The K-pop star is back with his first song of the year
Holland won the Dazed 100 last year, as a figure championing a new, queer era in K-pop and beyond. The first openly gay K-pop star continues to push for inclusivity, with his latest single and video “Nar_C”.
The song comes from Holland’s new self-titled EP, which just dropped at the end of March. “Nar_C” is beat-driven and bouncy, drawing on the ambitious rhythms and productions of house and disco, while Holland sings of a relationship fraught with pain and emotion. “Never going back to wonderland,” he sings, oscillating from Korean to English. “Lie or truth just fantasy.”
The dreamy, pastel-hued video charts the highs and lows of love, as Holland falls for and ultimately breaks up with another man. The musician had previously teased the plotline on Twitter, giving fans more details on the couple’s backstory.
“Sensitive and delicate Holland. Spontaneous and impulsive Jaeseok,” he wrote. “As time went by, they got used to each other, would get into fights over things. From time to time, Holland would see himself in Jaeseok. After fighting, Jaeseok would always bring a yellow daffodil as an apology. One day, they had a big argument over a small issue. They could not contain their emotions. Jaeseok left. Holland was left at home by himself. Sometimes he opens the door but Jaeseok never comes back. Holland goes outside holding a yellow daffodil.”
This realistic depiction of a same-sex relationship is revolutionary in the South Korean music scene, where homosexuality remains taboo. Holland is part of a small group of LGBTQ artists in Korea, including fellow gay singer MRSHLL, gay TV personality Hong Seok-cheon, and trans singer and actress Harisu. He was rejected from major K-pop entertainment companies after choosing to be open about his sexuality.
But the singer remains determined to portray LGBTQ identity in his music, with this gentle video following the censorship of defiant 2018 single “I’m Not Afraid”, which was rated R on YouTube.
Holland first voiced his frustration with society’s discrimination against the LGBTQ community in his debut single “Neverland”, singing about his dream to find a place where he can freely be with whoever he chooses to love. The groundbreaking video was rated 19+ for featuring a same-sex kiss. Despite this, “Neverland” gained over a million views in its first 24 hours of release, and has been watched over 11 million times to date, with a largely positive response.
In a video interview with Dazed, Holland talked about his experiences coming of age in a country where his sexuality isn’t respected, and how he had no gay musicians to look to as role models. “Although at that time there wasn’t a single role model to look up to in Korea, I was very consoled by foreign celebrities,” he said. “So I thought, ‘I want to be a famous person like them’... I’m working harder because I want to be a special person to my fans too.”
Watch Holland’s beautiful, heartbreaking new video for “Nar_C” below.