Readers familiar with 3rd generation K-pop girl group, Dal Shabet, may also be familiar with today’s Indie Gem – singer and songwriter, DALsooobin, previously known as Subin. Having recently rebranded herself with a new moniker and revamped musical style, releasing the quirky but catchy single, “Katchup”, the talented singer-songwriter looks poised to boost her career into mainstream success. For anyone whose interest has been piqued by “Katchup”, I’m here to provide a quick overview of the highlights of her solo career so far – of which there are surprisingly many.
The 25-year-old first debuted as a member of Dal Shabet in 2011 under Happy Face Entertainment, now known as Dreamcatcher Company. The group released a succession of pop songs to moderate success, “Joker” and “B.B.B (Big Baby Baby)” being some of the more well-known. Over the years, however, the group faded in popularity, with some members departing after their contracts expired and others sent to compete on KBS’ idol rebooting survival programme, The Unit.
As a skilled singer and songwriter herself, Subin unsurprisingly shifted towards solo work, releasing the self-composed EP, Our Love, in 2016. In contrast to Dal Shabet’s music, which was a girlish pop style typical of the era, Our Love displayed unexpectedly mature songwriting and vocal performance. Somewhat lost in Dal Shabet’s fast-paced, higher-pitched songs, Subin’s deep, velvety voice and talent as a pianist shines through on her self-penned tracks, the highlight of which is probably “Flower”, a B-side from Our Love:
Beautifully composed and arranged, “Flower” sits between pop, soul, RnB and indie, with gorgeous soulful vocals and instrumentation. As its name suggests, the song captures a sophisticated and elegant femininity, perfectly expressing the graceful beauty and subtle fragrance of a flower. Lyrically, it’s just as poetic, telling a poignant love story from a flower’s point of view:
Didn’t I dream?
Of bearing fruit as we embrace
Didn’t I dream?
Instead of blossoming
With percussive, acoustic instrumentation and intricate layers of backing vocals, “Circle’s Dream” marked a new and different style for Subin, most likely influenced by artists such as Lorde. The song’s catchy melodies and detailed arrangement make it one of the more interesting songs on the album, along with its unusual lyrics about a circle’s wish to become sharp and angular after being hurt by others:
Like that triangle
I wish I was an expert at playing games
I wanna go around piercing people
Like that star over that
I wanna become one too
To steal your eyes away
Meanwhile, “Strawberry” is a beautifully performed ballad which once again displays Subin’s talent and creativity in writing lyrics. Continuing the theme of object personification, “Strawberry” uses rich and expressive imagery to liken herself to a strawberry, reddening and ripening in the course of falling in love:
I’m not ripe yet
I’m getting redder
Sweeter as time goes by
The freshness that remains on my tongue
Makes me not forget you all night
In December 2017, Subin’s contract expired and she officially left Dreamcatcher Company, signing with KeyEast as a soloist soon after. Adopting a new stage name, DALsooobin – likely a reference to her identity as a member of Dal Shabet – she released the single “Katchup”, a spunky pop track markedly different to both her previous releases and most current pop.
Combining her pianist roots with more modern electronic production, “Katchup” is another fascinatingly unusual song that stands out from her pop and indie contemporaries. Subin sings in deep, sultry tones about “catching up” with an ex-lover, using wordplay with the word “ketchup” and showing unabashedly quirky production and arrangement choices.
With the bold creativity and success of “Katchup”, Subin has shown that there’s plenty of potential left in her yet, especially in terms of breaking through to the mainstream as a female solo artist. Hopefully, she will fulfil this potential with the support of her new company, earning the success she deserves as an extremely talented and versatile singer, songwriter and all-round artist.