Ye-eun, a former member of K-pop girl band Wonder Girls, is not a stranger to fame: her group won countless awards and gained popularity across generations of fans. Thanks to its addictive megahit songs like "Tell Me" and "Nobody," Wonder Girls were undeniably the top female K-pop group of their times in Korea, starting in 2007, which helped them make their U.S. debut and sustain a performance schedule there for years as well.
Even though the group disbanded after a decade of activity in 2017, which included several years of intermittent hiatus, they are remembered as a girl group that made history on the K-pop scene.
Ye-eun was the only member who stayed in Wonder Girls from the beginning to the end, which could be interpreted as her faithfully carrying out her role as a somewhat standardized K-pop female singer. Because girl groups at that time normally sang songs about girls' broken hearts after breakups with their boyfriends, many were surprised when she came back to the stage in 2014 as a soloist with a new stage name "Ha:tfelt" and sang songs with lyrics which were her personal story.
Since her debut as a solo artist and an all-round performer, from composer to singer, Ha:tfelt has released numerous songs which contain various influences as well as esoteric lyrics, new for audiences who are still familiar with her style as Ye-eun from Wonder Girls. Some found it difficult to match her new songs with her image, but she gradually gained popularity among critics, which helped her to a best pop song nomination in the 2015 Korean Musical Awards (KMA), and win the Netizen's Choice award there.
When she parted ways with her agency JYP Entertainment and signed a contract with Amoeba Culture in 2017, it appeared that she would continue to build a steady career as a solo artist. But she faced personal struggles from 2017, including alleged involvement in her father's fraud cases and his sexual abuse of minors. She was cleared of any involvement in his fraudulent activities, but her relationship with her father made her suffer. In those times, she struggled and was suffering from depression, even thinking about taking her life, she recalled. She was broken but did not crumble. Instead, she confronted harsh reality. She expressed her sufferings through her art and healed herself, and the songs that came out have resonated with others as well.
"1719," her recent full-length studio album, was released Thursday and her book related to the album, were made during the darkest times. The title has three meanings; one is the age between 17 and 19, one is the time between 17:00 and 19:00 and one is the year between 2017 and 2019.
She said her album is about the process of recovery from darkness to the light in her life; and from the suicidal thoughts between 2017 and 2019 in particular.
"To be honest, I thought about killing myself a lot in the last three years. I wanted to do something with the thought and talk about my experiences through this album in order not to die. I couldn't figure out how I am still alive and I thought I was alone many times. But at some point I realized that I was not alone and surrounded by my people who will catch me when I fall. The album is talking about the process," Ha:tfelt said during a roundtable interview with reporters April 16 held to promote the new album. She also shared her thoughts in a written interview with The Korea Times.
During the interview, she declined to share in great detail about what exactly happened to her and why she suffered so much. But she implied that in a book (of essays and poems) she wrote in which she mentions her relationship with her father and how his poor behavior angered her, and how her being implicated in his misdeeds made things very difficult for her. She wasn't able to write songs for about a year while feeling depressed. She even wasn't able to move from her couch at times and found out she had a hoarding disorder. Ha:tfelt started to see a counselor.
"As I wrote in the book, I felt like I was drowning, feeling trapped and hard to breath, which is the reason for the subtitle, 'About the times when I was stuck.' I received counseling for about one year and my counselor recommended I write stories about myself."
"At that time, I also became skeptical about success and started to think about the reason I was alive… I tried to overcome, let go or fight against the negative thoughts, but ended up going with the flow as time goes. After three years, I was able to take control of my life."
It was music that helped her back to a normal life.
"I thought of giving up my career…. But I remembered in the most difficult times, music protected me." She wrote that when she thought she would have only three years left to make music, she felt a pain in her heart. "I realized that I am still in love with music." She added that her childhood memories of wanting to become a singer also helped her not give up her musical career.
After realizing her deep love of music, she was able to solely focus on making the album over the last five month. "I stopped drinking, canceled every appointment and spent about five months for the album."
When asked about the reason why she created the album and wrote the book about her personal life, she said "Thinking about something in your mind and writing it are totally different. When I express myself in written language, I experienced that my tangled thoughts became unraveled in a therapeutic way. And I found out that sharing the experiences helped me heal together with many people who had similar experiences to me."
That's another reason she chose "Satellite" as her lead off song, because it is bright and talks about real-life experiences that she can share with many people.
She added that her album could give people warmth in their lives too; as it has done for her.
"I put everything into this album… The process of making the album was chaotic but I feel thankful that I realized that I love music and could make it again. When I look back in the future, I will feel warmth from these days… I will remember the days for a long time. It will be great if other people have similar feelings about my album."
She also hoped that people who are in their darkest times of life will not give up.
"I ask them to hang in there. The end of the darkness will definitely come, even though it feels like it is coming slowly."
source: The Korea Times