When Kang Daniel walked into the hotel room, not a hair on his newly dyed ash-blue head was out of place, nor a visible crease marred his impeccable makeup, as he took a seat by a window overlooking the Hollywood Hills. And yet, he tried to hide his tired eyes behind a kind smile. In true K-pop fashion, the singer was on a tight schedule. Fresh off the set of his “2U” music video at the historic 1930s Los Angeles Theatre, he’d just returned to his hotel, ready to talk openly about the last few months of his life. This was his first round of international press since stepping away from music to focus on himself at the end of 2019, and he was visibly a little nervous. He dressed in a red and grey plaid flannel shirt and patched jeans; the casual look and timid demeanor seemingly more fitting for an average 23-year-old than for one of South Korea’s foremost pop starlets. But that’s the allure of Kang Daniel: the boy next door who loves his cats and has a magnetic charisma.
Just a few days prior, news of a reality TV show, Hello Daniel, which he filmed part of in the United States, had been announced, but the details surrounding his trip to Los Angeles were kept under wraps. “This reality show is the first thing that I have done after my break,” Kang told MTV News with the help of a translator. “On this show, I traveled around, and I think that you will be able to see how happy I was and how I have been enjoying my daily life.”
That feeling didn’t always come easy to Kang. In December, amidst a busy promotional cycle for the sultry single “Touchin’,” the singer took an extended hiatus from the spotlight to focus on his physical and mental well-being. Kang’s management company, Konnect Entertainment, announced through his fancafé that a weak immune system and growing anxiety were the reasons for the break: “We reached the conclusion that sufficient rest and stability is of the highest priority for the artist’s health and safety,” the online statement read.
“2U,” written and produced by the Korean-American artist Chancellor with Kang in mind, marked his highly anticipated return to the public eye. The single was laid-back, tinged with R&B flourishes and airy, tender vocals about being there for a person who is struggling. The title was a play on the English meaning “going to you” and the Korean pronunciation, sounding similar to the word “reason (lee-you).” This lent the song another meaningful interpretation: “The reason I do this is you.”
The song not only matched Kang’s new optimistic mindset but also the overall sunny vibe of his newest EP, Cyan. “I didn’t expect this song to be well-matched with LA,” he explained, referencing the effervescent tone of the release. “I really liked the music video. I think the inspiration and the vibe of this place is well connected to the concept of the song and to me.”