KINO: Taking Control of My Destiny KINO: Taking Control of My Destiny Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine

KINO: Taking Control of My Destiny

After years of acting as a key member of the legendary K-pop group PENTAGON, the group’s immensely skilled performer KINO has finally earned the opportunity to set the music scene ablaze with his highly anticipated solo debut and new artist-focused company, NAKED. And as a decorated heavy hitter who has officially plugged into the industry’s business world, KINO’s bold endeavor is already proving to be an inspiring, self-empowered era that allows him to unveil his true potential. 

Through his debut solo track “Fashion Style,” the multi-faceted singer pivots from the classic PENTAGON sound fans were familiar with, igniting a fun, dreamy-pop production that celebrates his unbridled vision and individuality for the very first time. Within just months of his first single, KINO then quickly returned with the follow-up single “Freaky Love,” sonically letting loose by tapping into a zany, up-tempo dance track that goes the complete opposite direction of the vibey “Fashion Style” to remind listeners that he won’t be confined to any specific genre space for long. 

Having unleashed two singles, KINO’s next sensible step included confirmation that a buzz-worthy EP was being developed (If this is love, I want a refund) to curate his newfound musical style with plenty of genre treks, attention to detail, and precision. Now, he’s breaking it all down as our newest Vanity Teen digital cover star. 

After years of group experiences, you’re now able to pursue an exciting new era as a soloist, which is a big moment for any artist! What was the most nerve-wracking aspect of making that leap?

KINO: There were a lot, but I think I was a little afraid of working with new people. There’s a system that I’ve been working on for 10 years and having to adapt to a different environment scared me a bit.

You also have the chance to fully control your future through your new company – which is another major change in your career! What’s been your favorite thing about getting to explore that behind-the-scenes side of the industry?

KINO: Being able to team up with the talents that have the personality and traits that match with me was the most enjoyable thing for me with NAKED! And you don’t know how grateful I am to have such people around me. I know I can’t change my future at will, but with these people, I’m sure there’s a great future ahead of us.

You’ve released two songs thus far under NAKED, and presented various charms that you contain as an artist. What can we expect from your upcoming release? How did the production of this song compare to your past experiences now that you hold more creative input?

KINO: Compared to the past, I feel like I’m wearing clothes that fit me better. I think it has to do with music. In the past, the main focus of my music was being visually enjoyable, but now I’m trying to make music that can be enjoyed together with or without visual aids. It’s more approachable and genuine. I think it’s music that allows me to communicate with my listeners more. The songs on my new EP, If this is love, I want a refund are like that. I used words and expressions that people use in real-life conversations and on social media into the lyrics, and expressed feelings in a way we would normally do with close friends: Less filtered. I think those are the elements that make the songs relatable. 

Making it everyone’s story rather than ‘KINO’s story.’ For example, with the title track “Broke My Heart” it’s not just lyrics that go, ‘I’m sad, I’m crying because I’m hurt by love’. Instead, it’s less sugar-coated and focuses on genuine feelings that we all once thought about towards the exes who played games with us. Small witty or timid curses I would say – not the voodoo doll type [laughs].  ‘I want your phone to break, I want you to suffer in pain when you remove our couple’s tattoos. I want you to be unhappy because you broke my heart!’ kind of things. These lines make the album a bit more realistic I think [laughs]. 

Before your days as an idol, you participated in a dance group that clearly helped you get a taste of performing! When you think back about that time, what were some of your earliest goals as an entertainer? And how have they changed if at all?

KINO: Looking back, it was a very precious experience. I learned how to shine on stage and how to make people go wild. If anything has changed, I used to think, ‘I’m going to look cool! I have to be recognized!’ But now I think, ‘How can I make these people enjoy themselves more? How can I make them come to my next concert?’ That’s what I’m doing now.

Shortly after that, you earned a role in Pentagon, one of the most charismatic, vibrant groups of our time. Did you have any nerves about jumping into that lifestyle, or was it something you were always confident about?

KINO: I was able to show my strengths and I was also confident. But at the same time, I put in a lot of effort. I tried to make various forms of performance and music, and everyone worked hard on those things, so we were able to make today’s Pentagon.

As a Pentagon member, you’ve contributed such a stable performance quality that fans quickly developed a great respect for your skills. Moreover, you’re also a fine art painter. If you had to choose just one area of artistry to represent you, what feels like the most natural to you?

KINO: I love all forms of art, but of course the number one thing in my heart is always music. I feel like I was born to do music [laughs]. Someone might say no, but I mean it. Without music, I can’t be called an artist. Thankfully, there are many people who respect and appreciate my works already but I can’t stop here. I want to continue proving this until the end of my life.

While in the group, you contributed to several iconic singles, b-sides, and music videos, showing a lot of creativity. Is there a song or video that you feel best represents yourself?

KINO: It’s “Spring Snow” and “Eternal Flame.” These two songs show how much I love Universe [our fans] and the group. Especially, the lyrics of “Eternal Flame” which is made out of Universe’s comments. So, it’s a song that Universe debuted as a lyricist. It’s actually in the credits! Check it out. Isn’t it cool that they put their name on the credits as a lyricist? The words of these songs move me.

You’ve also been known to create your own choreography and that’s something that’s now a huge staple with fans through TikTok challenges, Reels, and more. As an experienced dancer, what’s probably been the most prominent change, or the most recognizable trend over the past few years?

KINO: I think more and more people prefer choreography that they can participate in. For example, the finger dance for “Freaky Love” was that. Even if they haven’t learned to dance professionally, they can simply dance with a phone in their room without great lighting or a studio. I think it’s changed more rapidly, especially since Covid.

You’ve been working on events and concerts to connect with your fans, so there are obviously a lot of exciting things to come! With all of your current plans in development, is there something that you’re particularly looking forward to experiencing?

KINO: NAKED is constantly planning and preparing! It’s more than people think. Of course, the album is the project that we are focusing on right now. I am very proud of the creative direction for both the design and the music! It will be a surprise for you all, stay tuned! I can’t wait to see the reactions once you listen to them! 

In closing, what’s the biggest thing that you’ve learned about yourself since pursuing a path as a soloist?

KINO: I realized that I am not as great as I thought. Now I know that I was surrounded by creative and talented people and it was a collaborative work. I could have been more humble. Also, I used to only explore things of my interests, but now I’m trying to figure out what people’s interests are. I feel like they’re bringing me closer to the world!

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