Amid the frenzied chaos of KCON Los Angelesâ€™ main convention, the four members of N.Flying oozed with excitement. For the first time, the bright pop rockers were performing in the U.S. after a breakout year in South Korea. Though it was their first time appearing, they ended upÂ being part of the opening act for the second night of KCON LAâ€™s headlining concert along with members of Stray Kids, and later ignited the crowd with a rousing Queen medley along with their own songs.Â
The latest in a line of pop bands from South Korean company FNC Entertainment — which mainstreamed the K-pop boy band paradigm with FTISLANDÂ in the mid ’00s and then saw subsequent success with CNBLUEÂ –Â N.Flying has been together since 2013 when they released their first single, â€œBasket,â€ an alt-rock English track,Â in Japan, but count their formal debut from the release of their first Korean single, â€œAwesome,â€ in 2015. Throughout their career, theyâ€™ve had varied momentumÂ and several lineup changesÂ that have brought them to being the current four-member team, but 2019 has been undoubtedly their year after â€œRooftop,â€ originally released in January, became a sleeper hit and ended up topping charts in Korea in March. They most recently releasedÂ their fifth Korean EP,Â Spring Memories, in April andÂ Brotherhood, which was both theirÂ first LP and first Japanese album, in May. Their sixth Korean EP,Â Yaho, isÂ set to arrive on Monday (Oct. 15).Â
While backstage onÂ KCON’s convention floor, the members sat down with Billboard to discuss their career and recent rise. Check out their Q&A below.Â
How does it feel to be performing in the U.S.Â for the first time?
Jaehyun: We really like it.Â
Seunghyub: There are so many more fans than we thought there would be. The fact that there are so many fans waiting for us and here to support us makes us so happy. Weâ€™re excited to be able to meet them tonight as a group and hope to come back again and perform in the future. We knew that there would be fans but we had no idea there would be so many.Â Â
How do you feel 2019 has been treating N.Flying?
Hweseung: We were able to experience so many different things this year, and there were unexpected events. It was very emotional for us.Â
Seunghyub: Weâ€™re just continuing to running forward in our career right now towards our goal.
Whatâ€™s your goal?
Jaehyun: Our goal is to be on top of the world. [Laughs.]
How does it feel to have broken out this year with â€œRooftopâ€?
Seunghyub: Our feelings are unimaginable, it was so unexpected. In the beginning, we couldnâ€™t believe what was happening. But the more that it continued, we felt like it was our responsibility to respond to the love.
When were you first aware of â€œRooftopâ€ gaining popularity?
Hun: When we would go to restaurants that we go to often or were walking on the street, or we would go into convenience stores, whenever our song would come outâ€¦ There are times typically when we would hear our songs in public. But to hear it as many times as we did with â€œRooftop,â€ it was really amazing for us. We felt that we received so much love from the public.
Why do you think that song received so much love from the public and resonated so much with listeners?Â
Seunghyub: Itâ€™s an easygoing listen, and when you hear it, itâ€™s a song that you can feel the lyrics. Maybe itâ€™s because for Korean people itâ€™s what the public as the whole is feeling right now.Â
Over the years, youâ€™ve faced several lineup changes [lead vocalist and youngest memberÂ Hweseung joined the band in 2017, and 2018 saw the departure of former bassist Kwon Kwang-jin]. How has the groupâ€™s dynamic changed, if at all, due to these shifts, and how do you feel about it now?Â
Seunghyub: For us, the way we feel about the group and our dynamic has never changed, itâ€™s always been the same. Itâ€™s always about what we can do as N.Flying to release good music, what can we do to grow as a group, and what can we do to repay our fans with all the love that we have. So our dynamic hasnâ€™t really changed, itâ€™s always remained really constant for us.Â
If you had to describe the essence of N.Flying in one word or sentence, what would it be?
Seunghyub: [Our fandom] N.fia. N.Flying is N.fia, and N.fia is N.Flying.Â Â Â
The K-pop industry is almost entirely dominated by dance groups, but youâ€™re a band. How does it feel to be operating in that scene as a band, where pop bands are far less common?Â
Hun: I actually grew up always looking up to bands, ever since I was young. I trusted that, even though dance-based artists are very talented and very cool, I trusted that bands would be able to relay a different feeling. And so I trusted that gut feeling, and we are doing what weâ€™re doing at our own pace.
Who were some of your favorite bands growing up?
Hun: My role models are Guns Nâ€™ Roses and Creed.Â
You actually debuted in Japan, where many K-pop bands have found success, prior to releasing Korean music. What do you think makes the Korean market less receptive to K-pop bands than the Japanese one, and how do you see the state of the scene for bands currently in South Korea?
Seunghyub: We debuted in Japan first because we wanted to learn the various band cultures of Japan. I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s that big of a difference when it comes to Japan and Korea regarding the band scenes.
