If you follow me on Twitter, then you’ve probably noticed that I’ve repeatedly made the same complaint: K-pop’s idol scene is currently lacking in captivating female solo acts. It’s the big question: who’s stood out so far this year? Has anyone?
The first answer I came up with is Sunmi. With her barefoot dances and a vibe that’s affecting without being in your face, her image is certainly unique among the current crop of female solo artists. But when I watch her live stages, I feel that her singing leaves something to be desired.
There’s Ailee who does have the type of powerful voice which I prefer, and there’s Ga In whose music videos are never dull and who I personally adore. But beyond them, what other idol ladies in 2014 have brought us anything sufficiently bold or fresh? Sure, T-ara’s Jiyeon brought a decent song and stylish look for “1MIN 1SEC,” but it wasn’t enough to keep me going back for more. Her groupmate, Hyomin, gave us “Nice Body,” which benefited from Brave Brothers’ production but was bogged down by lackluster vocals and a dance that didn’t display much real skill. Secret’s Hyosung released “Good-night Kiss.” Apart from the unnecessary hip-hop breaks in the chorus, the song itself was promising, but the music show performances were forgettable. The latter three were especially frustrating because they were all the essentially the same – sexy, average-voiced, unimpressive. I was afraid that this would be the standard for the year’s remaining female solo releases.
And then came Hyuna.
(Warning: video is rated age 19+)
Honestly, Hyuna’s style isn’t my favorite, and I’d choose her Troublemaker duo work over most of her solo songs. However, I appreciate what she does as a performer, and that’s why I chose to highlight “Red.”
Hyuna employs sexy visuals, a fact which in itself isn’t so unique. However, she doesn’t solely rely on them, and there’s value in her performances beyond the sexiness. Her characteristic speak-singing throughout “Red” sets her apart, as do her dance skills. The butt-shaking and popping segments are admittedly awkward at times, and Hyuna doesn’t have that much to shake. But the rest of the choreography is more challenging than many realize, and it takes a lot more strength than, say, Hyomin’s “Nice Body” hip swirls. Whether her dancing suits your individual taste or not, you have to admit that she knows how to move. Hyuna also has more charisma than a few of the people mentioned in this article put together; she leaves a strong impression on viewers, and that’s valuable in this increasingly crowded industry. It’s easy for certain artists or groups to be marginalized in the public consciousness, but Hyuna’s style prevents her from falling into that common trap.
If you’re accustomed to American music videos, you won’t find this one to be all that groundbreaking. It feels like a mix of videos from early-2000s hip-hop, current pop, and a dash of CL à la “The Baddest Female.” The only scene that surprised me was at 1:35 when the objectification tables are turned and it’s a man whose behind is put on display. Beyond that, there’s nothing new to see here in terms of pure imagery. But, you remember it. The same could also be said for the song; it’s a hip-hop influenced pop song that you can dance to. To be more specific, in my mind it’s like the child of Nicki Minaj’s chorus on Lil Wayne’s “Knockout” with the beat from Big Sean’s “Dance.”
Here’s what it comes down to: “Red” is not the most innovative song or MV out there. But its strength lies in Hyuna’s execution. Her dynamic nature comes through both in this video and in her live performances. You won’t be bored watching a Hyuna stage, nor will you lament that she isn’t good live or that she’s too much like (insert other female artist here). Hyuna is the combination of sexy and talented that I’ve been waiting for since Ga In’s last promotions ended, but Hyuna’s brand of sexiness and bravado is even more upfront. In a sea of coy, pastel pink, wispy-voiced solo singers, Hyuna shines like a bright, red beacon.