BoA returns with ‘best’ record yet
By Kwaak Je-yup
BoA, one of K-pop’s bestselling solo artists, has returned with her seventh Korean studio album, “Only One.”
The 25-year-old star says it is her best work to date, from which she draws the most satisfaction.
“They’re my songs but to be honest, there are some that I skip, too,” she said, referring to her previous material, in a roundtable interview Tuesday. “In this album, there’s really none of that. I love every track.”
Having made her solo debut at the tender age of 13 after two years training at SM Entertainment, the country’s foremost idol factory, the singer has achieved unrivalled success across several countries with millions of records sold.
Now a dozen years on, less people buy actual CDs and music industry executives around the world are scrambling for their next viable business model but BoA seems blissfully ignorant of the general trends of pop music today or even her own career milestones ridden with superlatives.
“I don’t know what’s going on in the Oricon chart (Japan’s equivalent of Billboard). Who’s doing well these days?”
Instead she chose to speak as much as possible about her new tracks, most of them a departure from the sleek, fast-paced and beat-heavy dance music she has become synonymous with. When her lead single, a mid-tempo break-up song called “Only One”, was released last week, pundits and fans were taken by surprise.
“I wanted to do music that puts the vocals up front… relaxing my shoulders a bit. Everyone around me (her creative team) helped me create that kind of laid-back feel.”
Her last public appearance was on SBS’s wildly popular talent show “K-pop Star,” where she served as judge alongside music business moguls and hit-makers Yang Hyun-suk and Park Jin-young. Her next single “The Shadow” drew inspiration from that experience, she said.
“When you work for several years, you really get used to everything. When I sat there at the show, I thought about how I must have felt back then, really at the beginning of my career. I’ve been so focused on what is here and now… but I used to be one of them (the contestants).”
Turning 26 in a few months, she is still young enough to be a pop idol, but in this hyper-productive high-turnover world of K-pop, she constantly faces the risk of being too familiar. But she has overcome all the pressures of being a star.
“I still want to be an idol. I like it when they call me that. My position is a little bit in between; I’m neither an idol nor an artist. But I want to keep being there because it frees me from any preconceptions about musical styles. I don’t have to worry about it… I am comfortable with this ambiguity of genres.”
According to her brother Kwon Soon-hwon, also a musician, the singer has grown up substantially in her music-making: “I’ve seen her play around with the keyboard since the beginning of her career. Back then, she didn’t know exactly what she was doing, I suspected. I heard the melodies for Only One a while ago, and next thing I know it’s the lead single for her album. She is becoming an artist. I’m certain of that.”
Leaning against a comfy couch in a black top, gray leopard-print jeans and matching gray jewel-studded high-top sneakers, she looked weary. She said she had just two hours of sleep the night before, following a marathon taping of her first return performance.
So what keeps her going at this rate even after all these years?
“It may be a rather one-dimensional answer: I can keep doing this because I love it,” she said. “As soon as you start thinking it’s work, you’d hate it. In music, trends change and new things keep coming out. Creating something out of nothing is hard, of course. But there is so much satisfaction out of this hardship, and it makes it really an addictive kind of job.”