The evolution of Kang Daniel: The dark horse of Kpop

Kang Daniel is one of the most prominent soloists of this generation. Let's take a look at his musical evolution through the years.

Published on Dec 10, 2020 06:30 PM IST  |  4.8M
Kang Daniel in the music video for Who U Are.
The evolution of Kang Daniel: The dark horse of Kpop
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Pinkvilla wishes Kang Daniel a very happy birthday and what better way to celebrate this day than charting the beautiful musical journey of the artist himself? Kang Daniel came into the spotlight during his successful stint in the second season of the reality idol survival show Produce 101. He finished first in the show, debuting with the project group Wanna One created as a result of the show.

Wanna One promoted for a year and a half, with their debut being one of the most successful and popular debuts in the industry. All four of their albums charted high and topped South Korea’s representative music chart, the Gaon Album Chart. Five lead singles from those albums ranked in the top 3 of Gaon’s Digital Chart. After the official disbandment of Wanna One, Kang Daniel took a reformative 6-month hiatus from the industry, returning with a bang afterwards with Color On Me. At this point, he had also established his own management company, Konnect Entertainment, to hold the reins of his own career.

Let’s take a look at the musical evolution of Kang Daniel:

Produce 101

Kang Daniel’s performance trajectory was unbelievably positive throughout the season and he was known for perfectly growing into a leader. The setbacks he faced were disheartening and he admittedly wanted to give up but those moments of vulnerability gave him strength eventually. The quality of his voice and his tone kept getting better and better with training and by the end of the season, he was truly a performer and an artist in the truest sense of the word.

Energetic and Beautiful

Kang Daniel shone bright in Wanna One and his vocal skills improved massively along with dancing and rap. His live singing stabilised incredibly so much so that he now came to be known for his live skills. Energetic by Wanna One was critically and commercially successful and like the name suggested, was an intense, high energy, youthful, EDM track which perfectly captured Kang Daniel’s musical essence, among the others in the group. Newer fans of the group, who weren’t aware of their Produce 101 stint, were instantly drawn in owing to the individuality of the group members and how beautifully their music highlighted everyone’s strengths. Without a doubt, Kang Daniel’s deep and husky voice became a “killer” point. A killer point is a term used in K-Pop to refer to the best part of the highlight of a song.

Beautiful by Wanna One was equally popular and charted on top of musical charts. This song, however, had a completely different vibe, leaning towards mellow pop. Vocals reign in this track and Kang Daniel starts off the song with his beautifully deep voice. Between Energetic and Beautiful, Wanna One had expressed a range that still remains unmatched.

Color On Me

Kang Daniel’s debut EP Color On Me set records on the Hanteo Chart for both the highest first-day and first-week physical sales for a solo artist in the whole history of K-pop and the Hanteo Chart in its entirety. The lead single from this EP, What Are You Up To, displayed Kang Daniel in all his bright and beautiful energy, bringing out his personality as a human in his music as an artist. Daniel now had full creative liberty and it showed. The track’s style was experimental combined with bubble pop and low-fi R&B elements.


Kang Daniel made his first comeback as a solo artist with Touchin, playing on a 90s, Quentin Tarantino inspired vibe in the music video and a smooth alt-rock/dance genre in the song itself. The music video as well as the song perfectly exhibit Daniel’s duality and his ability to switch the register at which he’s singing, all hallmarks of a complete artist who has now found his unique sound.


2U keeps the focus on Kang Daniel and his vocals/performance with the background running on a smooth instrumental loop and steady percussion. It’s a simple R&B/pop track which is why much of the credit inevitably goes to Daniel for engaging listeners with his vocal talent alone. While most artists want to show as much as they can within their stipulated time, Daniel chooses to sit back and let his talent speak with as few distractions as possible and it works!

Something (Backstreet Rookie OST)

Kang Daniel lent his magically deep voice for the Original Sound Track of Backstreet Rookie featuring Ji Chang Wook and Kim Yoo Jung. His song was called ‘Something’ but it was truly everything! Daniel proved with this song that his voice was as suited to ballads as it was to rap or R&B. His vocals were stable and smooth as honey and it perfectly fit the mood of the drama. By this time, Kang Daniel has established himself as not only an idol but an artist in his own right.

Who U Are

With Who U Are, Daniel’s latest comeback, he knew exactly what he was doing. Daniel appeals to a masculine charm this time with no room for duality. He is bold and makes a strong attack with this release, determined to leave an impression. The dancehall groove works perfectly with his vocals and the funk/trap inspired beats. As a matter of fact, his lyrics are also perfectly in sync with his musical style. Kang Daniel, at this point, has achieved a complete fusion of all his artistic faculties, creating a truly enviable experience that is effectively inimitable.

ALSO READ: The K-Pop group that started it all: Watch EXO evolve musically through the years

What do you think of Kang Daniel's musical journey? Share your thoughts with Pinkvilla and wish Kang Daniel a very happy birthday in the comments section below!

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12 months ago
Thank you for this wonderful article. Hope that you will look forward to Daniel's growth as an artist. More power