Hwang Min-hyun opened a new chapter in his music career as a soloist by releasing his first solo EP "Truth or Lie" on Monday.
"It took me almost 11 years to release an album that contains only my voice. I promise to make good music and good performances so that the 11 years can count," Hwang said during a press conference held on Monday in Seoul.
The musician has been on a fairly successful path since he first set foot on the local entertainment scene more than a decade ago.
Some may have discovered him in 2017 in Mnet's megahit TV audition program "Produce 101," while others may have encountered him for the first time 11 years ago as a member of the now-defunct group Nu'est with the stage name Minhyun. Those who have recently met Hwang on the small screen might know him only as an actor.
The 27-year-old said this new album marks a new start for him.
"A first time is always special. I wanted to show a new side of myself that had been veiled until now," Hwang said, greeting the press.
The album is a six-track collection through which Hwang uncovers the different sides of himself through songs of different genres.
"It's my first album, so I wanted it to be about me. There are various sides of me, but people don't know all of them, and I wanted to introduce myself," he said, adding, "But this is not to force them to see me the way I want them to. They can see me however they believe."
With the album, Hwang plays a game with listeners. He casts six cards reflecting six different sides of him, and asks which is true and which is false.
Fronting the album is a pop dance track with a distinctive bass sound, he explained.
Hwang said he had a "craving to perform" and that is why he chose a dance track as his solo debut single.
"I really badly wanted to dance on stage," he said. "Also, I know many of my fans started liking me through Nu'est. I wanted to cater to their anticipations so I chose a song with choreography."
The album also carries five B-side tracks of different genres, "Honest," "Crossword," "Perfect Type," "Smile" and "Cube."
Having spent a decade as part of a group, Hwang’s first attempt at carrying all the burden as a solo musician in the album production was not easy.
One of the most difficult parts was shooting the music video, he said.
"I dance in a group (with the dancers), and I had to shoot the scene over the span of two days all by myself. I was excited and had fun, but compared to when I had done the job as a group, there was barely a moment to rest. I was the only main character so I appeared in almost all the scenes," he explained.
The artist said the production was a continuous process of reflecting on himself and his image.
"Just like the album's message to 'discover who I am,' I thought a lot about myself, on what kind of person I was, how people see me from the outside, and so on," he said.
He realized that he had built a soft and gentle image during his acting career, and wanted to give a twist to that image with the album. Although the new style felt awkward at first, his 10 years as an idol musician helped him bring his A-game.
"I thought, 'I'm not so bad at this idol style. I'm not dead yet,'" said the singer-actor jokingly.
Hwang's debut as a soloist marks his fourth official debut. In 2012, he debuted as a member of the six-piece act Nu'est before making his second debut as an idol five years later as a member of Wanna One, the winning group on "Produce 101." In 2020, he began his acting career with the JTBC miniseries "Live On" and has since been focusing on acting.
Nu'est officially concluded its activities in March 2022 and Hwang chose to stay with the group's agency, Pledis Entertainment, along with his bandmate Baekho.
Mind control is the key to his continued efforts in new fields, Hwang said.
"Through trying new things and reflecting on the process, and failing and discovering what I'm good at, I've gained an objective perspective on myself that has set the foundation," he said, adding, "I think I kept the phrase 'an unwavering heart' that trended recently with the World Cup inside me all the time while working."
Recently, the singer-actor took up a host role in a TV variety show. He starred as the first “star master” of Mnet's latest idol survival program "Boys Planet," emceeing the program and giving advice to contestants in the first round of the competition.
He said he was cautious in accepting the emcee role at first because he didn't believe he was in a position to give advice. But in the end, he took the role because he remembered when he had to push himself back in 2017 in a similar setting, and felt he could gain some encouragement from being part of the show.
"The thought that 'I didn't have any other choice' back in 2017 -- I saw that in the eyes of the trainees (in "Boys Planet"). They wanted to be good so badly, and their energy also encouraged me in preparing this album," he said.
Marking the twelfth year in his singing career, Hwang is now embarking on a new journey branded only by his name. Rather than aiming for any chart rankings, the seasoned musician hopes to broaden his base as an artist.
"It's time that I step outside of the boundaries set while I was with my former bands, and show who I really am," he said, adding, "I hope I can be recognized as a versatile artist through the solo album."
Hwang acknowledged the troubles of juggling an acting and singing career. But just like the title of his album, he said he wanted to set a good example for those looking up to him.
"I want to stay as an 'idol' ... winning people’s respect or becoming a means of comfort, and to do that, I shouldn't disappoint them," he said. "This is my new start, so please look forward to what more I have to bring in the future."
Last year, Hwang had a breakthrough in his acting career thanks to the popular tvN drama “Alchemy of Souls.” He is set to return to the small screen through the channel's upcoming series "Truth" set to begin airing this year.