After two decades in the music industry, BoA is still learning
The first Korean singer to top Japan’s Oricon charts, the first Korean to land an album on the Billboard 200 charts, a pioneer of K-pop Hallyu, the Asian Star — call her whatever, but Korea’s “No.1” singer BoA says she’s still learning, contemplating and trying her best for her own music as well as the betterment of K-pop.
“I think I’ve finally got the hang of it,” said BoA during an online press conference held on Tuesday morning for the release of her 10th full-length album “Better,” which drops at 6 p.m.
“I play golf a lot, and it’s important to play without ‘too much power.’ It’s the same on the stage. It’s not about just doing the best and going the hardest you can. What’s important for a good performance is that you control your tone and power. I’ve realized this after 20 years, and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, there’s such a long way ahead of me.’”
BoA debuted on Aug. 25, 2000, with her album “ID; Peace B” at the age of just 13, but with a level of talent that far exceeded that of a normal teenager. She took to the stage on her own amid the first generation of K-pop bands with multiple members, singing without an ounce of fear and simultaneously pulling off the toughest choreography. With a list of hits longer than any other singer in Korea — including “No.1” (2002), "Valenti" (2002), “Atlantis Princess” (2003), “Milky Way” (2003), “Garden in the Air” (2005), "Hurricane Venus" (2010) and “Only One” (2012), just to name a few — she stands tall with a successful 20 years in the business under her belt.
“The things that the younger singers are doing these days are things that I didn’t dare to dream in the past, which makes them so amazing and brilliant,” she answered when asked how it feels to see younger singers conquer overseas music charts and sing Korean songs on international stages. She is credited as having pioneered the K-pop Korean wave by becoming the first Korean singer to ever top Japan’s Oricon charts as well as land an album on the Billboard 200 charts.
“I’m grateful that I’m called a pioneer. But I feel like it’s me that should be thanking the artists that are doing so well. K-pop has become a genre of music that’s listened to outside of Korea, and it makes me feel more responsible to make good music. The number of people who watch us is so different now, and I think this is the time for everyone to truly think about how to make good music. I think it’s crucial that I keep learning so as not to fall behind.”
To celebrate her two-decade-long career, BoA did what she does best — music. Her 11-track album “Better” features a variety of genres, including those she's confident and comfortable in, as well as new ones she's never tried before. She composed three of the songs “Cloud,” “All That Jazz” and “L.O.V.E,” and wrote the lyrics for “Cut Me Off.” It took over a year and a half to complete.
“I guess I am a singer from the old days, because I like full-length albums so much,” she said. “I know that people don’t release them a lot these days, but I like an album that makes listeners wonder how much work the singer would have put into making it and in what order they would have set the list of tracks and why.”
For the title track “Better,” songwriter and member of the board at SM Entertainment Yoo Young-jin penned the music. Head and mastermind of SM Entertainment Lee Soo-man also took part in the making of the new album. Lee has always openly expressed his affections for BoA in interviews, and BoA said that working on “Better” along with Yoo and Lee was particularly meaningful.
“We’re like friends,” she said. “We know nothing but music. We come together through music, and when we get together, all we ever talk about is music from start to finish. We could probably stay up all night just talking about music. So through so much conversation and communication, we make new work. We’re workaholics, but we can depend on each other."
“I feel that I’m just a lucky and fortunate singer, who has had a chance to work on such great songs. I’ve been featured in a variety of content for the 20th anniversary, such as filming a documentary, an entertainment show and appearing on TV. There’s even been a tribute album [published by SM titled ‘Our Beloved BoA’ in July], and to hear my songs sung by other people made me realize how lucky I was to have been given such good songs,” she said.
A newborn becomes an adult in the span of twenty years and that's how BoA says she feels — like an adult in the music industry.
When asked what she would tell her 13-year-old self, BoA said, “I want to say thank you.” She added, “I want to say, ‘Thank you BoA, you allowed me to have my 20th anniversary.’ How could I have been so focused and determined at that age, and survive? When I feel down or lazy, it’s the videos of myself from the past that get me going again.”
She may be a living legend in K-pop, but she dares not give anyone any advice as a senior. Instead, she simply asks that her fellow musicians share the same sense of responsibility for music that she does.
“As musicians in the same field, I think it’s our duty to maintain our responsibility to always endeavor to find better music,” she said. “Just as when you become an adult you make your own choices and move forward, I want to keep working on music and think about what I want. I think I’ve come to a point when I can enjoy music much more.”
BY YOON SO-YEON [firstname.lastname@example.org]