As a member of South Korea’s pioneering female trio S.E.S, who helped lay the groundwork for future K-pop girl groups during their initial years together from 1997-2002, Bada set the standard for superstar divas. Today, Bada is an independent artist releasing the music she wants — and able to command an international audience more than ever.
Bada’s powerful new electro-pop single “Off the Record” has a very timely theme of putting self-love first — a universal message the likes of BTS, MAMAMOO and ITZY have all taken to heart in their music. “The song starts with, ‘There is something I want to say to the people in love,’ so, many people think that it must be about love,” Bada explains in a sit-down conversation with Billboard Korea. “In fact, the song says you must love yourself before you love another by accepting yourself and fully being what you are…I think it applies to anyone regardless of gender, it’s a song about self-esteem.”
With a special viewpoint that few can speak to in K-pop, the 39-year-old began her career in K-pop’s biggest agency, SM Entertainment, before working with other labels and agencies, returning to SM for S.E.S’ 20-year anniversary. Now, she releases music as an independent artist.
“Working in a big agency, I had a very efficient system working for me,” she explains of her early years. “So, what was left to me was simpler decisions to make, and I was just to do best within the system. But if you become independent, you have to stray strong and trust yourself. Because it is a journey. But in the end, I think you can earn your experience and you can be better with yourself.”
Watch the full Billboard Korea video interview below to see Bada’s self-care advice to other artists, plans for her future, and her hilariously reacting to some of her international YouTube comments from “Off the Record.”
This article originally appeared on Billboard Korea.