Choi Yu-na, a former member of K-pop girl group GFriend who goes by her stage name Yuju, has debuted as a solo artist with the release of her album, Rec. and its lead single Play.
Inspired by the red light of a recording studio and the record button on cameras, Rec., stylised as [Rec.], is a five-song EP that shows off a new side to the singer and captures a moment in Yuju’s musical evolution.
“All of the tracks are [inspired by] that red light [of a camera being on], as if I’m performing something for the first time with a sense of honesty and freshness to it,” Yuju tells the Post from Seoul ahead of the album’s release.
Yuju saw making the album as a way of reintroducing herself to the world – she wants to be seen, through the music she records and through the lens of a camera on stage, to be giving it her all. The theme of recordings also adds a permanence to the album, which she is very aware of.
“Since it’s been recorded and it’s going to be on the timeline forever, obviously I feel anxious but at the same time really excited,” she says.
Though she may have some anxiety over it, Yuju’s Rec. shows boldness and assuredness on the part of the 24-year-old singer, who is ready to be the star of her own show. In her intro track Bad Blood, a rock-infused anthem, she proclaims: “So if you’re ready/Let the cameras roll.”
Yuju’s solo releases as a member of GFriend typically veered towards ballads and soft-pop. Her five-track EP, however, sits firmly in the world of alt R&B. There are songs that deal with vengeance and scorned love, and it shows a more confident, mature side to the star even during its softer moments.
The intense Bad Blood is followed by Play, which incorporates hip hop, R&B and traditional Korean instrumentals to create something dramatic and captivating as she sings about having her heart played with.
The third track, Cold Winter, is an emotive R&B ballad duet with rapper Mad Clown, while The Killa is sensuous and funky with a jazzy spin. Rec. closes with the raw acoustic ballad Blue Nostalgia.
“I don’t have any restrictions in what I want to do or when I have to do it,” Yuju says. “I follow my heart and what I feel at that moment, and that’s how I process the work. For this album, it feels like the red light is on me and I’m getting that tension [or energy] I need.”
Yuju, who has some songwriting credits as a member of GFriend, is named as a co-lyricist on every song on Rec. and co-composer on all but Bad Blood. She credits her love of poetry and the team at Konnect Entertainment (founded by Wanna One member and soloist Kang Daniel) for helping her find direction.
“They really helped me come up with my own identity, my own culture.”
Yuju’s album dropped on Jan 18, three days after the seventh anniversary of GFriend’s debut, which she and the other members commemorated on social media.
The release marks a new beginning for all the group members – Rec. is the first solo album from any of the women since GFriend’s sudden disbandment last year , and kicks off a year that is set to see additional releases from other former members, including the spin-off group ViviZ , who are set to drop their first album, Beam of Prism, next month.
Yuju admits that moving on to solo work after being in a group has been a bit of an adjustment. Aside from the technical differences of working and recording on her own, she was shocked at the quiet that there has been without the other members of GFriend.
“Even though it’s been a bit lonely, I came into a new company that has been so supportive of me, and they’re so warm and welcoming. So I’ve been in a good space,” she adds. One memorable moment at Konnect was when some coworkers sang along with her in the recording studio, which was “awesome”.
“I might need more time to figure things out,” Yuju says, now that she’s finally hit Play on her solo career. “But yes, I’m putting my best effort to find out more about myself.”
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.