This is Sunmi’s interview for Singles April issue. I will only translate her answers and sum up the transitions.
With “Full Moon”, Sunmi grabbed the number 1 spot on Inkigayo. Before the result came out, she bit her cherry lips as she beat time and she burst out into tears as soon as her number 1 ranking was revealed. Many people were sad for her only being second place all this time and she couldn’t forget to thank them. As she kept crying, the other singers danced joyfully to “Full Moon”.
“I never thought I’d ever be number 1. I went on stage thinking “if, really if you do get the award, do not cry”. When it actually happened, I was very surprised. My mind went blank, so I couldn’t thank properly people. The most important thanks should have gone to Brave Brothers-oppa, but I forgot (laugh).”
As Sunmi made her successful solo debut with the most Park Jin Young-like style and the best Park Jin Young’s method, this collaboration with Brave Brothers this time raised curiosity. “Full Moon”, the title track of her second mini-album “Full Moon” begins with “The FirsT Collaboration of JYP” and not the usual “JYP”.
“As much as this album was about risking my name for the first time, I wanted to try different things. I really wanted to show various genres. My music taste is a bit distinct. All the songs on this album aren’t the style I like, but I chose songs that matched right away what I wanted to show the first time I listened to them.”
Wonder Girls member Ye Eun composed the delicate ballad “If That Was You”, Yu Bin’s husky voice was in harmony with “Who Am I?”, GOT7 Jackson’s rap is featured on the R&B number “Frozen in Time”.
“I really started to listen to hip-hop and R&B in 2008. I really enjoyed Trey Songz’s song the first time I heard it. From that moment, I found myself looking for hip-hop after listening to R&B. I realized there was a strong correlation between R&B and hip-hop. I don’t listen to songs until the end nowadays. I’m the kind to listen to the first 10-15 seconds and if something catches my attention, I’d be like “that’s the song”. But when I read the list later on, a minor emotion comes out. What makes R&B and hip-hop good is the bass sound. The bass is so strong that it makes you want to cry. I think this sound is like a heartbeart. It feels like the song beats in sync with my heart. I think you can really go crazy when you get such feeling. I like this crazy feeling.”
Are those music genres what changed her? The biggest difference between the Sunmi who debuted with Wonder Girls when she was 16 and the one taking the stage on her own when she was 22 is definitely the constitency of her sensitivy. [description of her sexy concepts for “24 hours” and “Full Moon, which she portrayed perfectly]
“I thought that me being different was needed because the choreography and the song were powerful. I told myself not to go with a killing expression like “I’m going to eat it all”. Doing this when you want to look sexy, this is when you look even less sexy. I think I just show something matching my age. It’d be awkward if I used a mature sexy concept. I go on stage thinking “there’s a guy that I really like and I’m going to see this guy today”. I have this excited and enthusiastic mindset.”
The expression “high-end sexy” is now associated with her. Turning back into the Sunmi who always kept a clear and smiling face when she get off the stage, she says she doesn’t think she’s sexy nor pretty. She sometimes pouts as she says her face shape is a complex, she says in a sullen way that there are a lot of beautiful people in this world. She’s clearly aware that the most important thing is to show her own vibe and her own style as a singer.
[description about how “Full Moon” gave her the opportunity to show her potential and how the detailed choreography was a key element. There’s this one move that looks ordinary but when done by her, it looks like the ballet arm position “en haut”]
“It was very hard to express something with the hands moves. I thought I had to express the emotion even through my hands because the body movements aren’t excessive. Even when I eat now, I practrice fingers stretching (laugh). It may look like it’s nothing, but when a finger movement goes astray, even if it’s just a little, the feeling is different. I don’t know about the body from a gymnastics perspective and I’m not flexible. What’s important for JYP is “the line”. Any trainee has to pass through the “choreography basics” phase. Your movements must show you understand the basics. It takes about a year or two to master this and only then you’re able to start learning original choreographies. If you get the feeling that JYP singers’ dance moves are precise and beautiful, it’s all thanks to learning the basics. Park Jin Young is very strict about this. Take the feet for instance… I’m going to show you. (she stands up and gives a demonstration) If I do it this way, it won’t work, this is how it must be done.”
After rehearsing the “Full Moon” choreography for two months, the legs movement was the highlight of her performance in the music video and the TV shows. “To be honest, there are things we had to anticipate because the restrictions against sexually suggestive contents are severe these days. Honestly, there are parts I’m regretful about. I think the impact is less powerful than the one the original choreography had. However, I also enjoy the thrilling feeling of the changed choreography. The walking on the sofa part is something I suggested.”
[She used the barefoot concept for the two songs she promoted so far] She has many funny episodes to tell. “The soles of my feet are always dirty, so the cameramen know how to avoid filming my feet and just film the whole stage now. I’m thankful. There’s this one time when I wore an outfit with yellow feathers and I lost many feathers on stage that day. People called me the sick chick because they knew I was there since there were feathers left behind(laugh).”
None of this is one-sided directing. They think about it and develop this result together. Such points showing that Sunmi precisely understand her song can’t lead to call her a singer with a plain sexy concept.
In 2010, Sunmi stopped her activities with Wonder Girls in order to focus on her studies. This was announced as a retirement, but she just meant to leave the stage for awhile and went back to the trainee life. She went to college meanwhile. She went back and forth between her home and the company. In march 2013, Park Jin Young called her and made her listen to “24 Hours”. He told her “when you are ready, you can go out there”.
“I did want to go back on stage one day, but I didn’t know it would be as a solo artist. The concept was burdensome at first because people had this innocent and cute image of me in their minds. However, I thought that if I were to come back with this image they had, there would be no impact. I totally understand which direction JYP wanted, so I think I went along.”
Although the audience is enthusiatic about her stage now, it also means they’ll want something even stronger, so there can be nothing but hesitation about the sexy concept. Didn’t she want to take things so slow? “The pressure is there, but I think what’s important is to find my own style more than anything else. It’s my biggest task and I think it’s the same for all singers. I don’t know either what I will do after “Full Moon”. (laugh) However, isn’t it about finding the way to show a wider range and keep growing as an artist? I think I’ll be able to show the music that no one else but me can do.”
This is forgetten when she takes the stage on her own, but Sunmi is 23. She’s a young lady in her early 20’s whose ideal type is Cha Doo Ri [t/n: soccer player] who shows this masculine, somehow innocent, playful image.
“Doing solo activities after being in a group, I realize how things have changed. There were many things the unnies would do for me in the past. However, I’m on my own now, so I must take responsibility for everything. It can be overwhelming, but I think that I must push forward and go out there, so although it might be hard, I didn’t show how I felt meanwhile. However, I suddenly cried yesterday. I’m still young, but I couldn’t endure the truth that I must be an adult and deal with everything in a skillful way. Then, I had this kind of thoughts all of a sudden. I’m still in a middle of growing. This is something I realized, so that put me at ease.”
There was a time when only male singers were influential. There was also a time when girl groups took over the charts. The place for solo female singers was always deserted. Sunmi is filling this void with her music. People want to see and hear her own style now that she’s back as a solo artist.
“Now that I have started my solo activities, the vision I have about the music I want to do is slowly becoming clearer. This is an obvious answer, but my fans and I are growing old together, so I hope I’ll be able to keep talking about things that matter to us. I hope it’s something that won’t change about my music.”
Original article: Singles