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[Get Ready With K-Pop] Wendy’s Solo Debut: A Safe Bet or a New Challenge?

Edited and Translated by Kim Yoo Hyang

 

Credit: SM Entertainment

Red Velvet’s Wendy announced that she is preparing for an album to be released in April. With various soundtracks, featuring, and duets that she participated in, she is the first member of the team to release a solo album. And that is precisely why we should pay attention to her. Let’s take a guess on what SM will create with Wendy this time, after producing multiple solo musicians who made history with their ballads. While many things are still under the veil, fans are more confident than anxious about her upcoming album. Perhaps her past career can tell us more.

 

Temporarily Shifting Away from the Universe, Going Towards a Soloist’s Sentiments

If we were to name some iconic vocalists from SM, there would be Super Junior’s Kyuhyun, Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon, and EXO’s Baekhyun. They have something in common: they have created a new impression of themselves as soloists after working in idol groups with a strong identity. These vocalists have particular sentiments in telling their stories, different from Taemin, Kai, Irene & Seulgi, who are mostly focused on performances.

How did Baekhyun keep his character while singing about a typical love in “UN Village” after EXO’s powerful and adventurous performance? To clarify, SM’s solo artists are great at separating their identities from their group. Baekhyun had to tell a completely different story from EXO and thus had to start from back to square one. That is how he led the comforting, soft, and romantic album “Delight” to be a million-seller with “Amusement Park” and made his solo debut in Japan. By all means, EXO’s collective popularity played along with his success. It is a characteristic of SM’s soloist to catch the ears of listeners apart from their fans.

Could it be the Korean listeners’ love for the ballad, as they are almost always on the charts’ top? A wide range of listeners has loved solo albums of Kyuhyun, Taeyeon, and Baekhyun. It is because the artists’ music changes the styles as they enter the path of the soloist. Taeyeon is an excellent example. For instance, she maintained her popularity from her track “I” because she chose to work with R&B instead of sticking to traditional ballads. This way, she was able to demonstrate her style of singing better.

Credit: SM Entertainment

Baekhyun used futuristic sounds to sing as if he was talking to the listeners, and Taeyeon showed her capabilities as an artist with R&B sounds. How will Wendy greet the second chapter of her career? Among SM artists, Red Velvet relies on their members the most, as they both cooperate and chase after one another. With both hostility and solidarity in their universe, the group identity of Red Velvet has been portrayed constantly. “One of These Nights,” “Russian Roulette,” and “Pee-A-Boo” clearly demonstrates how all five members are upholding the group’s universe.

So, as Wendy temporarily moves away from this thoroughly built world, she is expected to stand on a new starting line with an R&B-based ballad with her refreshing voice. Especially as a ballad track with R&B elements has become the success formula for SM vocal soloists to follow. But if Wendy was to break the mold and make a bold attempt at creating her unique genre, I look forward to a mid-tempo title track filled with her bright sunshine-like charms.

Credit: SM Entertainment

 

Soundtracks, SM Station, Featuring: The Various Forms of Music that Strengthened Wendy’s Popularity and Vocal Styles

Wendy has already demonstrated her capabilities through many different projects and collaborations. Kicking off with “Spring Love” alongside Eric Nam through SM Station in 2016, she eventually accomplished a legendary duet with John Legend in “Written in the Stars.” 

The artist also gained experience by singing TV soundtracks, including “Goodbye” from Beauty Inside, “What If Love” from Touch Your Heart, and “Two Letters” (literal title) from Start-Up. Her voice caught both K-drama and K-pop fans as she was able to portray various sides of love that were at times sorrowful and calm. 

Looking through the songs she worked on so far, they were primarily duets with a show’s male singer or soundtracks. Thus, she joined in projects predominantly with the theme of love. Besides, Wendy changed her voice and vocal style along the way to suit each song’s ambiance. However, now with her solo album, it seems that the tracks will now be custom-made to fit Wendy. That is to say; she will now have an identity as a soloist that everyone can recall when they think of ‘Wendy.’

Credit: SM Entertainment

Perhaps Wendy won’t sing only about love anymore. With a stage accident on the day of Christmas in 2019 and the time she spent recovering from the injuries, it seems likely that she will sing for encouragement and hope. Unlike the unit Irene & Seulgi, who demonstrated the genre of SMP (SM Music Performance) in “Monster” and “Naughty,” Wendy could attempt to tell an autobiographic story. The truthful stories that come from her experiences are expected to be a part of the album. Her new solo album’s theme and mood will separate her from Red Velvet’s universe and its vibrant performances.

Nevertheless, we hope that Wendy comes out with music that overcomes the binaries of Red Velvet/Wendy, Dynamic/Lethargic, and Performance-driven/Vocal-driven. It is a personal wish that Wendy makes a refreshing solo debut that is more than just a soft and calm track that SM vocal soloists of the past have already overplayed.

This has so far been the wishes and expectations for Wendy’s upcoming solo album, though contents like the highlight medley, are still unrevealed. Regardless of her flawless vocals proven through various projects, the upcoming song’s style and theme raise multiple questions. We have no choice but to look forward to seeing the message Wendy will deliver as the first soloist of Red Velvet upon her new start. The album will likely differentiate from Red Velvet’s color yet not completely break away from Wendy’s character. I hope that the album’s theme and story won’t be flattened out in the process of choosing between the public’s popularity and an intriguing universe. While it is a huge challenge to juggle with the purpose, direction, and style of an album, we have no choice but to have faith in SM and Wendy’s outstanding skills.

 

Editor Kim Yoo Hyang – I chase after the fancy and ever-so-shifting K-pop. Different universes and fantasies of K-idols intrigue me as they become a new medium of communication in our reality. Finding meanings in the tiniest details is my hobby and forté.

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