Dong Young-bae (Hangul: 동영배; born 18 May 1988), better known by his stage names Taeyang (meaning “sun” in Korean) and SOL (when performing in Japan), is a South Korean singer, rapper, dancer, and songwriter. After appearing in Jinusean’s music video “A-yo,” Taeyang began training under YG Entertainment at the age of 12. Six years later, he made his debut in 2006 as a member of the South Korean boy band Big Bang. While the quintet’s debut was met with lukewarm receptions, their follow-ups cemented their popularity, becoming one of the best-selling digital group of all-time in Asia and one of the best-selling boy bands in the world.
Following the release of several albums and extended plays with his group, Taeyang pursued a solo career in 2008, releasing his first extended play, Hot. The EP was acclaimed by critics, and went to win the award for Best R&B & Soul Album at the 6th Korean Music Awards. Hot was followed by his first full-length studio album, Solar (2010), that garnered sales of over 100,000 copies. His second studio album, Rise (2014), peaked at number 112 on the US Billboard 200, becoming the highest ranking album by a Korean soloist in the chart, Taeyang’s vocal skills have been admired by music critics and he is regarded as one of the best vocalists in South Korea.
Born and raised in Uijeongbu, GyeongGi-Do, South Korea, Dong Yong-bae’s first contact with music was playing the piano, where he enjoyed classical music composed by Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert. When his family began struggling financially, Dong felt the need to find a job to help support them at a young age. In sixth grade, he auditioned and won the part of “mini Sean” in Jinusean’s music video “A-yo,” where he was introduced to and became fascinated with hip hop music. On the occasion, Dong met Yang Hyun-suk CEO of the record label YG Entertainment and begged him for a chance to become a singer. As he got no answer, he went to his office personally to achieve his intention. Yang gave him the opportunity to audition, where he was successful, and accepted by the record label as a trainee. There, he met fellow trainee and future bandmate Kwon Ji-yong. Dong spent the first few years as a trainee cleaning the studio for the other artists in the company and fetching them water bottles during dance practices, later admitting that current artists at the time weren’t friendly towards him or Kwon. In 2003, Dong provided the rap verse in singer Wheesung’s single “Player” on the latter’s second album.
Although Dong was scheduled to debut alongside Kwon as the hip hop duo GDYB (with Kwon choosing the stage-name G-Dragon), the plan was scrapped by their record label. Instead, they were joined by four other trainees (TOP, Daesung, Seungri, and Hyun-Seung) to form the group Big Bang. Their formation was documented on television, but before their official debut, Hyun-Seung was dropped and their final lineup consisted of five members. Dong was initially hesitant about being placed in a band but eventually warmed up to the other members. Choosing the stage-name Taeyang (meaning sun) because “the sun is the brightest star from the incalculable stars in the universe,” Taeyang abandoned the idea of rapping to focus on singing.
Following the release of several single albums, Big Bang’s first album, Big Bang Vol. 1 – Since 2007, was a moderate success, and included Taeyang’s first solo song “Ma Girl.” The group achieved mainstream success with the release of the song “Lies” (Korean: 거짓말; Revised Romanization: Geojitmal) from their first extended play Always (2007). This was followed by “Last Farewell” (Korean: 마지막 인사; Revised Romanization: Majimak Insa) from Hot Issue (2007) and “Day by Day” (Korean:하루하루; Revised Romanization: Haru Haru) from Stand Up (2008); both were also chart-toppers.
After contributing to singer Lexy’s album, Taeyang announced that he was going to release a solo album. Initially scheduled for a September release, the project was pushed back due to conflicting schedules with his group. Instead, Taeyang released the EP Hot in May 2008, backed by a production team that included 1TYM’s Teddy Park, Yang Hyun Suk, Kush, and his fellow member G-Dragon. Moving beyond the hip-hop genre of Big Bang, Taeyang incorporated mainly R&B songs into his album, stating that it was his “main focus”. He expressed disappointment with the album, however, admitting that he did not write any of the songs. He later stated that he would do so in the future to fully express and incorporate his thoughts and ideas into his music. The EP produced two singles: “Only Look at Me” (Korean: 나만 바라봐, Revised Romanization: Naman Barabwa), an R&B song written by Teddy and Kush, and “Prayer (Korean: 기도; Revised Romanization: Gido)” which featured Teddy. Promotional videos were shot for both. In support of his album, he also staged his first solo concert, the Hot Concert Series. Taeyang later received two awards from the 7th Korean Music Awards: Best R&B/Soul Song for “Only Look at Me” and Best R&B/Soul Album for Hot.
Throughout the majority of 2009, Taeyang contributed to his group’s activities. After promotional activities ended, he went back to the studio to record new solo materials. Two digital singles were released: “Where U At” and “Wedding Dress” with promotional videos. The latter single ranked number three on an online music poll for a Dutch radio station.
