Ha:tfelt is already an iconic K-pop star, but the singer-songwriter-producer otherwise known as Yeeun opened up an entirely new chapter of her life last year under a new label.
As a part of one of the most successful girl groups in Korean-music history, Wonder Girls, the 29-year-old was the heart and soul of the pioneering outfit and the only member to have remained in the group through numerous member changes and departures. After spending 16 years altogether as a trainee and artist under JYP Entertainment — the giant management label that helped her become the first K-pop group to ever break into Billboard Hot 100 and released her first solo EP — Yeeun sought to establish herself as Ha:tfelt at Amoeba Culture, home to rap veterans Dynamic Duo and chart-topping R&B crooner Crush.
“I had an opportunity to work with Gaeko of Dynamic Duo in 2014, and really enjoyed the process so I thought it’d be nice to have that kind of working vibe and freedom all the time,” she explains to Billboard Korea about her unexpected decision to leave JYP Entertainment. “Amoeba Culture was also looking for their first female artist, so the timing worked out perfectly.”
She adds, “I started writing music in 2014 [which is when I came up with Ha:tfelt? as I desperately needed a pen name], but my desire to write music and express myself more openly and freely became stronger while I was in living in New York. New York really changed me, and myself as an artist. It’s not that I didn’t have the freedom at JYP, but I wanted, I guess, a fresh start.”
Despite having spent most of her adolescent years under the spotlight and growing up in intense public scrutiny as one of nation’s most beloved K-pop darlings, the 29-year-old seems to have rather transitioned comfortably into her solo adult stardom — leaving the conservative aspects that were attached to her image as Wonder Girls’ Yeeun and finding her own sound and style as the seductive singer-songwriter Ha:tfelt.
“I think the Yeeun that most people know and are familiar with is Yeeun before her 20s, but Ha:tfelt personifies Yeeun in her late 20s,” she says of her artistic transformation. “I mean, of course, my childhood or past is still a huge part of my music, but I matured and changed a lot during the last few years, and the emotional experiences I’ve felt in my late 20s is what ultimately defines my music as Ha:tfelt. Yeeun as a person and Ha:felt as a musician are completely different. Yeeun is super well-rounded, friendly, and doesn’t hate anything, but Ha:tfelt is sensitive, and very straightforward. As Ha:tfelt, I know exactly what I want and don’t want in my music.”
With her unpretentious candor (a rare trait from someone of her caliber), as well as wisdom of a seasoned veteran, Ha:tfelt has already created an indelible precedent for many to follow, but still hopes to “make an impact more creatively.”
Her first solo project under Amoeba, MEiNE, and most recent album, Diene, weren’t commercial mega-hits but serves as a stunning statement of her autonomy and artistry. Both EPs showcase an exciting transformation of a former teen idol to a promising songwriter and producer.
“All my songs are from real experiences and situations I went through — I even used direct text message conversations I’ve had on my last single ‘Pluhmm’ with a guy that I fell for who didn’t feel the same way for me,” she explains about her latest release. “That’s why there are some unique, and at times, awkward lyrics like, ‘What is your dog’s name?’ and ‘Do you like dried prunes?'”
While most of her lyrics deal with the love and vulnerability a young adult experiences, she says she wants to “dig deeper” and “touch every aspect of human emotions” in her career. “There are so many different kinds of emotions we go through, and I want to be able to express and detail every existing emotion that human can experience through my music.”
And with fans eagerly anticipating for her first full-length album, she tells fans there will be more music before an LP drops later this year.
“I’m planning to release a lot of new material this year — whether it’d be a project-based album or just singles,” she promises before adding, “I’m definitely going to release a full-length album this coming fall or winter. I’m also working on couple of feel-good tracks for the summer; I’m not sure if it will be an EP album or single, but I hope to share some fun, summer tracks. I’m not quite sure how the scheduling is going to work out, but hopefully I can make it happen, I have a ton of music that I would love to release soon. Actually, I was planning to release about four tracks for my last mini album, MEiNE, and more than two tracks for my recent album, Deine, as I have so many hidden tracks. However, I think I can share the full story through my full-length album.”