A yellow tube dress and a gold flower necklace all from Dior, shorts and a black American apparel, lace stockings from Agent Provocateur, black shoes from Shoes One.
Get Past Gayoon’s Wall
Giving a musician the ‘idol’ tag from its birth is something cruel. Nevermind, because to Heo Gayoon time is a medicine. As time goes by, she grows wiser, stronger and even more beautiful than she already was. And the fourth spring which welcomes her return on stage, is on its way…
Some idol groups whose names were lost in the confusion, entered the music scene without really knowing what to do, and eventually got lost in the midst of doing so. In a situation where the market was already saturated. It was at that time that 4minute appeared, on that same scene, with the hit song that was then known as “Hot Issue.” Not too young to be sexy, it was in a climate of nosy comments and concerns that Hyunah showed off her sexiness. And that’s how the term ‘4minute = Hyunah’ officially got stuck in people’s minds, and Heo Gayoon returned through the two-member sub-unit, 2YOON. Escaping a packed schedule for a late night photo shoot, walking in small and quick steps, brightly smiling after having arrived at the studio, before the camera, there she stands. Her gaze changed as soon as the shutter’s sound was heard. She doesn’t look forced, she is beautiful and looks exactly her age, while being mature. The twenty-year old girl who debuted has now become a twenty-four year old woman.
It’s almost been 5 years since her debut. Even more time has passed since her trainee days. Having auditioned and been cast by chance, her life as a trainee started when she was fourteen years old. At the time, she moved from an agency to another a lot.
Q: Was your childhood dream to become a singer?
Yes. But because I started out at a very young age, singing became something natural to me. My life and my lifestyle. Lately, leaving singing aside, I’ve discovered a lot of other charming areas. Posing for a photo shoot such as what I did today, and I’ve also taken an interest in acting…I want to try out a lot of new things. There are especially a lot of idols who remained discreet and quiet after making their debuts. After having debuted with 4minute I received a lot of attention and I’ve been doing well so far. However I’ve always been anxious. Among our members, we all have goals and the greed [to do well.] That’s why I tell myself I have to do better. We talk a lot among ourselves, about how we’re lacking 2% of something. We’re always among the challengers for the #1 spot on music shows. Always for several consecutive weeks. In most cases, there was always a slight difference in points between the winner and us. It’s not that we’re obsessed with winning the #1 spot, instead it’s just that we’re scared to be seen as second place in people’s minds. Still, we always talk about that between us. And if we do really well, and manage to win #1 every time, wouldn’t we constantly worry about falling from that spot? Having a goal ahead of us is much better. Such wise friends indeed, our members.
Honestly speaking, seeing the oppas from BEAST from the same agency as ours, and who are like family to me , do very well made me think that we (4minute) still have a long way to go. Seeing how in the span of a year, hundreds of idol groups debuted as singers, I believe that then, you become just one among so many. Nowadays, you can’t just rest on your laurels.
Q: Did Hyunah being the center of attention ever make you feel sad?
No. It’s thanks to her that 4minute received attention. If you think of it from a realistic point of view, there is no need to feel jealous at all. Hyunah is able to express herself through her image well.
Q: Whose idea was 2YOON’s country style?
After we selected the title track, as we were looking to change our style team, I took matters in hands as the visual director. I’ve always had a great interest in fashion and style, and I’ve also thrown out ideas for 4minute’s concepts before. But this time I wanted to be thoroughly involved. Among our senior female artists, some told us that, looking at the stage outfits of other girl groups, it’s difficult to tell them apart for their outfits are all quite similar. They said that our concept looked great and praised us for our original stage outfits. While following my interest in fashion, and looking for this and that, I learned two things: To watch and learn, and to watch and avoid. When looking at fashion magazines, there is definitely a limit as to what I’d want to wear. So I just look at fashion magazines and avoid the things I wouldn’t wear accordingly.
Q: Idols have been receiving criticism and negative comments for focusing on performance instead of musicality. It’s nothing new but as an idol who is directly involved, there must have been times when you felt wronged. From your stance, as a representative of the “90s Idols,” is there anything you would like to say?
Be it TV, computers, mobile phones, starting with the media, everything is different from the past. Now, rather than what you hear, things have been thought and built around what you see. These days, it hasn’t been the case just for music, but from make-up, outfits, hair, to the choreography. The way I see it, there have been more things to consider and care about, making it even more difficult. Being good at singing is not enough anymore. Of course you’d have to love singing, but whether it’s the outfits or the concepts, everything becomes an issue. Being able to be good in various areas is, I believe an advantage. But if you’re too preoccupied by it, if it’s too perfect, then it becomes a handicap. A while ago, in order to study songwriting our member Jiyoon flew to the US and we talked about this when she came back. There, she met with renowned songwriters and producers who all said this in regard to K-Pop: ‘From the arrangement, the sound to the choreography, if everything is too perfect, too polished, music is then reduced to a standard, a stereotype and it’s not music to enjoy anymore. It becomes something too clean, too sharp, a show.’
They said that it was the case for music videos as well. Fading in and out from individual shots to lead to the formation of the group dance makes the dance routine hard to follow. It’s something that directly touched me. It’s not the case for one group only but for most of them. That’s why we thought ‘Okay let’s do it differently’ with 2YOON. Instead of beats inspired by electro music, we wanted something else. Therefore we chose to try out country pop instead, and worked on the choreography and tried to make it simple so it’s easy to follow.
