HeeJin: Stepping Into the Spotlight HeeJin: Stepping Into the Spotlight Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine

HeeJin: Stepping Into the Spotlight

At the age of 23, K-pop superstar HeeJin (@0ct0ber19) has established herself as a fiercely gifted icon with unstoppable determination. Though considering her exquisite industry introduction as the first member of the complexly renowned group LOONA, it’s genuinely no surprise that her spellbinding talent has resulted in her status as a total pop legend.

During the singer’s unforgettable participation in the group’s shared reign as K-pop game-changers, LOONA’s celebrated lineup masterfully embraced its members’ expansive potential – ultimately revolutionizing K-pop for six years of groundbreaking contributions to the pop music sphere. In the process, the top-tier roster also cemented that whether united or separately, these women are eternal. Still, after several years with the group (and the formation of an irreplaceable bond), it’s finally HeeJin’s time to shine on a new, liberating stage with the electrifying opportunity to choose her own path. And make no mistake, she’s entirely ready.

HeeJin: Stepping Into the Spotlight HeeJin: Stepping Into the Spotlight Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine
Editorial Director: Aedan Juvet | Photographer: Min Suk Kim | Stylist: Suzy Choi | Photographer’s Assistant: Hwang Se Woong | Stylist’s Assistant: Kang Myung Hwa | Cover Designer: Laramie Cheyenne

What does that entail exactly? For starters, the decision to merge with the powerhouse rookie company Modhaus through their newly conceptualized ARTMS project alongside fellow LOONA titans JinSoul, Haseul, Kim Lip, and Choerry. However, even as a core component of the ARTMS project, HeeJin’s first act with the company has offered a solitary release titled K, which saturates the expansive field of pop music with her infectious new title track “알고리즘 (Algorithm)” that’s in essence, a blend of K-pop enveloped by a warm, unstoppable throwback to ‘80s western pop. On the remainder of the detail-heavy album, a majority of K’s liberating b-side releases like “Sad Girls Club,” “Nokia,” and “Video Game” incorporate nodes of self-reflection or heartache, ultimately enhancing her pop music proficiency to earn soloist stripes – because HeeJin can conquer anything that she puts her mind to. 

Now, the LOONA titan, ARTMS pioneer, and down-to-earth soloist is breaking down her never-ending industry expedition for our new Vanity Teen Magazine digital cover story. 

As a longtime fan of your inspiring work via LOONA, Queendom 2, and even your digital single “Honestly,” it’s truly exciting to see that you’re getting a chance to show the world everything you have to offer as a soloist! After all of the tireless work and effort you’ve experienced to get here – what does this solo release represent to you?

HeeJin: This solo album felt like a challenge to me. With this album, I wanted to showcase the colors of ‘HeeJin’ rather than the group and leave a lasting impression of my identity on the audience.

It’s safe to say that everyone that’s familiar with you is very aware of the fact that you’re a natural performer and all-rounder! Though, how is this present-day version of you different from the version of HeeJin that we met in 2016?

HeeJin: I feel like I’ve become more confident in myself. In 2016, I was always timid and cautious, but recently I feel like I’ve become significantly more fearless and honest. I think it’s because I’ve gained more experience.

HeeJin: Stepping Into the Spotlight HeeJin: Stepping Into the Spotlight Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine
Editorial Director: Aedan Juvet | Photographer: Min Suk Kim | Stylist: Suzy Choi | Photographer’s Assistant: Hwang Se Woong | Stylist’s Assistant: Kang Myung Hwa | Cover Designer: Laramie Cheyenne

You’ve proven to have a vast skill set that includes dance, vocals, rap, fierce visuals, and even archery – the list could go on forever! Pertaining specifically to music, what’s one aspect of artistry that you tend to gravitate to as a comfort zone? And is there an area that you’d like to push yourself in?

HeeJin: I find the stage to be a very comfortable space for me now. Especially during shows when I can freely sing and interact with the fans, those moments give me a lot of energy. As now I am releasing my solo album, I also want to challenge myself to have my own solo concerts!

