One piece of K-pop trivia that is often thrown around is the tale of how Luna auditioned for SM as a dancer. The juxtaposition of this factoid with her current status as a talented singer makes her musical achievements seem all the greater. But with Luna, there is no one or the other — she performs duets and participates in dance stages at SM Town concerts, she executes the choreography and belts out those high notes for f(x) performances, and she also adds acting into the mix through her musical theatre gigs.
Many people in K-pop are singers who are trained to dance, or dancers trained to sing; Luna, however, is part of the group with an affinity for both. Even with her solo work, one is rarely separated from the other, whether the genre is future house or ballad. This ability to bring two related, but still different things, together is an undeniable part of Luna’s brand as an artist. It is something that we can see carried through in different ways with her debut solo EP, Free Somebody, released on May 31st, 2016.
One of the most refreshing things about Free Somebody is the balance between ballads and more up-tempo tunes. The fact that the track-list alternates between up-tempo and down-tempo songs only creates a whiplash effect with the first two tracks; after this, things even out and Luna raises up with “Free Somebody” and “Galaxy,” while bringing us down gently with “I Wish” and “My Medicine.”
European producers are largely responsible for Free Somebody‘s sound, a fusion of electronica and R&B. Both “Free Somebody” and “Keep On Doin'” (which were performed on music shows) were co-written by Swedish team The Family, with singer-songwriters JoJo and SAARA, respectively. This allowed listeners to read in a more personalised quality to these songs, perhaps making them feel less factory-made. However, I would argue that Luna and SM have shown how artistry does not just come from creating music from scratch, but also from curating music to create a cohesive piece of work. Free Somebody gives us the best of both worlds.
“I Wish,” composed by Luna alongside LU:KUS and Park Seul-gi (from 153/Joombas), is a perfect example of this. The song melds perfectly with the electronic soundscape created from The Family’s tracks, while keeping things interesting with a 6/8 beat. Meanwhile, “My Medicine” uses R&B and Soul to full effect in sending its sentimental message to Luna’s mother, to whom the song is dedicated. Funnily enough, it also matches with the Trip Hop of Free Somebody‘s other European-produced track, “Breathe.” Henk Jan Kooistra and Jantine Annika Heij, who have multiple SM song credits, let the piano blend into the background with whooshing synths and snare drums coming to the forefront; “My Medicine” takes a more traditional approach as a ballad with a prominent piano line.
I can’t say for sure which songs were first in the production process. Were all of these songs created and chosen at the same time, or did the purchased songs influence the written? But it is clear that Luna has worked to ensure the album’s cohesive sound, regardless of the genres and origins of her songs.
Luna and LU:KUS also penned the lyrics for both songs, which tie into another dichotomy seen in Free Somebody: vulnerability and strength. “Keep on Doin'” and “I Wish” show us the latter, with Luna taking on the role of cheerleader and protector, respectively:
You’re a prism that could absorb anything“Keep On Doin'”
I hope you don’t know the taste of bitter coffee…“I Wish (예쁜 소녀)”
…I’ll put honey in your warm milk
On the other hand, “My Medicine” and “Breathe” allow Luna to showcase her vulnerability by seeking comfort from others and herself:
Oh my medicine“My Medicine”
Come inside of me
I can’t see the path I’ve been walking on“Breathe”
Going further down the tracklist, “Free Somebody” and the American-sent “Galaxy” deal with romance and portray Luna as both giving and receiving in a relationship:
Let’s get away from this place a bit“Free Somebody”
Let’s make our feet more free
The stars in your eyes tell me“Galaxy”
To follow you right now
There are so many aspects in creating an album, and maintaining a balance between competing ideas and demands isn’t always easy. Free Somebody manages to successfully strike this balance in its themes, sound, and production, giving one more reason as to why this EP is not only memorable, but leaves listeners wanting more.
Since Free Somebody’s release, Luna has put out a steady trail of work. With her first solo concert, The Fragrance of Luna, and the announcement of more — if not all — f(x) members appearing at the upcoming SM Town concert in Japan, hopefully there will be more solo albums on the horizon for Luna and for us.
Readers, what are you favourite tracks off Free Somebody? Are there any other Luna tracks you adore? Show them some love by sharing in the comments below!