The "Gangnam Style" video star sits down for a candid interview
As a girl group member, solo singer, and a special co-starring role in "Gangnam Style" (the most watched YouTube video ever,) HyunA has become one of the most visible and in-demand stars of K-pop. But before “Gangnam Style” was even released, HyunA was making waves racking up millions of views on YouTube for her enchanting music videos that display her unique balance of sexy and cute charms. The viral nature of singles like "Bubble Pop!" (with 47 million views), "Ice Cream" (35 million), plus 4minute’s "Volume Up" (14 million), prove an interest further than just K-pop fans.
Yet all things seemed to move into hyperspeed with her appearance in PSY’s “Gangnam Style” video as the rapper’s gorgeous dance partner. With over one billion views, HyunA inadvertently was lodged into the international consciousness. HyunA and PSY released a collaboration version of the mega-popular track with almost 250 million views; the second most-viewed K-pop video of all-time.
HyunA has blossomed into a true superstar in the past years and the good company she keeps laid the ground for a successful pathway. it may surprise many to know she originally debuted as part of the ultra-successful Wonder Girls group in 2007 (she raps the bridge in single “Irony”). She left the group due to health reasons that year, but ultimately landed with Cube Entertainment where she debuted with 4minute. Later she found the opportunity to promote as a solo artist and even with exciting unit projects like the Trouble Maker sub-unit, with labelmate Hyunseung of boy band Beast, and Dazzling Red with other K-pop all-stars.
HyunA took time to talk to Billboard in a rare interview. Watch the video to get a behind-the-scenes look at her photoshoot, plus read on to learn about collaborating with PSY for her music video and whether she plans on debuting in America. Plus, be sure to read our bonus questions below including plans on 4minute’s comeback this year.
You had an exciting 2012. What was last year like for you?
I have so much to be thankful for in 2012. When I look back at last year, I was such a lucky person. I was extremely happy as I was able to perform on all kinds of stages and meet/work with new people. It was interesting to work with a lot of international directors and producers.
"Gangnam Style" surpassed a billion views! You had a large popularity in K-pop before the music video, but did it help you gain more recognition in foreign countries?
First and foremost, I just want to thank PSY. I received more than I can ever ask from him that it actually worries me. I am worried that I might inconvenience or have inconvenienced him because I received so much love and attention because of him. But as long as I work hard and get good results, I think everything will connect.
Do you have plans to debut in the States?
I can't specifically talk about my plans, but it is true that positive ideas are being discussed. It is all because of PSY and I have been very lucky. I think people are taking more interest in me because I’ve been getting a lot of exposure lately. In order for me to jump on the opportunity [should it arrive], I need to be prepared. I am putting in a lot of hours studying English. I think I'd fit in quickly. I mean, my vision of the U.S. is limited because I can only see or learn things from here, but I want to go experience it all.
Every time you release a video on YouTube, it goes viral! What do you think it's about you that fans worldwide love?
I think PSY opened a lot of doors for K-pop artists. During our performances, I can tell that our audiences have tripled lately. I think there’s going to be a lot of artists that are going to start breaking down barriers and paving ways for K-pop artists to crossover. I don’t really get intimidated about trying out new things on stage. I can go from doing an electronic track to hip-hop to even folk songs. I think people like that variety in me. Honestly, I don’t think I’m exceptionally pretty or talented. But the advantage I have is that the performances I do can only be done by me. When most people see me in person think I’m either really small or skinny. I think people are more attracted towards my personality, smile and energy [once they get to know me]. People tell me they like my personality more than my face [Laughs].
PSY appeared in your "Ice Cream" video. What was that like?
Honestly, I felt really bad asking him for a favor! Especially because he was so busy with promotional activities overseas. I did not want to burden him by asking whether or not he would want to make a cameo appearance in my video. But he thought nothing of it! He was back in Korea for a commercial shoot, while I was shooting for my music video so the timing worked out perfectly! You can see from the video, but we ad-libbed the entire opening scene. It wasn’t hard acting like I was mad at him for eating my ice cream, because he really enjoyed it!
You worked with producer Shinsadong Tiger for your singles "Change," “Bubble Pop," and "Trouble Maker." But for your latest track, “Ice Cream,” you worked with producer Brave Brothers. How was it working with a new producer?
I wanted to embark on new endeavors. It’s easier to work with people that are familiar with me and my musical style, but I wanted to really challenge myself and do new things. I focused on areas that I never tried out before. I participated in composing and writing for one of the tracks in my latest album, which was fun.