Q: Like the meaning behind 4minute, capturing everyone’s attention in four minutes on stage, among idol groups the issue is that everyone wants to be the fanciest and the loudest. As the main vocal of 4minute, did you ever have concerns when promoting about musicality VS performance?
To be honest, 4minute’s songs aren’t the quiet type. However at first I felt worried and disappointed because I thought that people didn’t know I was a good singer. It wasn’t me only, but every main vocalists of other groups as well who must have felt that way as well. But this time, with 2YOON, I was able to show off my vocals and express my own colour. So my desire got fulfilled.
Q: Was there any situation where you felt wronged or misunderstood by people?
I’m the quiet yet straightforward kind of person. If I know someone well and get closer to them I speak my mind a lot but if I’m around people I don’t know, I get very shy. Yes, I’ve came across situations where people judged me without knowing the facts. A while ago, when I was performing on Inkigayo, there was an incident where I forgot the lyrics. Back then, I had just gotten back from Paris and didn’t even have enough sleep. My physical condition wasn’t good either and I received the lyrics to the song I was to perform some time before going up on stage. People didn’t know about that. Since the day I debuted, there was not even one time I cried. But that day, right after we were done performing, I cried to my heart’s content. People focus only that moment when you stand on stage and I was scared that they would judge me because they thought I couldn’t sing when facing the difficulty of the song…Since then, when I’m on stage, singing, I often try to read the audience’s mind.
Q: It seems that this was a traumatic experience for you.
Yes, it was. So I told myself that if I work harder, it will be alright. But it’s easier said than done. Because performing and singing both are the biggest part of what I do, it is with a professional spirit that I want to keep this promise.
Q: Are you sensitive to comments on SNS and on in the internet in general?
I’ve never felt hurt when seeing malicious comments. Because even negative attention still is attention in the end, so that’s how I think of it. But I still can’t forget that performance.
Q: It looks like 4minute has made it. Thoughts?
Right now, we’re still far from it. It would be great if our musical colour was to be defined a bit more. To be honest, 4minute isn’t among the popular groups. Around the time our song gets released, people say it’s good but it seems that its meaning still is a bit vague. However after a few months pass, we start hearing good reviews of it. When I look at it, it makes me think that our music is ahead of its time. These days, if you follow the trend every song ends up sounding the same. But we hate that most.
Q: It must be hard to move forward one step at a time.
It’s a path where you avoid everything in order to keep only going forward. Our motto is about our goal “Instead of BEST, the ONLY.” Rather than being one among many, we want to become the only survivor among them all.
Q: Riding the Korean Wave is beneficial.
Yes. This time our luck was good. Hyunah attracted attention overseas with her solo activities, while 4minute and 2YOON received a good response as well. We were featured in SPIN magazine, and we got a request to be interviewed by TIME. We are the first ever Korean idol group to be featured in and interviewed by TIME. We are currently working on 4minute’s new album and we hope it does well.
Idols and stars. There are a lot of young people who want to become like myself. But wouldn’t it be hard? Most of them don’t know. What they see is the shiny and beautiful world from outside the window. It’s hardships you wouldn’t know about if you don’t experience them yourself. It would be great if they could get a taste of this way of life before choosing it. (Laughs) So their choice of going through it or leaving it is made easier.
Q: Were you able to differentiate between your musician life and your ordinary student life?
As of now, is it because I don’t think that I have made it yet, or maybe that I don’t think of myself as a musician or celebrity, I’m not really aware of it. The life I’m leading right now is rather ordinary for me. I believe that it’s because I’m not the type to go out often. When I’m asked what my hobbies are, I would just answer something like ‘lying down at home.”
Q: Don’t you feel stifled?
I’m not quite sure. It happens. Since I started this career when I was younger, I haven’t been able to express my emotions well. I’m not talking about saying I like or hate something, not that kind of feelings. It’s deeper, for example when I feel like crying I just bear it instead, or when I’m really happy I bear it as well and don’t show it. During my trainee days, we had to show respect to seniors and we would often get scolded. It seems that without knowing, I learned how to bear and internalize my feelings.
Q: Did your heart stiffen throughout the years? Did you become stronger?
Our members think that holding tears back looks cool, but my mom thinks that it’s sad.
People my age want to experience a tragic love while I want to focus on my career. As I’ve been living as star who experienced being in spotlight, is there any other life for me? I didn’t experience enough in my “ordinary” life. Even so, when I don’t have any schedules, I meet up with friends but when I see look at them I can’t help but feel lonely and envious. Recently, the thought of whether I was on the right path or not crossed my mind. Since I debuted I never went clubbing. Not counting 4minute’s performances at clubs. When my friends all talk about their boyfriends it makes me wonder ‘Will I ever be able to get married?’ or ‘Will I be able to graduate from college?’ I debuted when I was twenty-years old, it made me think, ‘So I’ve been giving up on my youth in doing so’ and ‘From now on I have to enjoy myself more’ was a resolution I wanted to keep, but it made me sad because I knew there was no way I could keep it. However, since I know that in order to achieve my goals and do what I want to do, I have no other choice [but that to give up on some things] I will be alright. Because I know that it’s impossible to have everything in life.
SOURCES | Arena Magazine March 2013 Issue (no online link) | 4MF-Trans