Jaehyun: I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s much of a difference between bands or idol bands or dance groups, itâ€™s just that the way we give happiness in the form of music is different. But at the end of the day, whether our presence is big or small or our scenes are big or small, our target is still the same.Â Â
Whatâ€™s next for N.Flying? Whatâ€™s something you want to try in the future, musically or just generally?
Seunghyub: Thereâ€™s really so much.
Hun: To be honest, we want to do everything. Thereâ€™s so much that we want to do. N.Flying isnâ€™t a group that has a specific color. We have a very wide spectrum. In the future, we hope that we can try out various musical styles.
What are you looking forward to in the rest of 2019?
Seunghyub: Starting from L.A., we want to be able to go around the world to meet all our N.fia around the world and give back to them good performances, and just make good music.Â
N.Flying is set to release their Yaho album on Oct. 15. Watch a teaser performance of that albumâ€™s upcoming single â€œGood Bamâ€ below.Â
Country Outlaw Songwriter Billy Joe Shaver Dies at 81
He became a reliable storyteller, logging songs with Kris Kristofferson (“Good Christian Soldier”), Tom T. Hall (“Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me”), the Allman Brothers (“Sweet Mama”) and Elvis (“You Asked Me To”). When Jennings invited Shaver to Nashville to work on what became his 1973 outlaw country landmark album Honky Tonk Heroes, Shaver burst into national…
He became a reliable storyteller, logging songs with Kris Kristofferson (“Good Christian Soldier”), Tom T. Hall (“Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me”), the Allman Brothers (“Sweet Mama”) and Elvis (“You Asked Me To”). When Jennings invited Shaver to Nashville to work on what became his 1973 outlaw country landmark album Honky Tonk Heroes, Shaver burst into national prominence. He landed credits on 10 out of 11 tracks on the album that is often tagged as the first, and some say best, “outlaw” LP from a back-to-basics 1970s movement that included Willie Nelson, Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and a number of others.In 1973, he also released his Kristofferson-produced solo debut, Old Five and Dimers Like Me, which included his beloved songs “Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me” and “Georgia on a Fast Train.” Cash covered his song “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Some Day),” which he wrote after giving up drugs and alcohol. In all, Shaver released nearly 2 dozen albums on a variety of labels (MGM, Capricorn, Columbia, new West, Sugar Hill), earning a Grammy nomination for Best Southern/Country/Bluegrass Album for his 2007 effort Everybody’s Brother. His most recent release, 2014’s Long in the Tooth, was his first to chart on Billboard’s Top Country Albums tally and it featured a duet with Nelson on “Hard to Be an Outlaw.”Shaver received the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award in Songwriting from the Americana Music Association in 2002 and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006. His highest praise, however, came from the men who towered in the genre and whom he called friends. Cash once referred to Shaver as “my favorite songwriter,” and good pal Nelson said he was “definitely the best writer in Texas… Everything he writes is just poetry.”His rough-and-tumble songs often emerged from a life that had its share of tragedies and heartache, from his son Eddy’s 2000 death from a heroin overdose to the nearly fatal heart attack he suffered onstage in 2001 and a notorious incident in 2007 when a bar fight ended with Shaver shooting another man in the face; he was acquitted of the charges and turned the scuffle into the song “Wacko From Waco.”Shaver also acted in a number of films, including Secondhand Lions, The Wendell Baker Story and Bait Shop, and his song “Live Forever” was performed by his friend Robert Duvall in the Oscar-winning film Crazy Heart; Duvall cast Shaver in his 1996 movie The Apostle and produced the 2004 documentary A Portrait of Billy Joe.Check out some of Shaver’s songs below.
Janelle Monáe Leads The Revolution In Stirring ‘Turntables’ Video
YouTube “We are in the middle of a revolution right? What’s a revolution without a song and a song without a revolution.” That’s the question the Grammy-winning artist Janelle Monáe posed to Entertainment Weekly when describing her latest single, “Turntables.” The song was released on and flips between cleverly rapped lines about “liberation, elevation, education” and a harmonic…
“We are in the middle of a revolution right? What’s a revolution without a song and a song without a revolution.”
That’s the question the Grammy-winning artist Janelle Monáe posed to Entertainment Weekly when describing her latest single, “Turntables.” The song was released on and flips between cleverly rapped lines about “liberation, elevation, education” and a harmonic refrain with clear gospel influences. It’s Monáe’s take on a contemporary protest song, a call for a political sea change, in the vein of, say, Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” or Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”
Courtesy of Atlantic RecordsAnd on Tuesday (September), Monáe released a moving music video — or, as she calls it, an emotion picture — that solidified that message. The visual opens and closes with the singer walking along the beach in a beige trench coat and military cap. At times, she can be seen singing into a retro microphone before an American flag; in others, she moves through staged breakfast scenes, with a family reading through newspaper headlines as they mouth her lyrics. The visual flashes through archival and contemporary footage depicting inspirational figures past and present: Where one scene shows the model and activist Jillian Mercado at a photo shoot, another depicts a conversation with lifelong activist Angela Davis.
