Considering the impact solo releases can have on a singer’s musical spectrum, there lies a fine line between an “impactful” versus “underwhelming” solo. In simpler terms, some work and some don’t. A solo release can either amplify both the group and the specific member, or it can cause jarring juxtaposition that leaves little to define how s/he can find their own conceptual foundation. Not to say that a solo is only successful if drawn from the pre-defined ideas of one’s group — there’s endless potential with how an idol can achieve positive recognition in both positions at once. But, there’s no single way to make that work, which makes choosing a concept all the more difficult.

2020 has seen its fair share of female solo releases, with comebacks from Somi to Mamamoo’s Hwasa to Taeyeon spread throughout the year. Further solo debuts from Lovelyz’ Ryu Sujeong, Apink’s Namjoo, and Mamamoo’s Moonbyul and Solar further enlivened the scene for this year, as concepts varied from empowering to vulnerable to chic. Each solo release contributed a new musical color for fans to interpret, a distinct chance that can only occur through promotions held outside a singer’s identifying group.

For Oh My Girl, YooA is the first member to debut with a solo album, and likewise the first vehicle for fans to witness a distinction from the group. Up until now, OMG has maintained a high-quality, fairytale landscape that lent itself to a unique style in their discography, concepts, and even stage outfits. Title tracks such as “Closer,” “Secret Garden,” “The fifth season,” and more have cemented a timeline of dreamy concepts that they’ve mastered by their fifth year and running. Considering this conceptual identity, then, came forth curiosity as to how Yooa would balance her group’s image alongside her own budding potential as a solo.

It’s a delicate balance to achieve, but fortunately “Bon voyage” ticks off all the marks needed for a perfect debut that still resonates with OMG’s colors. YooA’s solo is a beautiful debut that sends its message through such pure lens. Otherwise called “Forest Child” in Korean, the selected title track and its MV reveals an awe-inspiring, almost touching recollection of something we may have all lost while growing up: think childhood dreams, endless imagination, and pure freedom found in what we already have. Throughout the song and MV, nature is constantly referred to for its beauty, wisdom, and symbolism of youthful freedom. Commenters have further pointed out that the production harkens back to Moana, Pocahontas, or even Hayao Miyazaki movies — and rightfully so, for evoking a natural purity not easily prevalent in the genre of K-pop.

It’s this direction that has brought about a successful concept for the artist: curating something that only YooA can achieve. Clearly, every part of the set has worked to achieve this outcome: from the production to the setting, camerawork to even choreography and styling. This detailed execution, coupled with YooA’s history in a group that shares a similar fantastical thread, has enabled this debut to be one-of-a-kind for her. Specifically, I believe the most powerful aspect of this comeback is its storytelling ability. Both visual and audio elements correspond to express the same message: of the beauty and dreams behind nature and imagination. Every scene is curated with care, even matching some of the lyrics — such as her antlers popping up right as it’s mentioned, or falling bits of snow joining a reference on Christmas.

Moreover, the scenes of her running on endless hills, resting in a cave with fairy wings, or going through the dark woods with wolves seem like scenes cut from a fairy tale movie. She’s the sole character of the wide, free space that beholds beauty unlike any other. Everything is bursting with life, color, and movement, portraying nature not just as a majestic entity, but also a spontaneous, uplifting sight to behold.

The contrast between a bright, uplifting and a dark, majestic space further exemplifies the full spectrum of nature and its beauty. Meanwhile, the song consistently mentions the ongoing search for a dream hidden amidst the magical forest. Combined with the lyrics, then, this juxtaposition of night and day reveals the potential of dreams to be explored night or day. Regardless of the time or circumstance, YooA is seen pursuing after, or dwelling on, a dream that she yearns to reach within this mystical space.

I’m trying to find the mysterious dream

A place where we lock eyes together,

a bright green forest

A forest that climbs the highest cliffs and calls me

Far beyond the world

the forest awaits

It’s further telling that trees overall symbolize life, wisdom, growth, and even strength. Perhaps these traits define YooA’s outlook of a dream: the power behind pursuing and living for something beyond what the world can offer here and now. Overall, we as the viewers are fully submerged into YooA’s story due to the cohesiveness of her distinct world. The MV and song combined are a great product of visual and poetic storytelling that allows us a brief escape from the real world.

Not to mention that the vehicle behind this storytelling is of utmost high quality, resulting in a lovely, aesthetic vision. Camerawork plays a huge part in this MV, particularly during the chorus of the song, where it rushes through beautiful natural landscapes for a surreal touch. It’s not just YooA the artist that is captured, but the beauty of her surroundings which fuel her dreams. From powerful waves to rolling hills that merge into a sea of sunflowers — the action and perspective in which they’re filmed give off a different, powerful vibe than forward, still shots. Differences in pacing make this MV all the more dynamic, with choreographic shots filmed fast, but certain profile shots filmed slow for us to soak in all the mood. Each and every beautiful background is showcased with nearly equal time frames, filmed with special attention to angle, lighting, and timing. Further note of appreciation for the seamless editing which — despite having so many shots to work with — managed to create an undisturbed, balance outcome. And while opinions can be split regarding the CG involved, I personally think it was pulled off well, implemented without particular disturbance to the MV.

Evidently, this allows us as the audience to freely enjoy the whole production. Our experience in watching the MV is similar to the character of modern-day YooA, who’s taken back to remember the beauty of nature and imagination. We are further reminded to take time to reflect and find ourselves, as her character does through reminiscing back on her time in the forest. Numerous clips show her to be free, wild, and cheerful just by being around beautiful nature — a juxtaposition against her current-day setting with a car, modern clothes, and makeup. Beyond merely defining an escape from the real world, then, perhaps dreams can also exemplify an escape from the weight of adulthood into light, free childhood. Her voice also rings light and clean, though the signature sound that resonates throughout the track is the childlike purity that gives the song its charm.

Overall, YooA struck the perfect balance with including her group’s distinct musical color, while curating an entirely new palette of her own. Everything from the sound to concept, styling to cinematography is reminiscent of OMG’s infamous fairytale landscape — still, the whole solo debut is also catered towards having Yooa shine with her own talents. “Bon Voyage” was wholly created to have her shine: her vocals are melodic and sweet, while the choreography brings light to her skills as a dancer. Moreover, the MV production and makeup teams did wonders in enhancing her into a real-life fairy or doll (even if she already is with the bare minimal effort).

Simply put, it was a noteworthy gesture to see that her agency focused on having YooA shine, as opposed to following the trends. In order to create a complete package, everything melded in together to create a one-of-a-kind concept and debut for us to be in awe from. “Bon voyage” was therefore a powerful redefinition of OMG’s color and potential that will take them even further. It’s exciting to see how Oh My Girl can continue to deliver high-quality comebacks in the future, as well as experiment with more members.

What do our readers think of YooA and OMG’s first solo release? Let us know in the comments below!

(YouTube; images via WM Entertainment)