You definitely have one of the most recognizable tones in K-pop, with a rich, enchanting voice that’s meant to be heard. Now that you’ve experimented with several styles of music, is there a specific genre or subgenre that you think best fits your distinctive sound?

HeeJin: As a K-Pop idol, we have to handle songs from various genres, so I don’t want to categorize myself as excelling in a specific genre. However, when I monitored my songs, I felt that my voice harmonized well with dreamy pop songs.

As far as concepts go, you also bring extreme versatility which we’ve already seen through LOONA and during Queendom 2 which led you to organically become a fan-favorite! And even [for this shoot] you’re now serving Y2K excellence! When it comes to personal preference, what style feels most reflective of your identity as an artist?

HeeJin: I think HeeJin, as an artist, is perceived as bright and cheerful by the public, which I believe aligns with my personality. But sometimes, I also think I can absorb and convey deeper and more serious feelings quite well [laughs].

As an industry trailblazer who’s experienced it all, what do you believe is the biggest misconception that young artists have about being a K-pop idol? 

HeeJin: There’s a common misconception that becoming an idol will lead to having many celebrity friends, but it’s actually quite challenging. Maybe it’s because of my personality, but I don’t think I’ve made celebrity friends since my debut as an idol [laughs].

HeeJin: Stepping Into the Spotlight HeeJin: Stepping Into the Spotlight Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine
Editorial Director: Aedan Juvet | Photographer: Min Suk Kim | Stylist: Suzy Choi | Photographer’s Assistant: Hwang Se Woong | Stylist’s Assistant: Kang Myung Hwa | Cover Designer: Laramie Cheyenne

It’s hard to believe that this month marks seven years since you’ve been in the industry, and during that time you spent the majority of your teenage years courageously pursuing your passion! If you had to choose one moment that inspired you to keep pushing forward, what would it be?

HeeJin: I drew a lot of inspiration while working on this album. Even though it’s my seventh year as an idol, this was the first time I created an album myself. It was challenging, but with the help of music producers and staff at MODHAUS, I was able to create this album. Breaking away from someone else’s mold and pioneering my own path was a defining moment for me to establish my identity. While I prepared for this album, I gained a lot of inspiration and motivation to work even harder in the future.

I’m obsessed with your new title track because it honors a lot of traditions in K-pop, but you mix in a few Western-inspired ‘80s twists to make it feel like something brand new! What was the most important thing you wanted to convey with this new solo song? 

HeeJin: Yes, that’s why I believe that it’s a music genre that many foreign fans will love too. The new title track respects many K-pop traditions while incorporating some Western influences from the ’80s. The lyrics of “Algorithm” mainly revolve around breakups, but like the song’s title itself, I hope the algorithms will convey the existence of myself to the people all around the world.

There are also some somber, introspective moments on the album with tracks like “Addiction,” “Nokia” or “Video Game,” that also pull from genres outside of K-pop norms! How much of an impact have styles like R&B or Jazz music had on your own sound as an artist?

HeeJin: I’ve also explored many new genres this time, and with the current trends in music where styles are blending and evolving rapidly, I feel like I’ve also grown quickly while preparing for this album. It seems like these fresh music styles are giving me all the inspiration I need.

When you were filming the ambitious, narrative-driven music video for “Algorithm” was there a specific moment when its creativity or execution surpassed your expectations?

HeeJin: I found the plot of the music video for “Algorithm” to be quite interesting and creative. I’ve come across albums that showcased Hanbok, [traditional Korean clothing] as the main concept, but the concept of taking off the Hanbok to become a K-pop star was quite unique. I think everyone watching the music video will also find it very intriguing.

In the near future you’re set to return with several of your former bandmates, and that’s something we’re eager to celebrate! What can you tell us about the next era of your music with the upcoming collaborative album, DALL?

HeeJin: While it’s still in the planning stages with our CEO, and I’m also concentrating on the promotion of “Algorithm,” it is quite difficult to answer anything specifically. However, I can say that ARTMS will return next year with a fantastic album, just as if the seal has been broken.

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