Out of South Korea, Kim Hyun-ah is better known by her fans as Hyuna. Born in Seoul on June 6, 1992, Hyuna’s name was already altered in school when her teacher suggested her original naming sounded bizarre in the Mandarin language as the translation of it is “I weep.” It was then altered to Xuan Ya, which is considered an adorable alternative to the original. Also in school, she studied music at facilities such as the Korea High School of Music and Arts, as well as Konkuk University.
In 2006, she became the lead rapper for the all-girl group, Wonder Girls and made her debut in 2007. However, her parents removed her from the group over concerns about her health as she was experiencing chronic gastroenteritis and fainting spells. Once her personal health was restored, she joined Cube Entertainment in 2008, then another all-girl group, 4Minute in 2009.
While still with the group, the appeal of Hyuna saw her collaborate with a number of K-pop artists, which prompted her to embark on a solo career in 2010. Since then, the multi-talented Hyuna has become even more popular with her performance-oriented music. She did continue to work with 4Minute, but on October 13, 2016, the group made the decision to disband for good. Hyuna was the only member to remain with Cube Entertainment, continuing on as a solo artist.
More than Music
In 2011, the Korean version of Dancing with the Stars featured Hyuna in the show’s lineup for the season. It was during this time she released her first mini-album, Bubble Pop, which featured five new songs, including the title track. This became her first taste at global success. In addition to singing, Hyuna also has an impressive resume featuring her acting, dancing, and modeling talents.
She has also become a well-known philanthropist, often using her Hyuna x SPICYCOLOR brand as a means to collaborate with makeup artists in favor of charitable activities, usually involving animals, children, and poverty. She also had her own reality show, Hyuna’s Free Month, which showcased her daily life, as well as HyunA X19, which featured behind-the-scenes footage of her album preparation for 2016’s A’wesome. Shortly after the album’s release, she embarked on her first solo Asian tour before heading to North America to mark her tenth anniversary in the music industry as an artist.
On January 27, 2019, Hyuna signed with P Nation, the new entertainment company Psy formed. For her, it was a no-brainer as she looked up to Psy, as did many other K-pop artists who regard him as the pioneer of a music industry that became highly successful. All this came about after Hyuna endured a fury of scandalous backlash due to a relationship she had with E’Dawn, who was a band member from another popular K-pop group, Pentagon. When Cube Entertainment terminated their contracts, Psy took it upon himself to bring the two into P Nation and under his wing. Since then, E’Dawn has changed his name to Dawn. He and Hyuna since announced their engagement on February 3, 2022, through their Instagram accounts.
As a solo artist, Hyuna has so far released eight collaborative albums, eight extended plays (EPs), a full studio album, a collaborative EP, eleven singles, and fourteen music videos. Within the K-pop industry, she has consistently remained one of the favorite artists to collaborate with. As one of the first four sign-ups of Psy’s P Nation, it stands to reason this young lady is not quite ready to retire from the industry just yet.
Top 10 Hyuna Songs
#10 – Babe
“Babe” was the lead single from Hyuna’s sixth EP, Following, which was released in 2017. On the South Korean Gaon Digital Chart and the K-Pop Hot 100 chart, this single peaked at number thirteen and was a number ten hit on the US Billboard World Digital Songs Chart. In just two days after “Babe” was released on YouTube as a music video, it already received more than three million views. This playful hip-hop performance by Hyuna was even a favorite in China, peaking as high as number fourteen on its official singles chart. The beauty behind Hyuna’s lyrical style has been her ability to shift from a candy-pop style to a heavy-hitting, street-style burst of rap.
#9 – A Bitter Day (featuring Yong Jun-Hyung)
On June 30, 2011, “A Bitter Day” was released from her debut EP, Bubble Pop! It served as the lead single and it became the second hit of her career as a solo artist. On the South Korean Gaon Digital Chart, it peaked at number ten and it was her first hit on the South Korean Hot 100 as it also peaked at number ten. This ballad illustrated Hyuna at her vocal best, even installing some hip-hop style that has become her trademark sound. Also installing his rap sound, Young Jun-Hyung, served as a great contrast between his deeper vocals to the softness behind Hyuna’s.
#8 – Change (featuring Yong Jun-Hyung)
On January 4, 2010, she debuted with her first hit single, “Change,” which charted as high as number two on South Korea’s Gaon Digital Chart. This was first a digital release by Cube Entertainment and Universal Music and it was heavily promoted on several South Korean music programs Hyuna would appear in. Two days after the electro-style hip-hop single was released, so was the music video, but was flagged by the government with a 19+ rating due to Hyuna’s provocative dance style. This prompted Cube Entertainment to orchestrate a new music video in order to cater to the younger audience, subject to approval. Beast’s Yong Jun-Hyung’s rap performance in the single complimented Hyuna’s girly-girl, street-style vocal delivery.
#7 – Ice Cream
In 2012, Hyuna released the hit single, “Ice Cream” that featured a cameo clip of Psy invading her ice cream truck and its supplies. This resulted in what was the fastest Korean music video to reach twenty million views on YouTube at that time. “Ice Cream” was taken from her second EP, Melting, and became a number one hit on South Korea’s Gaon Digital Chart. It also peaked at number five on the US Billboard World Digital Chart. There have been alternatives made to this song, but the strong hip-hop sound and Hyuna’s unique approach to rapping have kept their core, which peaked at the top among many international music websites and remains a heavy favorite today.
