When asked to describe his discography, Ha Sung-woon is humble. “I think I’m in the process of finding my unique colour,” he confesses. “I still have a long way to go as an artist.”

His sixth mini album Electrified: Urban Nostalgia is a new stepping stone on that path. Its lead single is a culmination of the sound Ha Sung-woon has been building since 2019, when he introduced himself with the cool, carefree coffee house vibe of “Bird”.

Between the airy falsetto that made the smooth soundscape of sophomore single “Blue” glitter and the powerful percussive groove that gave 2021’s summer title track “Sneakers” its funk-fuelled edge, his solo career is a sonic tapestry of vocal warmth and bold, retro-tinged beats.

The thread connecting each single is an unmistakable command of rhythm – which Sung-woon rides in style on his new single “Electrified”. The song draws from a golden palette of crunchy guitar riffs and that signature retro sound to paint a nostalgic, sun-drenched scene. It’s this dream of a vivid, summery cityscape that Sung-woon wanted to capture in the MV to share with his fans.

“I focused on expressing the excitement of the song,” he says simply. “I hope that listeners will feel as if they’re in the middle of a city like Los Angeles surrounded by palm trees, blue skies and sunlight.”

Three other tracks round out the release, each melody sketched around a foundation of delicate, minimalist production to highlight Sung-woon’s refreshing vocal colour. “My personal favourite track from the album is ‘Fairy Tale’ because it fits my vibe the most,” he shares. “I’m pretty sure I would’ve chosen this song as the title track if “Electrified” hadn’t been selected.”

The lush synth-pop escapism of Electrified: Urban Nostalgia is a creative echo of Sung-woon’s goal to bring his fans comfort this year. He recently wrapped up Forest &, a live tour that hit stages in Busan, Seoul and Daegu. Originally scheduled to take place in July, the performances were rearranged in keeping with social distancing guidelines.

Being able to finally stand on stage before his fans was a gift for Sung-woon. “Every performance was amazing to me,” he says now. “Not only was I performing on an actual stage after such a long time, but the fact that I was able to greet my fans in the same space made me really happy!”

The cosy camping concept of each concert was designed to ease his fans’ worries. “For the last couple of years, we’ve spent a lot of our time at home due to the pandemic,” Sung-woon says. “So I wanted to give my fans the feeling of traveling in a forest as a way of refreshing their everyday lives. Although I wasn’t able to hear the loud roar from the crowd, I was so glad that I felt the beautiful smiles of my fans behind their masks. I can’t wait for the day when we can sing and smile together without our masks on.”

Until that time comes, he connects with fans, friends and family as much as possible online. “The fact that I wasn’t able to freely participate in various activities or promotions has been the most challenging part of the pandemic,” Sung-woon admits. “I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with my fans and close friends. Instead, I kept in touch via social media or video calls as much as I could. I really hope that we can talk face to face again in the near future.”

His YouTube channel offers a window into his world — between behind-the-scenes clips, chatty vlogs and a particularly cute flower-pot painting session, Gooreumi TV is a candid snapshot of Sung-woon’s daily life and a way for him to share that same sense of gentle warmth inherent in his music. 

One recurring segment is his mission to prove himself as a rookie chef. Cooking experiments include Korean jeon pancakes, dumplings and octopus soup.

“To be honest, I don’t enjoy cooking because I mess up a lot thanks to my clumsy hands,” he confesses. “But I think my fans are entertained by the clumsiness of my cooking skills. I’d love to try making bungeo-ppang [a fish-shaped pastry stuffed with sweetened red bean paste] if I get the chance in the future.”

While his cooking skills may still be a work in progress, Sung-woon has always dreamed of a career onstage. His path from musically-inclined school student to debuting as an idol was a natural progression. “Rather than having a turning point in my life, I think it was more of a gradual process in which I enjoyed singing and dancing since I was young,” he recalls. “Every time I watched people appear on TV, I thought to myself that one day I hope I could be like them in the future. I didn’t have any other dreams while growing up.”

He debuted as main vocalist of six-member group Hotshot in 2014, before he and main dancer Roh Tae-hyun took the chance to represent their team on the second season of MNET’s survival show Produce 101. Through a gruelling series of auditions and live stages, Sung-woon proved himself as a talented all-round performer and made the cut to join the line-up of super group Wanna One.

From his debut under a small company to the highs of heading out on a world tour with the members of Wanna One, each stage of his career has helped Sung-woon grow in confidence as an artist. “I believe it was the period in my life that allowed me to mature the most, which I now feel very thankful for,” he says of his time with Wanna One. “I’ve grown more attached to the dream of being a singer, and further inspired to become who I am today.”

The eleven members are currently preparing to reunite for a special stage at MAMA 2021. The event will mark their first performance together since they disbanded four years ago, after the release of their studio album 1¹¹=1 (Power of Destiny). It was on this LP that Sung-woon co-composed and contributed lyrics to the song “Flowerbomb”, showcasing his skill as a songwriter for the first time. “Don’t Forget”, a duet with fellow Wanna One member Park Ji-hoon, soon followed and Sung-woon has continued to pen songs with each new solo comeback.

He draws ideas from moments of real-life inspiration and flights of fantasy. “I think I mostly get inspired from my everyday life,” he muses. “For example, looking out the window, watching movies, or communicating with my fans are all natural sources of inspiration. I also get inspired by my imagination from time to time.”

Although he currently enjoys listening to Shawn Mendes, Sam Henshaw and Conan Gray, Sung-woon draws his musical influences from a variety of genres and artists. “I listened to K-pop more when I was younger, but stumbled upon a lot of songs from overseas after I debuted,” he says. “Now, I listen to whatever songs fit my taste. Whenever I collaborate with other musicians, I think of a person’s colour that would match well with the song. I hope to try a variety of projects with different talented artists.”

Electrified: Urban Nostalgia has been announced as his final EP with agency Star Crew Entertainment. Wherever his path as an artist may lead, Sung-woon has stamped his solo discography with a distinct brand of fresh, funky pop. He already has his next move planned. “I think it’s about time that I prepare my studio album given that I’ve released a total of six mini albums so far,” he says confidently. “I also hope to appear more on reality shows and continue working hard for my fans. Thank you for all your love and support!”

(YouTube: [1] [2] [3] [5] [6]. Images via Star Crew Entertainment.)