What makes a great singer? It is hard to answer such a question. We all have our own music preferences, so it can be difficult to stay objective when discussing our favourite artists. However, when you find a singer who is able to deliver every note, every word, and every emotion, you will instantly know that you’re in the presence of an outstanding artist. And one of those talents is SUNMI, a singer, dancer, and record producer from South Korea.
Prior to SUNMI’s London show at Troxy (a part of her second World Tour, GOOD GIRL GONE MAD), I walk through the maze of corridors to a press waiting room. And, while resting my feet on a big and comfy sofa, the concert’s promoters (KEvents and The Root Company) truly take care of my needs. I am the first person to interview the singer – a prospect that is incredibly exciting.
SUNMI greets me with a big smile and a friendly hand shake. While wearing gentle makeup, a funky hairdo, a short denim dress and sparkly high-heeled boots, SUNMI sits down and we begin our conversation.
“It’s your second time in London, SUNMI. How does it feel to be back?”, I ask.
“I am so happy to be in London for the second time. More people came to this tour”, she says then continues: “I have such great memories of London and I am so excited to see what a fantastic night it has in store for me tonight”.
In June of this year, the artist gifted her fans with a new single called Heart Burn, a passionate composition that also included a visually stunning MV. Heart Burn, as well as SUNMI’s previous releases, demonstrates that the singer is one of the most talented and diverse K-pop idols out there.
“The single, Heart Burn, was a song that took a load off my chest”, says the artist then continues: “All my music has a strong beat that is very energetic, but Heart Burn doesn’t really have a powerful beat. And [when it comes to my video], well, heartburn is an illness that occurred in pretty much every era. It’s a type of sickness, and I have [somewhat] become like that to the men in the MV”.
“I thought it would be fun to express it differently according to each era. And I feel Heart Burn speaks for the heated passion of a woman madly in love, so I thought the scenes [which depict time travel] went well with that idea visually”, adds SUNMI.
SUNMI began her career in 2007 when she debuted as a part of Wonder Girls. Three years later, she departed the girl group to concentrate on herself and her studies. In 2013, the singer began her solo career by releasing her first EP: Full Moon. Although she resumed her activities with Wonder Girls in 2015, SUNMI was working hard on her own music. And in 2017, she released Gashina, which was named the third best K-pop song of 2017 by Billboard. Following the success of Gashina, SUNMI released an EP in 2018 titled Warning. The two leading singles of the EP, Heroine and Siren, also became successful hit-songs, with over 70 million views on Youtube. Starting her career at a young age must have been a difficult path to follow, however, with many songs already released, and many more to come, SUNMI has become a true star in the Korean music industry. But who inspired her to become a singer?
“After watching BoA perform, I thought it would be great to be an idol singer; I think I was 12 years old. And when I became a singer, the person who influenced me the most music-wise was JYP”, SUNMI admits candidly.
While listening to SUNMI’s music, whether it’s her newer releases or her older songs, I can easily say that the artist can sing within a variety of genres and styles. Disco, pop, and rock, you got it. Since SUNMI’s debut as a soloist, her music style has really evolved. However, looking at the Korean music industry, where does the singer aspire to fit in? Perhaps she wants to play strictly K-pop? Perhaps she wants to go back to her 1970s/1980s Disco influences? Or maybe she hopes to make music of a different genre someday?
“The music that influenced me a lot is from the 70s and 80s, so my music has lots of retro elements. But I want to go beyond that and try various genres, such as R&B”, confesses the singer.
While reflecting on her music, SUNMI tells me that she would like for her fans to take away a positive message from her music. “Often, fans say to me ‘you saved my life’. Comments like that are so moving, and [with that in mind], I can go on making music. Also, when my listeners hear my music, I want them to think, ‘this could be my story’. It is not just SUNMI’s story, it could also be their story”, she adds.
Many music listeners see different images and feel an array of emotions while listening to their favourite artists. But what happens inside of SUNMI’s mind when she is listening to the music she likes?
“When I listen to music that I like, my heart beats way too fast and I get goosebumps. I let the emotions I feel in that moment flow away until they are completely gone”.
And while we have to conclude our interview after 10 minutes, I am so glad to have had the opportunity to get to know SUNMI a little bit more. The singer stands up, and expresses her gratitude towards those who came to see her and those who came to interview her.
If you come across SUNMI’s music, you will realise that she is a one-of-a-kind artist. I can personally say, without a shadow of a doubt, that she is an exceptionally talented singer and a stunning performer.
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, arts, and fashion, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, music, and arts, worldwide.