Eric Nam / Photograph = CJ E&M

He’s upright, polite, and considerate. Ever since Eric Nam made his debut, he has been loved for having a certain “image.” A lot of women found themselves cheering for Eric when he reassured Mamamoo’s Solar – his partner from MBC’s We Got Married – by saying, “Being weird is our concept,” when she had a hard time acting cute. When a comedienne was down on herself and calling herself “ugly,” Eric drew a collective applause from female audiences by telling her that she was beautiful.

When it comes to his music, Eric Nam has relied heavily on his image of being kind and warmhearted. His song “Good For You,” which is about love and devotion, brings to mind the scenes of Eric taking care of Solar while he was on We Got Married.  The provocative lyrics of “Can’t Help Myself” are reminiscent of his character from “Three-Minute Boyfriend,” a skit that he performed on tvN’s SNL Korea. His music only solidified the fantasy that people had of Eric being a “nice guy,” and didn’t do much for showing his actual identity.  

That’s the reason why Eric Nam emphasized “transformation” when he announced the release of his third mini album Honestly on April 11. “I think I’m stereotyped as a guy who’s warm and romantic,” said Nam. “I wanted to show the many different sides of myself.” Unlike his previously released songs that use acoustic instruments to create warm and cozy vibes, the tracks off of Honestly have a slightly edgier sound. The most prominent examples of Eric Nam’s transformation come in the form of his title track/tropical house number, “Honestly…,” and the latin rhythm infused track, “Potion.” When discussing his newest album, Eric Nam explained, “I stuck to my guns and said I would do what I wanted to do.” He added, “The music [on this album] is the kind that suits me the most.”

His music is the only thing that Eric Nam is trying to change about himself; Eric isn’t trying to change his image, which is why his transformation seems more natural than strategic. Starting with his collaboration in 2016 with the American electronic dance duo KOLAJ for the track titled “Into You,” Eric Nam has strived to pursue the latest trends in pop. Tracks like “Body” – a song that brought Eric together with the famous American record producer Timbaland – and “Cave Me In” – a collaborative single that also featured Gallant and Tablo – are songs that show Eric  Nam’s musical aspirations.  Such endeavors are what helped to put the finishing touches on Honestly.

Honestly will neither completely destroy nor flip the image that Eric Nam is known for. Outside of the song, Eric is still as friendly and courteous as ever. However, this mismatch, paradoxically, has the power to allow the listener to focus on the music itself.  Whereas “Good For You” and “Can’t Help Myself” are indebted to Eric Nam’s personal charm, the tracks off of Honestly draw themselves closer to the audience with the appeal of the songs themselves. This opens up new possibilities for Eric as he no longer needs to feel shackled by his image. At last, six years after his debut, Eric is truly getting things started the right way.

Translated by Jennifer Earwood