'Dear my sea': NCT Doyoung's solo debut inspired by fan letter

Doyoung of boy band NCT debuting on April 22 as a solo artist with his first album ″Youth″ [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

Doyoung of boy band NCT makes his solo debut today with his album “Youth.” To mark the monumental moment, Doyoung wrote the lyrics for his two of the songs, one of which began with a letter he once received from a fan.

“The letter began with, ‘Dear Doyoung, my sea,’” Doyoung told reporters in an interview Friday at the headquarters of his agency, SM Entertainment, in Seongsu-dong, eastern Seoul.

In the letter, the fan described Doyoung as the sea: a place vast, calm, blue, beautiful and peaceful, but simultaneously deep, dark and scary. Per the letter, Doyoung taught the fan how to swim on their own, to be OK floating around the world — and that inspired the artist to write the words of the song “From Little Wave.”

“I’ve always wanted to bring that letter into a song,” Doyoung said.

“I always feel grateful toward the fans, but just as the letter said, the fans are also people who allow me to experience so many different things. Sometimes I feel grateful, then I sometimes feel like they’re the reason that I’ve become a stronger person. We met as artist and fan, but we share so much and learn together so much. I wanted to write all of that in the song.”

Doyoung of boy band NCT [SM ENTERTAINMENT]
Doyoung of boy band NCT [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

“From Little Wave” is one of the 10 songs of different genres that fill the NCT singer’s album. It’s neither a full-length album nor an EP — because categorizing it as either would have meant being caught up in some kind of restriction, he said.

“You could end up having to squeeze in a song that you don’t particularly like just because you want a full-length album or leave out a really good song because it has to be an EP,” he said.

“I didn’t want any of that to happen. I just wanted to fill the entire list with songs that I like, and I aim to take that into the second, third and fourth albums that I release in the future.”

So was filled the list of 10 songs that Doyoung felt proud to present as his own: Lead track “Little Light,” a rock-style ballad revolving around the light of youth and hope shone by fireflies; “Beginning” and “From Little Wave,” both of which Doyoung wrote; “Time Machine,” a pop ballad track featuring NCT bandmate Mark and renowned Girls’ Generation’s vocalist Taeyeon; and “Serenade,” “Rewind,” “Warmth,” “Lost in California,” “Rest” and “Dallas Love Field,” each containing a new color that Doyoung says he hasn’t been able to show beforehand.

"Youth," NCT Doyoung's first solo album [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

Youth is a theme frequented by K-pop singers these days, but the choice was an inevitable one for Doyoung — a K-pop singer born in 1996, who is currently at the apex of both his career and his youth.

“I wanted to be able to be 100 percent and unapologetically myself,” he said. “I asked myself, ‘What is the one thing that I can talk about, being completely honest and not holding anything back?’ I wanted to be able to talk about my thoughts and the album from the bottom of my heart, not something that I’m told to say by someone else. I thought that would be the only way that I could really call it my own album.”

To that end, Doyoung didn't intentionally try to distinguish himself from the NCT member that the boy band's devotees love. “Fans know me and like me as NCT Doyoung, so trying to make myself completely different from that could seem — to exaggerate a little — like betrayal,” the singer said. “I didn't try anything particularly different, but I did try to show myself as I really am.”

“Youth” is Doyoung’s first official solo album since he debuted as a member of NCT U, a subunit of NCT, in 2016 with the digital single “The 7th Sense.” The singer is also a member of the NCT subunits NCT 127 and NCT Dojaejung, serving as the main vocalist of all three groups.

Doyoung of boy band NCT

Eight full years as a member of one of K-pop’s biggest groups built Doyoung a career sounder than those many competitors can claim, but it wasn’t until last year that he finally gained the confidence to come forward as a soloist.

“I think I put it off, debuting solo, because I wasn’t sure about myself,” he said.

“I believe that a solo artist has to be able to stay consistently good at their job, their music, without relying on anything else other than the music. I needed time to make sure that I was in that state. But I know that I wouldn’t be here today without the time I spent as a trainee or a member of NCT. I think I would have been a very stubborn, rigid artist who has to have everything his own way, had I not had all the experience that I did.”

Alongside Mark and Taeyeon, Doyoung credits bandmate Taeyong, who made his own solo debut with EP “Shalala” in June 2023, and actor Gong Myoung, Doyoung's two-years-older brother, as positive influences on his solo journey. Taeyong gave realistic tips from his own experience as a soloist, while Gong Myoung appeared in teaser videos for Doyoung's tracks.

“I wanted to use him for my grand debut,” Doyoung said, jokingly. “I wanted the highlight medley video to seem like a short story, so I figured that I should get a proper actor to do it, which is who Gong Myoung is. Plus, he has a deeper voice than mine and is better at acting.”

Doyoung of boy band NCT

The singer is yet unsure what his next solo project will be about — but he knows it will be another story told as his full and honest self. Whatever that may be, he has one humble yet ambitious goal as a solo artist: that people will recognize his voice.

“Up until now, I’ve tried this and that as a member of NCT, but that’s been a part of the group’s whole song,” he said. “I hope that people get to remember my voice and immediately realize, ‘Oh, this is Doyoung’s voice,’ whenever they hear a song.”

Doyoung's first solo show coming up next month. He will perform the new songs at the “Dear Youth” concert in the Peace Hall at Kyung Hee University, central Seoul, on May 25 and 26. The list of songs has been finalized, but the performance is still a work in process, according to the newbie solo artist.

“I’m not sure about doing it well, but I’m doing it,” he said. “All I can hope is that I do well on that day. I have to. I’m cheering for myself.”

To find out more about Doyoung and NCT, visit Celeb Confirmed