The Korea Herald


‘If Wonder Girls’ music was red, mine is blue,’ says Yubin

Ex-Wonder Girls member talks about embarking on solo career

By Hong Dam-young

Published : June 5, 2018 - 14:59

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“Wonder Girls, it was everything about my 20s. It’s a huge part of my identity,” Yubin said, looking back on the days when she toured the US on a bus as a member of one of the most legendary K-pop girl groups.

Eleven years after her debut, the former Wonder Girls rapper has returned as a solo vocalist with her retro-themed debut EP “City Woman.” Sporting a vivid pink blouse and large accessories that matched the theme of her album, Yubin sat down with The Korea Herald in Seoul on Monday to talk about the start of her solo career. 

Yubin (JYP Entertainment) Yubin (JYP Entertainment)

Replacing HyunA in 2007, Yubin more than proved her worth as the band’s main rapper. After appearing in the popular hip-hop competition show “Unpretty Rapstar” in 2015, the artist’s popularity exploded due to her charismatic image and rapping prowess. Even her makeup and hairstyle became trendy. But the rapper-turned-vocalist wasn’t a total stranger to vocals either, as she had occasionally participated as an extra vocalist in the group. When Wonder Girls disbanded last year, she was ready to do her own thing.

“I really appreciate that I am thought of us a rapper. People might have expected my solo album to be about rapping, but I thought singing would suit the album better. I received a lot of vocal lessons for this album,” Yubin said.

“City Woman” is led by the lead track “Ladies,” inspired by a genre called “city pop” that was popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Blending punk, disco, R&B and soft rock, the song is imbued with freshness and trendiness, the singer explained. It’s also about independent women living in this bustling city with lines such as “I don’t care if you just pass me by” and “Hurry up, as I’m a busy lady.”

Yubin said that she has been delving into city pop since last year, but admitted that K-pop listeners could find the genre unfamiliar.

Asked how the retro-themed album is different from Wonder Girls’ previous retro-inspired hits like “Tell Me’’ and “Nobody,” Yubin used colors to explain the difference. 

Yubin (JYP Entertainment) Yubin (JYP Entertainment)

“You’ll notice the difference after listening to the songs. The music of Wonder Girls had a more US style and was more westernized, like the color red. My album is more oriental and fresh like the color blue. The two seem similar, but have completely opposite feelings. When I was a member of Wonder Girls, I was in love with retro, and didn’t know I would one day try this kind of music,” she said.

“Working on the new album, I realized there were various sides of myself other than my ‘girl crush’ image. I was feminine and mature at the same time.”

Yubin went on to address her ex-bandmates, all of whom are pursuing their own careers. Sunmi, HyunA and Yeeun have carved out their own niche in the K-pop scene as successful solo artists, while Sunye and Sohee have become a mother of two and an actress, respectively.

“Thankfully, all of them are doing very well, paving the way for me. People have high expectations for my solo album all because of their success,” she said. 

Yubin (JYP Entertainment) Yubin (JYP Entertainment)

Unlike Sunmi, HyunA, Yeeun and Sohee, who have left their longtime agency JYP Entertainment and moved to new agencies, Yubin said that she finds JYP a good partner -- the reason she hasn’t left it yet. “JYP is like a family and home to me. I visit the company every day for practice,” she added.

On Monday, JYP announced that the release of “City Love,” another track from the two-track “City Woman” album, had been delayed due to a copyright problem. The agency said it was working on solving the issue. “Lady” was released on Tuesday evening. 

By Hong Dam-young