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Sunmi perfects dance-pop one single at a time

By Yim Hyun-su

  • Published : Aug 27, 2019 - 17:56
  • Updated : Aug 27, 2019 - 17:56

New queen of K-pop continues winning streak with another jam, “Lalalay”

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(Makeus Entertainment)
“Confident,” “catchy,” “woke” -- there is no shortage of words for fans to describe the 27-year-old singer on Twitter. Sunmi has evolved into one of the most prominent female solo artists in K-pop in recent years.

On the charts, she has managed to produce multiple hit singles that embody dance-pop music with a careful dose of electro beats like no other, all while standing her artistic ground in music videos that have racked up over 200 million total views.

What refuses to be overshadowed by the commercial success is her strong stage presence and artistic instinct. In June, she was in the headlines after expressing support for the LGBTQ community as she posed on stage with a rainbow flag wrapped around her while performing in Amsterdam, a move that many saw as bold.

Now at the height of her career comes the new single “Lalalay,” which is out Tuesday. The song sees the singer put a traditional spin on contemporary dance-pop as the track features the sound of the traditional Korean wind instrument taepyeongso alongside electro beats.

Surprisingly though, it was her passionate Mexican fans who inspired the song.

“The inspiration came while on tour. I went to Mexico with high expectations about their passion and fans were enjoying my show very passionately without caring about what other people think,” she said during a showcase for the new single on Tuesday.

“I was back in bed in my hotel room and thought about how Koreans also love to have fun. Then the word ‘Lalalay’ suddenly sprung to my mind.”

After searching on the internet, she learned the word was another name for the taepyeongso.

“I thought it was perfect to use as source material and suggested making beats with it to DJ Frants” she added.

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(Makeus Entertainment)
The latest single, which skillfully mixes both the dancehall and Latin sounds with the aid of the traditional Korean instrument sounds different yet still catchy, which might be an ideal final product for the singer who believes in finding middle ground.

“I’m always debating whether to shake things up or stay the same. I believe that somewhere in the middle, between what the public wants and what the artist strives to be, is most ideal. That’s why when I want to bring change, I ask people within the company and I ask them whether it would be okay. Then the time comes when you need change. This record was that.”



With her ever-so-changing image, it’s easy to forget that Sunmi has been in the game for over a decade, dating all the way back to her first step into the industry as part of Wonder Girls --- a group that went on to release chart-toppers, three studio albums and had an MTV show of their own during their nearly 10-year stint.

When she decided to leave JYP Entertainment in early 2017, she released two solo singles, “24 Hours” and “Full Moon.” Though the two singles were mild successes, her solo career really began to take off with “Gashina.” The colorful video heavily featuring the singer’s solo dancing has racked up over 100 million views on YouTube, with people from around the world relating to her goofy and eccentric dance moves and facial expressions.

The 2017 synth pop number with heavy beats and Far East-inspired arrangement also saw her name appear at No. 38 on streaming service Melon’s annual singles chart, making her one of only five female solo acts on the top 40. Her next two singles, “Heroine” and “Siren,” were also successful, but with “Noir” she also proved she’s not bound by just putting out hit singles, as she skipped TV promotions.

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(Makeus Entertainment)
In a K-pop world heavily dominated by group acts, Sunmi says she experienced the pressure as a female solo artist firsthand during her recent world tour, which only served to pusher her even further in the end.

“It was a little intimidating at first to go on a world tour as a female solo artist,” she spoke of her feelings before going on a world tour, stopping in 18 countries over three continents, during Tuesday’s showcase event.

“The pressure was on, since I had to perform a set list of 16 songs. It wasn’t a fan event.” But her mind soon changed.

“When the tour began, my worries were proven wrong. Seeing all the people with different eye and hair colors signing along in Korean and shouting my name before the shows, I felt like I’d made the right decision. (The experience) ended up broadening my horizon.”

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)