Korea’s Bubble Pop Senorita, HyunA has always been in the limelight in her more-than-a-decade long music career which spans the time she debuted with the most-popular 2nd generation K-Pop girl-group, ‘Wonder Girls’ in February 2007 to her time with ‘4Minute’ to working with duo, ‘Trouble Maker’ and trio ‘Triple H’, until finally debuting as a soloist on January 4, 2010. Aside from being part of so many successful groups, HyunA is also famous for two other parts of her life – her collaboration with PSY in ‘Gangnam Style’, the track that took the world by storm, and her earnest and cute love story with fellow label-mate, DAWN.
Always a believer in being true to oneself and breaking the chains of convention in the stringent K-Pop industry, HyunA has time and again released tracks that are meant to liberate and voice the unvoiced struggles of being part of this industry. From her Girl-power Anthem, ‘Bubble Pop!’ and earthy talks of female idols’ infantilization in ‘Babe’ to her 2019’s heralding of new beginnings and return to her own self with ‘Flower Shower’, HyunA has reiterated this belief through her music. Her recently released five-tracked 7th Mini Album, “I’m Not Cool” which comes after a year-long hiatus due to health issues, also documents her bittersweet life-story, reconciling the cool and bold female Korean soloist HyunA with the peppy, down-to-earth individual, Kim Hyun-ah.
“There are stories [in the album] that date back three years and those that go back two years. I wanted [fans] to feel as if they are reading my secret diary, so I made an album based on these stories.” – HyunA in the online press conference
I’m Not Cool
The mini-album, symbolic of HyunA’s own personal diary starts off in a signature HyunA-like manner: strong, bold, and magnetic, with the title track, “I’m Not Cool”. The fast-paced dance-pop track embodies the contrasting dual-presence of HyunA the artist and HyunA the individual, as she sings “Gotta look effortless, my words and actions/That’s the way I like it/ Gotta keep it chic and uninterested when people stare/ That’s the way I like it” before the intense chorus kicks in with HyunA fearlessly declaring “I’m not cool”.
The heavy bass, moombahton instrumentation of the song carries a flair of South Asian and Middle Eastern influences which is aptly paired with the “intense as salmosa” choreography (by Rie Hata) performed by temptress HyunA rocking a glittering bejeweled yet unorthodox bob-layers look in an almost “camp-style” vibrant music video. The references to her lover, DAWN as she sassily sings, “I love early mornings, Dawn, Dawn, Dawn/ I’m not solo” and the Anthem-like Outro, also add to the memorable impression of the track on the listeners, right from their very first listen!
“I had to be perfect on the stage, not just because I needed to look good but because I’d been supported by so many people. I thought about how ‘uncool’ I was in struggling to be cool… The lyrics say exactly this.”
From the blazoning declaration that “There’s a ‘not cool’ HyunA behind the sheer perfectness”, the album delves into the realm of blending of the old with the new, as HyunA brings to light her perception of a ‘good girl’ as opposed to the meaning bestowed by society, through her track titled “Good Girl”.
A fast-paced tempo, a captivating beat-drop and the added texture of the alluring vocal ad-libs to HyunA’s charming signature sounds are what make “Good Girl” a careful yet playful arranged track. This electro-pop song also carries positive vibes and an empowering message of individuality and self-expression as HyunA is seen rejecting society’s meaning of a ‘Good girl’ and questioning, “What’s so bad about acting like myself?” The presumable veiled reference to the colours of a 5-striped variation of the LGBTQ flag in “Good Girl” can also be viewed as a re-assertion of HyunA’s conviction and her message of support to her fans, to not be limited by the norms and “be free above the sky”.
Slowing down the tempo, R&B track “Show Window” follows next to offer a much-needed change of pace to the album. The song which talks of the loneliness and melancholy hidden beneath the glamour of an Idol’s life, starts off with a steady ‘Lofi-esque’ melodic setting and soon employs a reverberating bassline and stable synths as HyunA’s soft, mellifluent vocals make a refreshing appearance. In addition to the polished production and beautiful vocalization, her introspective lyrics like, “Thosе dolls that resemble mе/ You look sad for some reason/ Don’t get sick, don’t cry every night/ Whenever I’m like this/ I’m afraid of tomorrow every day”, also attune the listeners to her innermost feelings and evoke a strong empathetic connection between the listener and HyunA who is like a “Pierrot living in a mask”.
“The song carries the loneliness or feelings that are hidden behind my glamorous image. I thought my fans would like it and relate to it.”
Party, Feel, Love
Probably the most-anticipated track from the album after the title track, “Party, Feel, Love” ups the downtempo of “Show Window” and adds a chic, sensual feel while continuing to tap into the R&B genre. The track is a duet that features the ardent chemistry of the two fellow label-mates and lovers, HyunA and DAWN. The resonating instrumentation in the background with the blend of HyunA’s wispy, seductive vocals and DAWN’s distorted and husky rap style, really evoke the feeling of being “drunk in this atmosphere” of the couple’s “Party, Feel, Love”. Passionate serenading lyrical exchanges like, “When you put your arms around me/It’s like being saved by an angel” and “Lonely under the colorful lights, Between this deepening night/The sound of your breath getting closer, Hurry and put your arms around me”, also levitate the listeners to the dreamy, full-hearted realm these affectionate lovers have created together.
“DAWN’s existence has given me strength…He really helped me a lot. I felt so relaxed producing this one. My fans tend to like the ups and downs from me, and in this song, they’ll be able to enjoy my unique lower tones.”
Labeled as ‘Future Moombahton Pop Dance Music’, “Flower Shower” is a pre-released track of HyunA, after she left Cube Entertainment and joined PSY’s P Nation, alongside DAWN in 2019. With a sleek and quirky music production that employs moombahton, whistling, and an electronic drum sound, “Flower Shower” features HyunA in a mystic world of ever-changing seasons where the flower motif comes off strong. HyunA is also seen alluringly singing lyrics like, “Even as flowers wither, don’t you worry/ They will bloom again/ As I bloom in vivid colours, everyone stares at me” and “Don’t be hasty/ Just like seasons, everything will return”, almost as if she is reassuring her past-troubled self and her fans of how she will pave her own “floral path” against all odds and criticisms she faces. This reconciliation with past struggles and repeated self-assurance and confidence in being her own self, signals the new beginning of HyunA, completing the documentation of her poignant life-story till now.
“I’m Not Cool” album hence is a striking and memorable ode to HyunA’s vast and rich discography filled equally with ear-pleasing applause and harsh rebuttals and her constant inner struggles to overcome the emotional distresses while staying true to her own self. Concluding things, she leaves her fans and the listeners with a positive, adventurous (and quite HyunA-like) ending message that “I want to be new every time and keep trying to challenge my limits… Since the stage is where I most like and enjoy being, I want to be the bad kid, at least on stage.”
What did you think of this 5-tracked EP of HyunA? Which is your favourite track from the album?
Spill your thoughts in the comments.