One of the most influential artists of the next generation, CHANMINA released her new single, “PAIN IS BEAUTY,” worldwide Nov. 30.
A year ago, in 2017, she released her debut album, MISEINEN (“Underage” in English), which was inspired by being young and having conflicts within herself and with others due to being inexperienced.
Now that she just turned 20 years old in October, becoming legally an adult in Japan, PAIN IS BEAUTY is her homage to her adolescent self and something she had to put out to the world now. Known as a rapper from her mind-blowing 2016 performance on BAZOOKA!!! KOKOSEI RAP SENSHUKEN — a televised freestyle rap battle series exclusively for high school students — she proves she’s much more than that. Billboard Japan sat down with CHANMINA to find out about her own definition of being an artist and a singer, as well as her roots and motivations to create.
We heard your mother is a professional ballet dancer.
Yes, that’s a part of the reasons why I went to different countries with her in my childhood. I too learned ballet when I was little. I grew up in a pretty ordinary double-income family, and I am an only child. I’m actually glad that I had no siblings: It would’ve been difficult for me financially if I did.
Did you like playing alone?
Yeah, I did. That’s probably why I do need a “me time” from time to time, just to spend some time alone. I love to focus on one thing and just keep doing it. My concentration probably came from playing by myself a lot growing up. What was I doing? Music was it for me.
Who were some of your influences growing up?
My mother is from South Korea, and the South Korean TV program was on all the time at home. I used to watch live music programs and seeing many K-pop artists. I was fascinated by their performances, singing and dancing, and they looked so cool to me.
Many people know you as being a great rapper. How did you find your style to mix up rap with singing?
When you listen to K-pop music, you realize there’s most likely a rap part in a song. So I wasn’t necessary listening to them as “rap songs,” I was thinking, “slightly fast singing songs.” I looked it as a little something extra to spice it up when I write songs.
When did you start writing songs?
I started making music with a drum machine in high school. Before that, I was just recording simple stuff with a piano. But I started writing lyrics when I was in elementary school.
You took piano lessons?
Yes. I started from reading music, learning do-re-mi and musical symbols, then basics. I practiced with an instruction book by Ferdinand Beyer, and when I was done with the basics, I moved on to learn about codes.
Who were your favorite composers when you were taking piano lessons?
Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. I especially liked Tchaikovsky because he was a kind of composer who wrote so many creepy and scary or horror-ish tunes. He was and still is my most favorite composer, I have to say.
Sounds like you like dark fantasy. What are some of your favorite movies and/or books?
I love Disney films. I grew up watching Disney Channel. And I love villains! You know the Grimm version of “Cinderella” is very scary, right? I love it! Like finding out about one of her stepsisters cutting off a bit of her heel to fit into the tiny slipper. Stuff like that gives me goosebumps like “OMG!” and excites me a little.
Speaking of Cinderella, the cover of “PAIN IS BEAUTY” looks like you are a princess wearing white dress.
Yeah, you can say that. And I have the rainbow roses in my hand, which I love. The rose has special meaning by each color, like red is “passion,” pink is “girly,” and orange is “innocent soul of a child.” And the rainbow means “infinite possibilities.” I actually have a rainbow rose tattoo, and I asked my tattoo designer to incorporate its meaning into designing the color. We did a shooting for this photo in my hometown, to show “I got that infinite possibility here.” Also, the other reason why I wear white dress is make the rainbow roses stand out.
The main theme of the new single is how “pain made me beautiful.” Can you elaborate on the “pain”? What kind of pain are you talking about?
Everything. A small pain to unbearable pain, every pain you feel. “Pain is beauty” is my motto. For instance, when you see the “beauty” you seek for at the end of the road, nothing is hard, like even strict diet and workout. Because you know hard work pays off. So anything that’s obvious like that, and “to study hard to get good grade and pass the test” kind of “effort” is also a part of “pain” I’m speaking of.
So, “beauty” means not just what’s on the outside.
To me, every pain looks beautiful. Even seeing my girlfriend hurting from arguing with her boyfriend, I look at it as “How beautiful is that,” because it means she’s got heart, and it makes her grow by the learned lesson and helps her with new experiences in the future. That’s art to me. Many of my songs are based on my own pain, frustration and sorrow from my past experiences. I believe the “pain” I experience would turn into a creation then be known to the world as “beauty.”
Would you like to perform in South Korea and/or North America?
Of course! In fact, I’m working on songs in both Korean and English. I want to challenge myself to do so many new things. I saw a video of some dancers from Russia dancing over my song “Doctor.” It was beautifully shot, and when I saw it, I was so overwhelmed and moved by the fact that my song was well received even in Russia!
Seeing how people who don’t speak the language understand and enjoy my music made me proud and believe anything is possible. Finding out it’s not about which country you are from, people would accept you for who you are. That made me want to work harder and do more. I would like to be able to inspire someone wanting to change for the better. And not only keep singing and making music, but I also want to do the things that I could reflect my own experiences and convey my gratitude to the world.