A decade has passed since Hyuna made her solo debut with “Change”. Since then, the solo starlet’s career and musical style have notably evolved through the release of one single album and six EPs. Hyuna is a veteran idol, who has debuted and redebuted several times over the course of 15 years; in 2007, she debuted as a member of Wonder Girls only to leave the group a few month later. She eventually joined Cube Entertainment as the face and rapper of 4Minute. Alongside the group’s releases, Hyuna successfully pursued a solo career. In 2011, she debuted as a member of the Trouble Maker duo alongside former Beast member Hyunseung and later joined forces with Pentagon members Hui and E’dawn to create Triple H. Through these diverse ventures, she has become one of the most professional and experienced idols in the industry.
If there is one attribute that is associated with Hyuna, it is undoubtedly her sexy and bold image. Hyuna’s confident and sexy stage persona, paired with her will to challenge the borders for female idols, have typically characterized her solo career. Although she has never been known to excel in vocals or rap, her undeniable and captivating charm on stage helped her become one of the most outstanding–albeit polarizing–solo stars, whose performances often generate headlines and controversies.
Hyuna has consistently opted for upbeat and catchy title tracks coupled with powerful choreographies, other parts of her discography paints a slightly divergent picture. In the 10 years since her solo debut, the star has experimented with musical styles and collaborated with diverse artists, forming a versatile solo career. On her 10th anniversary, we take a closer look at some of her most outstanding b-side tracks that may have been overlooked.
On her second EP Melting, released fresh off the heels of “Gangnam Style“‘s mega success, Hyuna opted for a youthful and dance-pop concept. As the resident rapper of 4Minute, the singer challenged her rap skills over a dark bassy beat with sliding synths for album closer “Very Hot”. The song is pure rap bliss with a consistent instrumental and the hint of a chorus through which the phrase “Very Hot” repeats.
It’s 1:30 now after finishing my schedule.
I made myself up and sprayed a perfume.
The appointed time is 2 o’clock. He messaged me.
Oh god! He asked my name.
Hyuna’s deep rap voice overflows with swag as she illustrates her everyday life outside the fame. She meets her best friend Ri-won (whose rap portion on the song is uncredited) to go out, have drinks and meet people. The message is lucid — Hyuna is young and wants to enjoy these years of her life. The song’s combination of monologue and dialogue is intriguing, and results in an empowering track that gives insight into her life beyond the stage.
After two years of group releases, Hyuna returned with A Talk that further cemented her place as a leading soloist. Similar to Melting, the EP incorporated a variety of musical styles ranging from pop to hip hop, which manifest perfectly in the contrasting “French Kiss” and “Blacklist”. While the former is a catchy dance club song with a thundering and bouncy beat and an undeniably fun chorus, the latter is rap-focused, sleek, and bold, featuring EXID rapper LE. Although Hyuna and LE both adapt a similarly deep voice for the duet, the crunch in LE’s voice sets her apart, creating a fierce and lush song.
Hyuna’s above mentioned EPs share one trait in common; they all feature collaborations with other talented female rappers. Instead of dwelling on love and relationships, the songs tackle topics such as youth, self-respect, and independence. Hyuna unapologetically flaunts her skills and asserts her self-confidence alongside other amazing women. Simultaneously, she insists on rapping in her naturally deep voice and not the high-pitched rapping that is usually enforced on her.
The 2015 b-side “Get out of my House” from album A+, a collaboration with Kwon Jungyeol of 10cm, is another highlight in Hyuna’s discography. While it might initially sound like an unusual duet due to the different musical styles of both singers, the collaboration results in a surprisingly alluring and splendid track.
I can’t understand this feeling
Even if we break up right now I don’t think I’ll be sad
Now I feel more comfortable when I’m alone instead of with you
Employing a dual perspective to express the back and forth of a couple on the verge of a break-up, Hyuna and Kwon Jungyeol’s vocals glide over a simple and haunting instrumental. While Kwon is known for his melodic and pleasant voice, Hyuna equally demonstrates her underrated vocal abilities and her aptitude to challenge various musical directions.
On her sixth and latest EP Following, Hyuna stands at a new stage in her life. The music and lyrical content thus adopt a more mature and reflecting notion as she sings about love, relationships and self-confidence. While the album predominantly features upbeat and playful tracks, it’s the last two songs which stand out, thanks to their lyrical depth and organic production.
“Dart”, for instance, might be one of Hyuna’s finest solo offerings. It adjusts perfectly to her rap and vocal abilities culminating in a relaxing, delicate mid-tempo track. In the sensual and subtle lyrics, she encourages her lover to take more initiative and make the necessary moves to persuade her of his interest. The track builds up to a poignant chorus that is infused with tropical house elements, and is just pure pop glory to the ears.
The album closes with the serene “Mirror” which employs a introspective view to talk about the topics of self-love, inner beauty, and the pursuit of perfection. Hyuna has never made a secret of the fact that these topics matter to her. This is echoed in the deep and impactful lyrics:
You want perfection
But the more you want it the farther you get from it
Stop with the endless greed
Don’t forget what’s important
The meaning of the song is plentiful. Not only does Hyuna encourage the person in the mirror to love and accept herself, but also to take things one by one without harboring jealousy towards others. The arrangement of the song incorporates elements of electric guitar, violins, and drums over a sparkling synth beat. Although there is no notable build-up towards a chorus, the track flows smoothly and serves as a great closure to the mini album.
In retrospect, Hyuna’s albums have all been interesting and well-crafted works with diverse musical styles and profound lyrics. She has made an effort to assert her vocal and rap skills in order to avoid being stigmatized as a singer, who solely sticks to one genre. To depict Hyuna as an idol who just delivers upbeat tracks would therefore be an unfair assessment.
Since the release of Following, there have been fundamental changes in Hyuna’s career. After openly announcing her relationship with E’Dawn, she parted ways with Cube Entertainment, a company she had been signed to since 2009. However, she found a new home in Psy’s P Nation. With her last release, the vibrant and colorful “Flower Shower”, Hyuna seems to be in a more peaceful place and mind. As her first comeback in more than a year is nearing, it will be exciting to see what the superstar has next in store.