Taeyang’s first full-length album Solar was released in July 2010 in two versions: a “Regular Edition” and a “Deluxe Edition”. The regular edition contained eleven songs while the deluxe edition, limited to only 30,000 copies, had 13 songs, including “Only Look at Me” and “Prayer” from Hot. The “Deluxe Edition” sold out on the first day of release. Two singles were released for promotions: “I Need a Girll” and “I’ll Be There”. In Solar, Taeyang contributed to its production; composing, co-writing four songs (“Solar”, “Where U At”, “Wedding Dress”, and “Take It Slow”) and writing lyrics for “Take It Slow”. Taeyang won the “Best Male Artist” award at the 2010 Mnet Asian Music Awards. Both the regular and the deluxe versions peaked at the number one position on the Gaon Album Chart.
Taeyang took two years to record new materials and participate in promotional activities with Big Bang for their Korean EPs Tonight (2011) and Alive (2012) as well as the Japanese studio album Alive (2012). When activities wrapped up, he turned his focus back to preparing for his second studio album. The single “Ringa Linga” was released in November 2013, preceding his second album Rise (2014). While he utilized the help of Teddy Park, G-Dragon, and Choice37, Taeyang also involved himself with its production, producing six tracks. Rise became the third highest charting K-pop album, and also the highest charting K-pop album by a solo artist on the Billboard charts, reaching 112 on the Billboard Hot 200 while topping the Billboard World Albums Chart and Heatseekers Albums Chart, selling 3,000 copies. In Japan, the album ranked at number two, with 48,000 units sold. Taeyang released another two singles to promote the album: “Eyes, Nose, Lips” and “1AM.” The former became his first chart topper on the Gaon Digital Chart while the latter peaked at number seven. The choreography for “Ringa Linga” spawned numerous covers on the video-sharing website YouTube, while “Eyes Nose Lips” was covered by various celebrities, including label-mates Akdong Musician, Tablo, Lydia Paek as well as Korean singer Eric Nam and Canadian pop star Michael Bublé. Comedian Yoo Jae-suk also parodied it on the popular variety program Infinite Challenge. “Eyes, Nose, Lips” was the second best-performing single of 2014 in South Korea.
Taeyang then embarked on the Rise World Tour in support of the album, visiting 9 countries and 16 cities in Asia beginning in August 2014. The tour concluded in early 2015 with an attendance of over 100,000 fans. At the 2014 Mnet Asian Music Awards, Taeyang won Best Male Artist, Best Vocal Performance and Song of the Year for “Eyes, Nose, Lips”.
Taeyang collaborated with G-Dragon in November 2014 to release the song “Good Boy” for YG Entertainment’s new hip hop project. The song received positive reviews, with Fuse naming it one of best songs of the year, and debuted at the number one position on Billboard’s World Digital Songs chart, the third time a Korean act topped the list and the first for a male group. The music video on YouTube currently boasts over 100 million views.
For two years from 2015 to 2016, Taeyang toured extensively with his band for their third Korean album, performing for over 3.6 million fans in two years. In 2015, Taeyang participated in the biennial Infinite Challenge music festival, with bandmate G-Dragon. The duo teamed up with ZE:A’s Hwang Kwanghee and released the single “Mapsosa”, which peaked at number two on the Gaon Digital Chart. The same year, he appeared on Mnet’s Show Me The Money as a featured singer on labelmate Song Min-ho’s single “Fear,” composed by Zico during the semi-finals which became one of the best-selling singles of the year.
In January 2017, YG Entertainment announced that Taeyang is working on his new album, alongside solo concerts. Taeyang commenced his second world tour, White Night, with stadium concerts in Japan. The first two shows were held at Chiba Marine Stadium and were attended by 50,000 people, which was followed by two shows at Kobe Sports Park Baseball Stadium. The tour is set to visit 19 cities around the world, including stops in North America, with concerts in eight cities across Canada and the United States.
Taeyang’s third studio album, White Night, was released on 16 August 2017 with dual lead singles “Darling” and “Wake Me Up”. “Darling” became a Top 10 hit on the Gaon Digital Chart while “Wake Me Up” managed to chart at number five on Billboard’s World Digital Songs. Additionally, the album debuted at number one on the Billboard’s World Digital Albums, and remained the following week atop this chart, making Taeyang the second solo K-Pop artist to have an album do so. In South Korea’s Gaon Album Chart, the album peaked at number three, with over 57,000 copies sold in August.
On September, it was announced that Taeyang will appear on the upcoming JTBC survival audition program Mix Nine as a judge. Taeyang was revealed as one of the cast members of tvN’s new variety program, Livin’ the Double Life, along with CL and Oh Hyuk.
