracks of the album. At a showcase out of 3 or 4 songs you can only show 2 songs. All of the songs are precious to me. Just as much as many people put in a lot of effort I wanted to do the same and ended up preparing an ‘album preview show’”.

‘One’ is Lee Gikwang’s first album and first mini album. We emphasize ‘first’ because it’s not really his first solo album. In the April 2009, he released the mini album ‘First Episode A New Hero’ under the name AJ. Since then 8 years have passed. Now he shows his skills on this album in 6 of 8 tracks under his birth name Lee Gikwang instead of ‘AJ’. In AJ’s song 8 years ago, ‘Dancing Shoes’, he stood out with ‘Brave Sound’ and singer Rain’s intro with choreography but now Lee Gikwang’s 8 songs completely only show off Lee Gikwang. He is under the spotlight with the heavy 3 letters of his name as one of Highlight.

#Lee Gikwang and ‘One’ 

As introduced earlier, more than half of Lee Gikwang’s album highlights his skills. For each song after the first verse ended he would explain the track and after ending the album preview show with his last track that you can only hear on the CD, ‘Who Are You’, he explained, “Like this, I participated in writing lyrics and composing 6 of the 8 tracks on the album, I also produced. From beginning to end, there was nothing that I didn’t touch.”

Also, he greeted the reporters, “Thank you to all the people who came here this early. This is Lee Gikwang of Highlight who has come back with a solo album ‘One’ after 8 years. Please take care of me.” He emphasized the 8 years, “After AJ, it’s been 8 years since AJ’s ‘Dancing Shoes’. I worked hard to maximize what I could show from my stage ambitions and music stemming from my life experiences and stage manners that I couldn’t show in the past. It truly is an album where I did my best. I hope many people will love it.”

From his first track ‘What You Like’ to ‘Who Are You’. ‘One’ had a different musical texture of the R&B genre than ‘Dancing Shoes’ and his activities with Beast or Highlight, as it captured ears.

“When I looked at the artistic sides that I showed during the days of Highlight and Beast I think that I couldn’t show all of Lee Gikwang. I wanted to show a little more. I wanted to show a little more of what I am good at and appeal to the public but I didn’t have a chance so I couldn’t.”

He stated, “A lot of fans directly came to watch performances and I had a more chances to show my skills on stage so they know. I felt that the public couldn’t see Lee Gikwang’s artistic sides that were impactful.” He expressed his wishes, “My goal is to let people know that this stage of dancing and performing is of the solo artist Lee Gikwang and not as Highlight’s Lee Gikwang.”

Also, he explained the mood of the album, “It is an album that I worked hard to show the best music that suited me the best, that I wanted to do the most. Thinking like that, I made the whole thing with a sluggish and calm mood.  I threw away the frivolous brightly smiling image that you see on variety shows and showed the words that I really want others to hear.”

#Lee Gikwang and AJ

AJ is an inseparable relation with Lee Gikwang. In the distributed report materials about his activities under his discography they also list his beginning as ‘Promoted as legendary singer AJ in 2009’. The title of legendary singer is like a bad fortune as he disappeared from the music industry after his debut song but he is constructing a distinct position in the music industry now and instead of a distortion of the irony of ‘legend’, he has become the meaning of the term.

In the midst of this, we were curious as to the reason behind his activities under the name Lee Gikwang instead of AJ.

He stated while inducing laughter, “First off the reason why I am promoting under the name Lee Gikwang, you may know that AJ is the abbreviation of ‘Ace Junior’. It’s because I am no longer a junior.” He explained the reason, “Ace Junior. It’s a name I’m grateful for. It’s the name that Lee Gikwang was able to first debut under. It’s a name I couldn’t be without. However, I wanted to show that feeling of an artist and that Lee Gikwang surpasses AJ.”

Also, he looked back at 8 years ago, “When I was preparing for this album I looked at the videos of the stages of AJ. (laughs) I don’t know if I can say this but I really worked hard (back then). At the image of singing live well while dancing a hard dance, I thought ‘This guy really worked hard back then.’ No matter how old I get, I will gain leisure through a lot of experiences but Lee Gikwang’s hard efforts of that time, I thought that I can show a good stage if I had that type of desperate hard effort.”

“I returned as a rookie so I prepared with my best efforts. I am working hard in all aspects. It’s my own motto but I think that the result will be as much as moving towards everything I do with my whole body and with hard efforts. vIn order not to lag behind AJ of that time and also for this album’s stage I worked hard and practiced.”

Once again we couldn’t help but mention the report materials of the event. The distributed material by Around Us Entertainment states in his discography that he ‘re-debuted in group Beast’ in 2009, and ‘re-debuted again in group Highlight’ in 2017, and in September 2017 ‘re-debuted again as Lee Gikwang’. In the midst of the album preview show, a reporter asked, “Re-debuting as ‘Lee Gikwang’ as a solo artist must have a special meaning for you.”

“Debuting 4 times is not an easy experience. I have spent 8 or 9 years in the entertainment industry, and went through everything on my own. As I had all these experiences I thought that I could release Lee Gikwang’s solo album. I also heard doubts, ‘If that isn’t starting from the basics, can the album be released?’ The developed stage and music experiences that I’ve had as AJ, Beast and Highlight became my blood and flesh. Thus I think isn’t that how Lee Gikwang’s solo album came to be?”

The nickname AJ was earned after he perfected his skills as a JYP Entertainment and did well at the end-of-the-month evaluations. He received an A+ and was given the name to acknowledge that he was the ‘best’ amongst the trainees. He mentioned his parting with ‘AJ’, “I’m no longer a junior” but the weight of the name will be with him for life. Just like the text in which he mentioned, “I threw away the frivolous brightly smiling image that you see on variety shows”, he met the reporters with a serious expression. Was he nervous inside? Excited? The words that he is no longer a junior, as time passed, it’s the same as him gaining work experience. Also, in Lee Gikwang’s case, he has the work experience debuting 4 times and re-debuting 3 times. After 8 years passed, Ace Junior has returned as Ace Lee Gikwang.

Meanwhile, Lee Gikwang’s first mini album ‘One’ was released today (4th) at noon. The MV for the title song ‘What You Like’ was also released. (photo by Around Us Entertainment)