K-Town

Somi Talks Interscope Deal & K-Pop Hit 'What You Waiting For'

Somi
Courtesy of The Black Label

Somi

After striking out on her own as a soloist last year, Somi is on the fast track to mega-superstardom thanks to the success of her latest project “What You Waiting For.” The stellar follow-up to her debut single under The Black Label is shaping up to be the effervescent 19-year-old’s big career break.

Days after its July 22 release, the synth-pop banger -- co-written and produced by Somi alongside BLACKPINK hitmaker Teddy -- has become a certified hit, earning Somi her third top 10 hit on Billboard's World Digital Song Sales chart, topping foreign K-pop charts in territories like Indonesia and Thailand, as well as netting Somi's first solo No. 1 trophy on Korea's music-chart show M Countdown earlier this month.

Although she's garnered a huge following and a number of accolades during her half-decade in the industry so far, “What You Waiting For” is the release Somi needed to prove her legitimacy as a singer-songwriter and solidify her position at the upper echelon of K-pop stars.

“This is an exciting time for me," she tells Billboard in an exclusive interview. "I’m enjoying this moment because I really worked hard on this song. It almost feels like I’m getting rewarded for the hard work. It’s been a little while since my first single 'Birthday' dropped, I wanted to come back and give my fans something different and cool. This [success] makes me want to work even harder so I can put out more music ASAP."

The "What You Waiting For" music video has also proven to be a success. With more than 18 million views since its premiere, the video showcases Somi's chameleonic ability to transition from an edgy-chic teen to elegant goddess.

"It’s really like a mini movie production: each item had a purpose and meaning," she says. "Producer Teddy, the director and I had a meeting almost every day for the music video. There were a lot of long set changes [during filming] and when there are a lot of set changes, it means you’re beyond tired -- and when you’re that tired everything seems funny. Also, I brought my cat, Zorro! I just knew this video would turn out dope so I just had to put him in a scene."

While Zorro may have had a special cameo, Somi actually prefers the moments where she's breaking barriers: "I really loved every single scene, but if I had to pick I liked the one where my other self was dressed in black and pushed myself on the bed through the wall. I wanted to break through that wall all day. Breaking the house with the forklift was fun too. And for that scene to look real, I had to be in the house for real. That was also very exciting. I guess I love breaking walls and houses.”

Somi also took part in planning the video's fashion, allowing her to flourish in self-confidence and flaunt her excellent sense of style in a myriad of lavishly exuberant outfits. “Since I was a kid, I always enjoyed expressing myself via clothes," she explains. "I still do! I was part of every single styling process and took it very, very seriously. I was included in every meeting and worked very closely with our main stylist Serian, who is now a director at Vogue Korea. I went through every single look for this music video with my team and I’m happy I got to select looks that suited me well and got to dress up like a badass -- even wielding a sword.”

While the Korean-Canadian star has been steadily climbing a ladder toward worldwide acclaim, it wasn’t until she locked in her deal with Interscope Records that her growing global popularity and demand was clear.

The U.S. label that is home to Lady Gaga, J. Cole and Billie Eilish announced their new partnership with The Black Label to exclusively represent Somi outside of Asia days ahead of the "What You Waiting For" release, leaving Somi looking forward to bigger opportunities even if she doesn't have any immediate plans to promote outside of Korea due to the current pandemic.

“I am overwhelmed with excitement and feel honored to be part of the Interscope family. It's flattering to be on the same team with so many music legends," she says. "I was blessed to have offers from several companies after my debut single, but everything just seemed to come together and mesh well with Interscope. It’s all really unbelievable.”

In the meantime, Somi says she will be “right back in the studio” working on new material for the rest of 2020 with the goal and hope to see her fans “very soon.” She also aims to further develop herself as a songwriter during a little time off.

“My first single ["Birthday"] came out when I was just new to the label and I was just getting in the process of understanding the company culture and adjusting to its different work systems,” she says of her experiences with The Black Label. “There are a lot of great producers, songwriters, creatives and people I truly respect here. I’ve matured -- both professionally and personally -- a lot by learning from them and seeing how they do things up close. But there is still a lot to go. I’m still definitely learning.”

As for her key mentor and influence, she credits her boss and musical mastermind Teddy. She adds that “Teddy is without a doubt, the most successful songwriting and composing figure in K-pop, period. Period. When I first saw him, it was like seeing a unicorn up close. I'm saying...it was unreal. I was in awe because growing up I used to listen to his music and dream of becoming a singer. I am very lucky because now I get to see his genius, how he approaches music and witness that in person. Every songwriter and producer has their own way to express themselves artistically and Teddy is helping me to find my own way. One piece of advice Teddy gave me was to not only just focus on being a great singer and musician, but also focus on being a great person and that’s what I exactly aim to be.”

This article originally appeared on Billboard Korea.