Taeyang began his 21 months of mandatory military service on 12 March 2018 by entering the 6th Infantry Division’s boot camp in Cheorwon, Gangwon Province as an active duty soldier, where he is set to be discharged on 12 December 2019 after completing the requirements.
Just like the rest of Big Bang, Taeyang stands out for “how serious he is about his craft and artistry,” in opposition to the rest of the “manufactured confines of K-pop.” Through his older brother, Taeyang met pop music at the age of six, with the music of American singer Michael Jackson, since then he has developed his musical interest mainly influenced by genres soul and R&B. However, he became mainly an R&B singer and dancer, but is also known for fusing hip-hop, soul, and EDM with R&B in his solo albums. Dazed claimed that his sound absorbs “style influences from punk to rap and twinning current underground R&B to his native, hyper-sonic pop music”, while Allmusic described his material as “smart, hip-hop-flavored pop.” Additionally, Billboard called him one of South Korea’s “rare R&B stars.” For his second album Rise (2014), Taeyang stated that while “R&B and hip-hop are a given,” “there is also electronic, ballad, and rock,” hoping to blend genres like Kanye West. Taeyang lists Miguel, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd and Michael Jackson as his biggest influences, in particular the latter’s album Xscape. Lyrically, he is known as a “specialist in love songs”. His debut single, “Only Look at Me”, narrates a selfish relationship, while in “I Need A Girl” he describes his ideal type. Acknowledging that he draws “inspiration from the African natives,” Taeyang has been criticized for culturally appropriating hip hop and African-American culture.
Taeyang’s voice is highly praised for its tone. Korean critic Kim Young-dae called his timbre “luxurious and one you couldn’t find before him,” noting that “instead of giving off a mechanically trained and cold aura that other idols usually exhibit, he has a warm and full emotional range.” In 2015, Taeyang was voted the third best K-Pop male vocalist by music industry officials. He was described as a “feline” and ferocious live performer by The New York Times. Once described to have “moves like Chris Brown The Straits Times highlighted “his vocal prowess and sex appeal” as the best traits of his performances, and claimed that his free-styled moves show off “why he is often crowned the dancing king of K-pop.” A review of his first solo tour stated that:
Taeyang’s vocals glide effortlessly over the melodies as his body twists fluidly from one move to the next. But even as he dances in abandon, his movements are graceful and economical, a joy to watch.
Taeyang is a devoted Christian with multiple faith-inspired tattoos, including a large Christian Cross on his right rib cage and a mural-style tattoo across his shoulder blades depicting Jesus Christ on the cross, a centrally placed Christian Cross, and Jesus risen from the dead.
He has been in a relationship with actress Min Hyo-rin since 2013. In December 2017, it was confirmed by their respective agencies that they planned to marry in February 2018. On 3 February 2018, Taeyang and Min married in a private ceremony with family and friends, officiated by actor Ki Tae-young.
In 2017, Taeyang started endorsing auto maker Lexus, becoming the brand’s Korean ambassador for their newest model LC500h, composing and writing the lyrics for the promotional song “So Good”, which was released in May. Taeyang partnered with Italian fashion house Fendi to design an exclusive capsule collection line “Fendi for Taeyang” which features an array of T-shirts, hoodies, jackets, accessories and sneakers – with Taeyang’s signature daisy-shaped motifs and positive words like, “Faith,” “Grace,” “Saved,” and “Passion.” The collection is set to debut in Hong Kong on 27 July with the prices ranging from $447-$9,490.
In 2010, a part of Taeyang’s income of albums, goods, tickets and digital music sales went for donation as a part of With campaign by YG Entertainment. Taeyang’s fans donated $5,180 USD on 15 May 2014, under Taeyang’s name to The May 18 Memorial Foundation in celebration of his birthday. The following year, they donated water wells to help provide clean water to communities in need in the Southeast Asian countries of Cambodia and Myanmar, they have been donating what they named as “Taeyang’s water” for three straight years through the international charity organization Worldshare.
Throughout his career, Taeyang has sold an estimated 10 million records, making him one of the best-selling male South Korean R&B artists. three Melon Music Awards and four Mnet Asian Music Awards. His song “Eyes, Nose, Lips”, released in 2014, won Song of the Year in all major Korean awards, including Gaon Chart Music Awards, Golden Disc Awards, Melon Music Awards, and Mnet Asian Music Awards, making him the first R&B solo artist to do so.
The release of his first full-length album, Solar, was the first K-Pop music release to be sold worldwide on iTunes as both an audio and video album. The audio version hit iTunes stores on 19 August 2010, while the video version arrived by 10 September 2010. His second album Rise is debuting at number 112 on Billboard 200 chart