YANGDONGHWA Reveals He Wants to Go from Hell to Heaven in "Divine Comedy" Inspired Debut


Newly debuted soloist Yang Donghwa shared a YouTube documentary with fans following the release of his debut single, “Blackout” and b-side “She Makes Me.” The self-made film gives viewers insight into Donghwa’s thought process behind the two songs that set off his career under the artist name YANGDONGHWA as of February 18, 2024.

"Blackout" Music Video

In his 7-minute documentary titled “YANGDONGHWA - Self Documentary,” the singer explains that he would rather talk directly than write his sentiments, which is why he planned the film. The documentary is stripped down and intimate with Donghwa alternating between talking to the camera in a casual hoodie and behind-the-scenes clips of his music video shoot.

In part one, he breaks down his b-side, “She Loves Me.” Donghwa participated in the writing and composing of the song and stated that the intention was to create a light-hearted, fun pop song. While the lyrics do stem from the “she makes me blackout,” lyric from “Blackout,” the song is noticeably brighter than the lead single. It has a more traditional pop sound with EDM and synth elements paired with Donghwa’s smooth vocals that charm his listeners.

For part two, Donghwa covers the star of the show, “Blackout.” Along with writing and composing, Donghwa also arranged and produced his title track. The song is a bit retro, with a funky bass line and groovy melody. 

The lyrics are all-consuming with, “I’m a drunken lover but I’m undercover/ Someone call a doctor, I keep looking for her,” as part of the pre-chorus leading up to “she takes me to black-out/that’s my own way out.” Sung with a desperate edge to his voice, Donghwa created a slightly darker, sexier, and insatiable concept for his first impression as an artist.

“I guess I wanted some undefined subject that could bring out the most honest, comfortable, and ugliest sides of me,” Donghwa said about the theme. The dark elements bloomed from the way Donghwa usually works in his studio: no lights, just darkness. The literal blackout of the atmosphere is where he’s the most honest and sincere with himself with both good and bad emotions. In that way, he says the song is more about that idea than him or any specific relationships.

When forming the actual lyrics and visuals for the song, he leaned on his reading and interpretation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy. The story of Dante, the main character, starting in hell and transitioning to heaven takes the story from a tragedy to a comedy.

The “Blackout” music video is gothic and chilly, with a slight Dickens vibe. Donghwa embodies the character of Dante, searching for and following Beatrice who leads Dante to Heaven in The Divine Comedy. Images of singing in the rain and Beatrice playing an electric guitar bring the fun vibes from the song to the screen.

Clips of the 20-year-old at work fill the screen, along with his gratitude for the team who helped him bring his vision to life. In the end, viewers find themselves in a dimly lit room with Donghwa once again.

“No matter the atmosphere, I’ve started. No matter who I am, I’ve started. Starting from hell,” Donghwa says, drawing parallels between Dante and himself as he alludes to his previous near-debut.

As a trainee, Donghwa originally participated in IST Entertainment’s survival show The Origin: A, B, or What in 2022. He ranked 6th and was chosen to enter the boy group ATBO. However, on June 13, 2022, IST announced that they investigated and confirmed bullying accusations against Donghwa that the singer admitted to himself. Donghwa and his parents apologized and decided with the company that he would not join the group, but self-reflect instead.

While this has deterred some listeners from following him further, others have eagerly hoped for his return to music. Under the teasers that began dropping on February 6, 2024, over a year and a half since IST’s announcement, relieved fans filled the comment sections. And, since his debut, new fans from around the world are finding themselves attracted to his sound. Time will tell if and how his past will impact his career.

Embracing the uncertainty, Donghwa leaves viewers with an open ask.

“I will do my best someday to end in heaven,” he says. “I would be grateful if you pay a lot of attention and wait for it.”

Watch YANGDONGHWA's full documentary on YouTube.

Benni Bradford

Benni Bradford is a writer, music enthusiast, and podcast host based in the US. Benni’s fascination and love for K-Pop can be traced back to 2010 when 2ne1 and f(x) rocked their world. You can find Benni ulting 2ne1, Loona, and Ateez, doing unnecessarily deep deep dives on K-Pop industry trends, and playing with their cat, Oliver.

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