What rings true without is a hopeful cry for change and for equality, and a recognition of those who have been leading that fight for decades. Monáe wrote “Turntables” for the new Amazon Studios documentary, All In: The Fight for Democracy, that shines a light on voter suppression, particularly through the lens of Stacey Abrams’s failed bid for the Georgia governorship. “Right now, I am focused on turning the election in our favor,” Monáe told Entertainment Weekly, “and I hope this song can inspire those who are on the ground doing the work.”
Joe Keery’s Reinvention, Mxmtoon’s Carly Rae Jepsen Collab, And More Songs We Love
Getty Images/April Blum The search for the ever-elusive “bop” is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new? Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn’t discriminate by…
Getty Images/April Blum
The search for the ever-elusive “bop” is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new?
Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn’t discriminate by genre and can include anything — it’s a snapshot of what’s on our minds and what sounds good. We’ll keep it fresh with the latest music, but expect a few oldies (but goodies) every once in a while, too. Get ready: The Bop Shop is now open for business.
St. Vincent ft. Yoshiki: “New York”
St. Vincent, the intuitive musical goddess that she is, must have sensed our collective need for another quarantine ballad. Enter “New York [Feat. Yoshiki],” a classical arrangement of the standout single from 2017’s Masseduction. An added string section courtesy of Yoshiki, a Japanese multi-instrumentalist, beautifully complements the song’s original piano instrumentals. What more can I say? “New York isn’t New York / Without you, love” just hits different in the middle of a pandemic. —Sam Manzella
Djo: “Keep Your Head Up”
Last year, Joe Keery (of Stranger Things fame) released a glossy solo album under the moniker Djo. It was titled Twenty Twenty, and its sparkling arrangements ended up being quite far removed from the overall vibe of 2020 the year, but who could fault him for his optimism? Keery has also long been a contributing member of Chicago psych band Post Animal, but Djo is simply Joe — and latest “Keep Your Head Up” feels like several Joes ripping open a vortex in the funk-time continuum. This is a groove, peppered with buzzy synths and icy falsetto and an honest-to-god sax part. It’s akin to Todd Terje doing Tame Impala, a lightheaded cocktail rush that feels both clubby and bedroom ambitious. Positively galactic. —Patrick Hosken
Mxmtoon ft. Carly Rae Jepsen: “OK On Your Own”
When Mxmtoon’s Maia said she recorded “OK On Your Own” for the girls and the gays, she wasn’t kidding. The mellow bedroom-pop bop soundtracks a journey of self-reflection after a breakup, complete with the soft ukulele instrumentals that put the 19-year-old singer-songwriter on the map. Is it revelatory? No, but with pop icon Carly Rae Jepsen lending her sugary-sweet vocals to the second verse, it doesn’t have to be. Now I’m just waiting for “Party for Two.” —Sam Manzella
Video Age: “Aerostar”
Pleasure Line, the third album from emerging indie pop quartet Video Age, delivers perfectly escapist ’80s new wave vibes for when you need to get outta 2020 for just a moment. “Aerostar” is its punchy center, a hip-twisting, shoulder-shuffling groove that delivers quirky robot dance commands (“Slide to the left, now! Shimmy to the right!”) over hoppin’ funk synths and a kickin’ drum machine. It all harkens to a simpler time, one where dance floors were actually a real thing. Oh, the ’80s! —Terron Moore
Ruel: “As Long As You Care”
About a year ago, Australian middle-part heartthrob Ruel told MTV News that for him, “songwriting is exaggerating to an extent.” On his latest, the technicolor, soulful “As Long As You Care,” his exaggeration is so seamless, you’d be forgiven for believing the 17-year-old is actually a time traveler. The neo-soul groove he rides propels everything upward, even as the sound cheekily looks backward. “As Long As You Care” has one amazing hook, coupled with sonic candy that makes his upcoming third EP, Bright Lights, Red Eyes (out October 23) one to watch. —Patrick Hosken
Alycia Bella ft. Boogie: “Cue the Sun”
Something magical happens two-and-a-half minutes into “Cue the Sun,” the exploratory new collab between striking R&B voice Alycia Bella and rapper Boogie. After piping in the aural equivalent of stage smoke via jazzy piano and gorgeous vocalizations — “It feel like being lost in the right direction” — Bella’s song enters a more sparkly realm for Boogie’s recitations. By the end, you’re lighter, like your mind’s been cleared of all the cobwebs. Cue the sun. —Patrick Hosken
Carly Rae Jepsen