June 22, 2016
In an industry dominated by groups of boys and girls dancing in perfect synchrony, the concept of the solo act might sound pretty difficult to come by, let alone a female solo artist. But South Korea’s music industry has been burgeoning with talent before the K-Wave hit our shores, and you’ll be surprised at how many women have made their mark. We rounded up 6 female solo acts, from pop veterans to indie sweethearts, to give you a taste of what to expect from this category of musicians.
Singer-songwriter Go Younha is no stranger to the industry. Having begun her career in Japan at just 16 years old in 2004, her sound has been typically grounded in Rock, although 2016 has seen her switching things up a little more with the recently released track Get It? featuring rapper Cheetah and HA:TFELT a.k.a Park Ye Eun of the Wonder Girls. Her album Supersonic remains one of my favourites; there’s something about hearing a husky female voice belt out notes over the sound of an electric guitar that just screams badass.
For the singer hailed as “Korea’s Beyoncé”, you know you can expect flawless performances from Ailee. But seriously, the girl can sing. Initially set on becoming a singer in the American music industry – she’s Korean-American – she later landed an audition and became a trainee under a South Korean entertainment company. She burst onto the scene with the MBC chuseok special episode of Singer and Trainee in 2011, where she floored both the audience and judges with her rendition of Beyoncé’s Halo (understand her nickname now?). Her voice is silky-smooth and she makes the most powerful belts sound totally effortless – we’d be envious if it weren’t for the fact that she’s also proved herself to be one of the most charming and down-to-earth singers out there. Sigh.
이하이 (Lee Hi)
Don’t let Lee Hi’s soulful, confident vocals fool you: she just turned 19 last September. But there’s something so darn cute about her that we can’t help but love her, and she’s already released a handful of amazing tracks ranging from jazz to r&b to ballads. Probably best known as the runner-up from season one of the popular singing contest K-Pop Star, she’s currently signed to YG Entertainment – yes, Big Bang and 2NE1’s YG Entertainment – so it’s no surprise that her releases usually dominate charts. Her latest songs such as the smash-hit ballad Breathe have also seen her collaborating with SHINee’s Jonghyun, who wrote the track, and we can’t wait to hear her about future releases.
박지민 (Park Jimin)
Gah, are there any more kids who’d like to reveal their superpowers? Park Jimin is 18-going-on-19, but she covers songs by Grammy-award-winning songstresses such as Adele with complete ease. Winner of season one of K-Pop Star – yup Lee Hi and Park Jimin were both vying for the No. 1 spot, I can’t even begin to think about who I’d pick in that scenario – she initially debuted as part of the duo known as 15& alongside Baek Yerin. Yerin herself has also released a couple of singles from her solo EP FRANK, so you can tell both members are going places. Both girls of 15& can also speak English fluently due to their time abroad – Jimin grew up in Thailand while Yerin spent a couple years in New York as a trainee. Jimin’s better known for her bubbly and outgoing personality as a co-host of Arirang’s After School Club, but her solo ventures have seen her exploring more mellow, melancholic tracks, as evident of Hopeless Love.
Maybe SM Entertainment – the company responsible for veteran groups such as Super Junior and Girls Generation – is a little preoccupied with BoA’s success, but Oh Jimin a.k.a J-Min definitely deserves more releases, and more love. Fluent in Japanese, English and Korean, her sound is reminiscent of early-era Michelle Branch, with her own twist, of course. She also wrote and performed the theme song for To The Beautiful You, the Korean drama take on the ever-popular Japanese series Hana Kimi. Otherwise, J-Min (sadly) remains relatively quiet in the Korean music scene, although she’s currently focused on her musical theatre ventures with plays such as In The Heights. Until then, we’re definitely waiting for more releases.
김예림 (Lim Kim)
Lim Kim’s singing voice may surprise you – but in a good way, definitely. She’s currently promoting as a solo singer while the other half of her duo band Togeworl, Do Dae Yoon, completes his studies, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been making waves all on her own. Togeworl finished third on the show Superstar K3, and while their sound was primarily based on acoustic guitar and Kim’s signature husky vocals, her solo releases have seen her venturing a little more into electronica. Her versatile voice also allows her to carry any track from mournful, quiet ballads to upbeat songs about becoming an adult.
Honourable Mentions: IU, Son Dam Bi, BoA, Baek A-Yeon, Sunmi.
Featured Image: Lee Hi – My Star MV