#6 – How’s This?
From her fifth EP, A’wesome, Hyuna released the single, “How’s This?” on August 1, 2016. It peaked as high as number five on the South Korean Gaon Digital Chart and at number four on the US Billboard World Digital Chart. This heavy-hitting club-banger has become a trademark for Hyuna as her blend of hard-pop and rap lyrical styles have rightfully catapulted her as one of the most-favored K-pop artists of all time. Due to her popularity, as well as provocative dance talent, when the music video was released on the same day, reached more than two million views on YouTube within twenty-four hours.
#5 – Red
From her third EP, A Talk, “Red” came out as its lead single in 2014. This hugely successful single saw Billboard Magazine praise Hyuna for establishing herself as a global pop brand. Rolling Stone Magazine voted “Red” as their fifth favorite music video of 2014 due to its vivid detail and brilliant cinematics and choreography. It peaked as high as number three on the Gaon Weekly Digital Chart and it also gave her a win on MBC Music’s Show Champion on two occasions, just one week apart. For Hyuna, “Red” was fifty shades of messy that was praised as an awesome club banger that would either make the best dance music artists in the business proud or jealous. In 2014, Hyuna won a Digital Bonsang Golden Disk Award, as well as a Dance Performance Award with the Seoul Music Awards. On the US Billboard World Digital Songs Chart, “Red” peaked at number five.
#4 – Oppa Just My Style (featuring Psy)
Hyuna’s “Oppa Just My Style” was her cover version of Psy’s iconic hit, Gangnam Style. Both of these singles came out in 2012 with Psy’s original coming out first, followed by his collaborated performance with Hyuna shortly after. In the music video of Psy’s original, she was in his video and personally selected by Psy during the initial production stage. Psy’s version became the most viewed K-pop music video in history, which also drew even more worldwide recognition in Hyuna’s favor. As a result, “Oppa Just My Style” was the female version of this, which became just about as popular as the original. Although Hyuna’s version didn’t hit any official music charts at the time it was released, it received over 784 million views on YouTube that saw 2.6 million likes and half a million dislikes. The noticeable difference in Hyuna’s video, which featured Psy, was less invisible horseback riding and dance moves that catered more to Hyuna’s style.
#3 – Ping Pong (featuring Dawn)
The collaborative single, “Ping Pong,” featured Hyuna and her now-fiance, Dawn, which was released on September 9, 2021, through the P Nation label. The music video also came out this same date, as did the collaboration EP, 1+1=1. With the 2021 Asian Pop Music Awards, “Ping Pong” won Best Collaboration, as well as the People’s Choice Award (Overseas). On the music charts, it became the couple’s first global hit together as it peaked as high as number forty-five on the K-Pop Hot 100 and at number ten on the US Billboard World Digital Songs chart. Along with the highlight of the saxophone, the hip-hop, lyrical exchange between Hyuna and Dawn served as the perfect match between two talented vocalists suggested they were more than game to power-punch yet another hit.
#2 – Bubble Pop!
WIth 2011’s “Bubble Pop!,” Hyuna gained broader public recognition, becoming the first female K-pop solo artist to reach one hundred million views for a single music video on YouTube. This happened in just two days, earning Hyuna international fame and a fierce fan following. The single, along with the same-titled EP, has this song featured in the 2017 Just Dance 2018 video game.
It was also parodied as Candy, Quahog Marshmallow for a 2016 episode of the Family Guy. Unlike most of Hyuna’s previous music, “Bubble Pop!” made good use of her powerful performance style with a heavy beat, full of hard-hitting pops that perfectly complemented the song, plus its title. This earned Hyuna a Popularity Video Award with YouTube K-pop Awards in 2011, as well as Best Dance Performance – Solo with Mnet Asian Music Awards.
On the weekly charts, “Bubble Pop!” peaked as high as number four on South Korea’s Gaon Digital Chart, at number nine on its K-Pop Hot 100, and at number ten on the US Billboard World Digital Chart. On the all-time charts, it became Spin Magazine’s second greatest song from its 21 Greatest K-Pop Songs of All-Time, as well as a number forty-four hit on the Billboard 100 Greatest K-Pop songs of the 2010s.
#1 – I’m Not Cool
On January 28, 2021, “I’m Not Cool” was Hyuna’s second single released under the P Nation entertainment label since signing up with Psy. At the same time the single was released, so was the accompanying music video. “I’m Not Cool” is also the title of her EP, which is her seventh. This Egyptian-flared, heavy-hitting dance number peaked at number nine on the South Korean Gaon Digital Chart, which was Hyuna’s first top ten hit since 2016. On the US Billboard World Digital Song Chart, it peaked at number eight. In 2021, “I’m Not Cool” won her the People’s Choice Awards (Overseas) and Top 20 Songs of the Year (Overseas) with the Asian Pop Music Awards. In 2022 with the Seoul Music Awards, she won its R&B Hiphop Award.
Photo: Dazzling You, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Hyuna Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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