Hello everyone and welcome back to another Seoulbeats Spotlight! As you may have heard, YG Entertainment‘s newest rookie Lee Hi is set to make a comeback this March; but there’s also another more senior soloist also making her return to K-pop after extended absence: Park Ji-yeon, more commonly known as R&B songstress Gummy. The start of February marked ten years since Gummy’s debut, and she kicked off the next decade in her career with an OST for SBS Drama That Winter, The Wind Blows, “Snowflake,” which was released on the 27th of February and performed by Gummy on SBS Inkigayo that week.
Park Ji-yeon was a relative late bloomer in the world of K-pop as, being born in 1981, she was 22 years old when she debuted with first album Like Them. Even so, she had grown up with music: she learnt the piano from a young age thanks to the influence of her mother, trot singer Jang Sook-jung, and had even been recuited by M-Boat Entertainment about four years prior to her debut in order to become a member of Big Mama. However, it was decided that Park had the potential to become a soloist rather than part of a group. And so, given a stage name meaning “spider” in Korean (for how she would capture listeners with the spider’s web that is her music), Gummy recorded a 12-track album and released her first single, “If You Come Back” featuring M-Boat labelmate Wheesung in its MV… and Gummy playing a piano underwater.
While this kind of surrealism can be seen in some of Gummy’s later MVs, her filmography also included straightforward drama MVs, which usually did not feature her in the storyline, if at all. The MV for the second single of her debut album, “We Should’ve Been Friends” is the first example of this style of MV.
Gummy wasn’t to gain much of a foothold with her first album, clashing as it did with the rise to prominence of others singers like Se7en and Wheesung. Her sophomore album It’s Different, with lead single “Memory Loss,” was the vehicle for Gummy’s breakthrough in the music industry, netting her a Bonsang at the 2004 Golden Disk Awards.
In 2005, Gummy released third album For The Bloom. Title track “No” featured a more conventionally surreal touch than seen in “If You Come Back” thanks to some nifty mid-’00s visual effects.
And as seems to have been the pattern for Gummy, following a MV with an unconventional aesthetic a follow up single featuring a more typical drama MV with a basic plot was released. For this album, that track was “Childish Adult,” and while the storyline revolving around modelling was mildly engaging, the real appeals of “Childish Adult” were its jazz-infused sound, which was unlike any other single promoted Gummy and allowed her to showcase a sassier, confident and generally just less sad side to herself and her music, and the spider-web microphone (you have to admit, it looks pretty cool.)
In 2006, Gummy changed tack and released an acoustic compilation album titled Unplugged. It featured acoustic versions of songs from previous albums, including “Childish Adult” and “If You Come Back.” Gummy further adhered to the stripped-back theme by releasing a behind-the-styles MV for this acoustic version.
Following an extended break, Gummy returned in 2008 with third studio album Comfort. Comfort was delayed a few times, but any grumblings were soon silenced with the release of the MV for “I’m Sorry” where Big Bang’s T.O.P featured in both the song and video, along with a pre-debut Dara in the latter.
With four original albums and a compilation released in five years in Korea to great success, it was time to move on. Gummy focused on Japan during this time, though she did in 2010 make a comeback in Korea with her first mini-album, Loveless, which saw the greater prominence of synths in Gummy’s music. Three of the six tracks were released with accompanying MVs: “There Is No Love,” which is stylistically different, featuring a truly dystopian setting…
… but switched things up with the poppish “As A Man,” releasing a naturalistic and, thus, unexpectedly comedic MV starring Kim Hyun-joong and Jung Ryeo-won. Though melodramatic at times, it was nevertheless a very cute MV. “As A Man” also won Gummy her next set of awards: “Best Vocal” at the 2010 MAMAs and “Best R&B Song” at the 2010 Melon Music Awards.
The following year, Gummy debuted in Japan with a new blonde look and a remake of “I’m Sorry” which again featured T.O.P. She netted the Japan Billboard award for Best K-pop, however, there had been very little news about Gummy’s activities; sticking mostly to OSTs since 2008, her only official release in 2012 was a sequel to 2011 drama Finding Mr. Kim OST “Love Recipe,” a collaboration with Bobby Kim titled “Love Recipe II (People These Days).” Gummy has actually collaborated with many other artists, both featuring and being featured. She has worked with Kim Hyun-chul, Se7en, Lexy and Fly To The Sky over the years, but Bobby Kim and Wheesung are the artists with whom she has collaborated the most.
Gummy’s relationship with Wheesung is especially decorated, with the two supposedly dating during Gummy’s trainee days as well as aiding each other with their careers: Gummy was Wheesung’s vocal coach, while Wheesung was the one to introduce Gummy to M-Boat Entertainment, where she became a trainee. And though no longer a couple, the pair have continued their friendship and working relationship, with Gummy even making a surprise appearance on Yoo Hee-yeol‘s Sketchbook during Wheesung’s feature to perform “Let Me Say Goodbye” (with Bobby Kim also joining them later on).
2013, however, is already much busier for Gummy. With her milestone came a flurry of new activity; To celebrate Gummy’s milestone YG Entertainment prepared a retrospective of her music videos on YouTube, along with a fanmeet; and Gummy also held a joint mini-concert with 2NE1. After releasing albums in quick succession during her early years, Gummy has created enough musical content that she can rest on her laurels; but at least her latest return to Korea, even if only a performance of an OST, will have definitely brought the attention of newer K-pop fans, and perhaps even see a few more poeple become trapped in the spider’s web.
What are your thoughts on Gummy, readers, and which are your favourite Gummy songs? And do you think she will be releasing any new albums in the future? I did hear whispers of something being mentioned on me2day…