Former (well, maybe not technically but pretty much) Wonder Girl member Yeeun, also known as Yenny, has made her awaited debut as a solo artist under the name Ha:tfelt. Yes, that's a lot of names for one person. It's maybe more than a mere coincidence that her first mini album is called "Me?". Who is really this teen idol turned musician? This album gives us an answer.
I have never been a big fan of the Wonder Girls as I never got to witness them in their prime, and by the time I started getting familiar with them they started to fall apart. This group have given birth to some popular female soloists though, such as Hyuna and Sunmi, both of which left the group at an early age. I suppose that's the way it works with JYP's most successful act, once you leave it you reach a new level of fame. Yeeun is one special young woman, because although she's been in the industry what seems like forever she is only 25 years old, and she has certainly grown the become more than a pretty face and voice. One of my favorite songs so far this year: Sunmi's "If That Was you", was put together by her, and she has written other songs for her group throughout the years as well.
Every single song on this album is her making, which I think is pretty amazing. Idols composing their own material is getting more common, but it's still not the norm, but most of those idols are male. Yeeun is one of the few female idols, that I know of, that are active in the composing of the songs they release and I'm rwally happy she has been given the ability to put together this album on her own conditions. I have a lot of admiration for idols writing their own material, whether it'd be good or not, because it shows that they're actually interested in the music they're performing. If you're like Yeeun though, and manage to both arrange an entire album and make it sound great, than you have more than my admiration, you have got yourself a true fan.
The first song on the album is called "Iron Girl", and already from the first lines I'm sold. The song features fellow member Lim as a rapper, and while I don't think she brings anything particularly special to the track, she doesn't ruin it either. Thank goodness for that. The last thing we need right now is an amazing song completely destroyed by awful rapping parts. The lyrics are also a joy to read and listen to, because they are strong and empowering and it makes me happy to read such words from a female artist. She is an iron girl indeed, with "Strong arms like a lion, legs like steel", and talks about her various hardships and how she's more than what just meets the eye. Honestly, I would want to quote the entire song because I just love the way she's presenting herself, but I suggest you go seek it out yourself and see all the beauty with your own eyes. What caught my ears the most though was probably Lim's lines near the end, spoken entirely in English and full of power and meaning.
"The world sees what they want to see
But I'm more than just what you see
What you see is just the half of me
Iron girl, is what's inside of me"
The next track, "Truth", is a low-tempo power-ballad that manages to turn simplicity into brilliance. I don't really know how to categorize this song at all actually, because this is isn't the kind of sound you normally would find on a K-pop album, but I absolutely love it. Just like the rest of the songs on "Me?", Yeeun excels both lyrically and vocally, and while this song might be the least complicated out of all of them, it surely is one of the most enthralling. Never have the words "I need truth" sounded so directly gripping and moving, and it's almost like she transferring all her pain and despair to the listener's minds, because I honestly feel really sad while hearing her belt out those three words.
The title track "Ain't Nobody" seems like a mish-mash of different genres, but for some reason I don't hate it as much as I probably normally would. The opening is quite low-key and simple, with minimal instruments and Ha:tfelts voice being the main focus, but it builds up all the way to the impact of the powerful chorus. From here, there's a more electronic sound, yet still remaining the acoustic instrumental to a certain degree, but after the chorus it changes again. I would not have expected this song to have a trap breakdown, and it first I didn't like it because it sounded way too much like 2ne1 and YG for my liking, but I'm sort of over it now. I don't love it, but I can handle it because the rest of the song is just that good. The lyrics are, once again, brilliantly powerful, raw and emotional, and her voice truly manages to convey the message. I can feel the desperation deep within the smallest corners of my body, and if that's not skillful than I don't know what is.
Next up is "Bond", the sexy jam of the album, features underground rapper Beenzino as the main character whereas Ha:tfelt portrays the character of what I assume is one of his lovers. She talks about how she know he's bad for her but she can't dismiss her desires either. The entire song is very sexual, and is also quite frank about it's nature which I think isn't a bad thing at all, and reading the lyrics there seems to be quite a few innuendos as well. I enjoy the smooth, sultry vibe of the song and Ha:tfelt's use of her lower register, instantly giving the song a sexier feeling. The sampling of "The James Bond Theme" in the chorus is also a nice touch to the track.
"Wherever Together" is quite unexpected, but doesn't feel totally out of place either. Like most of the songs on this album, it's not very K-pop-ish at all, and this one seems like it could belong being played at the club. There's short parts of singing here and there, but the main focus of the song lies on the instrumental parts in between, the musical build-ups and the classical drop of the beat. It's really a song that makes you want to get up and dance, and the euphoric sensation it exudes is enough to make me happy all the way from the inside. Next song "Peter Pan" is very much based on the story of the same name, and is a wonderfully calm and soothing tune to follow up with. The lyrics play of off the well known tale of young girl Wendy flying away with our main character to Neverland, a magical place full of dreams and wonder where you never grow up, but it seems as if she's been brought back home and it reminiscing about the days that were. It's nostalgic and bittersweet, as she's asking him to "Let me go", as if she's tired of waiting and hoping and would rather just know the harsh truth than to go on living in the past. The song's structure is really great as well, and the last chorus just hits all the right notes in my book, truly reaching that final breaking point in the story.
Ha:tfelt's debut mini album finishes with "Nothing Lasts Forever". I have read somewhere that this song was written about a fan of her's that passed away due to a brain tumor some time ago, and that is way her vocals sound the way they do, as they were recorded as a demo at the time and have not been redone since. It's still a beautifully painful song that reminds me a bit of musicians such as Bon Iver, who does this kind of genre really well. The muted vocals along with a simple, acoustic background track makes a certain kind of intimacy that's hard to create elsewhere. The song keeps its pace throughout the entire length of it, but it doesn't really need more dynamic to keep you on the edge of your seat. Ha:tfelt's crystal clear vocals and, the lyrics which are of course like a stab to the heart with it's brutally painful honesty, makes you feel all the emotions you never knew you had.
I can honestly say I knew already when I heard the album preview that this was going to be one of the greatest releases this year. Without a single doubt. I listened to it, put it on repeat and absorbed all the impressions and feelings awoken inside of me and never looked back ever again. I've read that Yeeun had many arguments with JYP himself about this album, as they had split views on how she should market herself and her music as a solo artist. She wanted a new name, a new identity as a singer-songwriter, composer and musician, and she wanted her album to feature her as that new person. I'm very happy she got her way, because while "Me?" might not be all too mainstream or radio-friendly, it has some of the most genuinely touching and inspiring music I've heard in a long while. All hats of to the Wonder Girl that could, now you can truly show everyone just how wonderful you are.