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At the Intersection of Gay & Chinese-American, KLARK's Dreamy R&B Debut Finds Love

At the Intersection of Gay & Chinese-American, KLARK's Dreamy R&B Debut Finds Love

At the Intersection of Gay & Chinese-American, KLARK's Dreamy R&B Debut Finds Love

The 22-year-old's debut album, 88, reflects on what it means to be an openly queer, Chinese-American man.

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Floating somewhere between Frank Ocean and Troye Sivan, there's KLARK, sitting on a raft, crisscrossed with a notebook in hand and headphones on his ears, drifting aimlessly at sea.

The 22-year-old singer-songwriter's debut album, 88, is a collection of eight handmade songs reflecting on what it means to be an openly gay, first-generation Chinese-American. Buoyed with dreamy vocals and glossy R&B/pop production, 88 submerges us in memories, his struggles with identity, awkward Grindr hookups, coming out to his family, and ultimately, falling in love.

It seems KLARK is ready to show the world exactly who he is. "I've always been a people pleaser, seeking approval from the world. This is me questioning whether all that is worth it."

Photography courtesy of Robiny Jamerson. 

A lover of today's R&B music (Daniel Caesar, SZA), yet moved by artists like Tom of Finland, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres (whose piece "Lovers, 1988" inspired the title of the album), KLARK is inspired by LGBTQ history, and looks ahead to it's future.

"The HIV/AIDS epidemic took many of these queer artists, performers, and philosophers away from us too soon," KLARK told PRIDE. "Those artists sacrificed their lives for the rest of us, so when I write music, I try to think about them and the lovers and friends who died in their arms, whom they immortalized through their art."

Those memories are scattered throughout 88.

"I wrote and recorded the album over the course of the last three years—which also were the most eventful years of my coming out journey," he said. "The tracklist pretty much follows that journey—from the first eye-opening fling ("REMEMBER ME"), to rupture and repair with family ("AS I AM"), to recklessly making sense of the dating scene ("I.D.E.K.Y.N." & "CHAMPAGNE"), to finding inspiration in artists of the HIV/AIDS epidemic era ("CROWNS + CASTLES"), to finding love ("MERMAIDS" & "NEPTUNE"), to finally realizing that I don't need to change who I am ("OUT")."

The boy featured in the "NEPTUNE" music video actually inspired much of the album. "I love mythology," KLARK explained. "My boyfriend swam in college so I jokingly started calling him 'Neptune,' after the Roman god of the sea. The name stuck after I wrote "NEPTUNE," and started building aquatic references and visuals around the rest of the album." 

There's no doubt KLARK is baring his soul with 88. But why? 

"I wanted to write an album that I wish me four-years-ago would have heard. We have so much LGBTQ+ talent, yet so little pop music actually substantively discusses the coming out process," he said.

And he doesn't take representation lightly. "How many A-list Asian American singers, actors, actresses, writers, artists, etc. can you name?" he harps. "How many of them are LGBTQ+? Most people can't name any. And that's not for lack of talent."

"Hopefully seeing an Asian-American making art and putting himself out there openly inspires others in my communities to also create their own art, challenge preconceptions, and make their voices heard."

Photography courtesy of Robiny Jamerson. 

And KLARK remains optimistic. "I hoped to start to bridge that gap by reflecting on my personal story. Hopefully, it reaches the ears of others who are going through or reflecting on that journey."

He jokingly adds, "Why not announce your identity to the world with a full-length album and photoshoot, ya feel?"

Follow KLARK, and check out 88 below or on other streaming platforms.

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Taylor Henderson

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one! 

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one!