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[Herald Interview] An old soul with a new style: 16-year-old Park Hyeon-jin draws on his youth to deliver kaleidoscope of emotions

Idol trainee-turned-soloist talks about turning his back on idol ambitions and finding his musical direction

Park Hyeon-jin (H1ghr Music)
Park Hyeon-jin (H1ghr Music)

Wearing black from head to toe, Park Hyeon-jin’s first impression was different from that of the energizing songs he’s known for.

But in person, his chic, aloof appearance gives way, becoming bright and animated as he speaks about his music and trying to touch people’s emotions with his tunes, where words alone can’t.

The 16-year-old is a new face on hip-hop label H1ghr Music’s roster, but despite his age he has been in and out of the public eye since winning survival program “K-pop Star” in 2016.

But the spells with K-pop agencies that followed left him feeling lost.

Last year, he kept things ticking over by appearing on the rap audition program “High School Rapper.”

That was when the company picked up Park. Now brimming with excitement, he is embarking on a journey of tunes and songs with his first official release as a solo artist.

‘____Fect’

Released in April Park Hyeon-jin’s double single “____Fect” is about the trials he faced as a teenager.

“I was lost because I didn’t know what kind of music I had to do, so I tried different music styles. It’s a piece of music that talks about the emotions I felt before joining the label,” he told The Korea Herald at the label’s studio in Gangnam, southern Seoul.

It is also the first time releasing music under his name, and he admitted he was nervous. The singer said it hasn’t sunk in yet that he has a song.

He described his latest track, “Late night,” as a song brimming with emotion and excitement.

“It seems things are going well between you and the person you’re into, but you sometimes get to question if this person likes you and get confused,” he said.

Park added that he melded different emotions and the spirit of youth in his music.

“People tend to focus on different aspects when they listen to music. Some read into the album’s title, while some focus on the lyrics or the tune of the song. Since people focus on different things, I hope they can receive different energy when listening to my songs.”
 
Park Hyeon-jin (H1ghr Music)
Park Hyeon-jin (H1ghr Music)

Oddly enough, the title of his single was an attention grabber: It starts with four blanks. When asked why, the singer said the suffix “fect” comes from a word for “make” or “do,” so the gap at the beginning stands for a void he gradually wants to fill in by broadening his musical horizons.

Park described the gap in his title as the process of changing from “imperfect” to “perfect.”

“Imperfect is the term that best rounds out the single, since I talked about how I still have a long way to go as an artist and how I’m not musically complete yet. One of my goals is to make songs that everyone can like, and I hope that people find them easy to listen to.”

From wannabe idol to soloist

Park Hyeon-jin opened up about why he decided to carve out a path for himself as a soloist.

Although many would-be singers are eager to get public attention, the glory of being winning “K-pop Star” didn’t last long.

“My mom wanted me to become an idol, so she wanted me to be on the show. I spent my time as a trainee at YG Entertainment right and Starship Entertainment until 2020. Everything went well, but I turned skeptical and began doubting my situation.”

And when he figured out what music he should do at that moment, he left the K-pop agency.

“The music I’m making right now, like R&B and soul, is what I want to do,” he said, laughing.

Asked if he regretted his choice, Park got candid, saying he initially did when he left YG Entertainment.

“I thought I lost my chance (of debuting),” he said.

“I was around grade seven back then, so I didn’t know much about the industry. All I knew was three agencies: SM, YG and JYP Entertainment. But six months before I left Starship, I made plans about what I should study and the type of music I should make to avoid losing track of my goals.”

He added that now he pens his songs and writes the words to them.

Asked for three keywords that round out his music, he said “now,” “being lost” and “teenager.” Park said he had gone through a lot but that his youth holds a special place in his heart.

“I’m only 16 but dropped out of high school on the second day, so I don’t know much about the teenage environment. When it comes to being lost, I wasn’t on the same page with my mom regarding the music I wanted to do,” he said.

Speaking about living in the now, he says he finds immense joy in the music he wants to do and revels in its energy.

Park said he loved a broad spectrum of music and wants to and improve musically by delving into more types of music.

“Eventually, I want to drop a jam-packed album filled with diverse music. I want to work on the gaps to bring out songs that people can resonate with when they hear my name.”

By Park Jun-hee (junheee@heraldcorp.com)
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