K-pop siren HyunA can’t — and won’t — shake off sexy image
Sexy K-pop babe HyunA is sticking to her tried-and-tested risque image, but she is treading new ground musically and creatively
In the glossy bubblegum world of K-pop, HyunA has always been an inimitable provocateur.
The 23-year-old entertainer, best known in Asia as a member of sassy all-female quintet 4Minute and more familiar to international audiences as the babe in K-pop star Psy's Gangnam Style music video, is an old hand at raising eyebrows with her sexed-up image.
Where her contemporaries are goody-two-shoes, she veers towards the risque.
Where they choose to play it safe, she reeks of danger.
Four solo albums into her career - her latest EP A+ was released in August and is now available on iTunes - HyunA is still South Korea's premier siren.
The trailer for A+ features a hard-partying HyunA frolicking topless by the swimming pool, shaking her butt at the camera and making out with a stranger.
There's no denying that she was, and still is, a visual magnet - the neon-soaked MV of hip-hop lead single Because I'm The Best has garnered more than 13 million views on YouTube since it was released in August. But HyunA hopes that fans and critics can appreciate the creativity behind her EP's steamy concept.
"This time round, I'm particularly nervous (about A+'s release), because I've never played such a big part in creating a solo album," she told The Korea Herald.
For A+, she penned lyrics for three tracks and contributed ideas to the direction of the trailer, as well as the album's promotional photos.
In a separate interview with Arirang channel's music show Pops in Seoul, HyunA expressed her hope that women will be inspired by her new material.
"First of all, what I want is for women to gain more confidence... Women should listen to Because I'm The Best, it will boost their self-esteem," she said.
Explaining the inspiration for the synth-heavy number, she added: "Our composers were talking about what I've been up to and one of them said, 'She's so successful.' That gave them the idea to write this song."
A+ is HyunA's best-performing album to date, thanks to the especially hearty response from international fans.
Upon its release, it came in at No. 2 on Billboard's World Albums Chart.
Because I'm The Best, which Billboard.com referred to as proof of why HyunA "is easily one of the baddest females in K-pop", fared impressively too, coming in at No. 3 on Billboard's World Digital Songs chart.
On home turf, she is showing her increasingly mature and consistent side, putting in fierce live TV performances on prestigious music programmes such as Inkigayo and M! Countdown.
Following the success of Gangnam Style back in 2012, she is also doing more collaborations with acclaimed musicians.
Last year, she joined forces with British pop singer Rita Ora for a hilarious skit for popular video website Funny Or Die.
In the pipeline is an appearance on Korean-American hip-hop star Jay Park's new music video.
Having proven that musically, she can be a tour de force, why does HyunA keep returning to her predictable sultry image?
After all, in an interview with Yonhap News Agency, she claimed to be very different from what we see on screen.
"I actually don't like anything flashy," she said.
"I don't even like going out. Still, when I get an album concept to work with, I take it seriously."
Ahead of A+'s release, she told The Korea Herald that it did "worry" her that her sexy concepts "might be repetitive".
Yet, she is sticking to it as playing cute and innocent just does not suit her, she explained.
"I'm so bad at it," said HyunA.
"It's so awkward. I don't think I'll do well if I target that concept. And I don't do anything which I'm not confident about."
Besides, she has "come too far" with the overt sexiness.
"If I hadn't shot the trailer for A+, or if I hadn't done something (very sexy) like (2014 single) Red, maybe I could give (cute and innocent) a try," she said.
"But this image of mine wasn't created overnight. It was built up and upgraded. I can't change it all now."