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K-pop queen BoA returns to music

July 27, 2012 - 11:31 By Korea Herald

Crossover artist focuses more on vocals, experiments with musical talent with new album

Even among fans, not many know that BoA has a six-letter tattoo on her left wrist.

“Chiara, it is my baptismal name, meaning clear,” the singer explained.

Now, she might seem a little more transparent than some Korean fans would like, since she has spent most of the last decade away from home to expand her international career.

Her dynamic dance moves and heavy stage make-up even on TV often hid the person behind the act and kept many wondering who she really is.

“I was watching my comeback show yesterday, and realized that you cannot possibly look pretty while dancing. The audience probably has never seen me sitting down and talking like this since my debut. My makeup has never been this light. Many people will probably think, ‘That’s how BoA really looks,’” she told The Korea Herald in a private interview at a hotel in Seoul.

The 26-year-old K-pop legend now wants to reveal herself more, with her new full-length album “Only One,” released nationwide this week. She is also experimenting with her musical talent with the title track “Only One,” her first experience in songwriting.

“So far, electro-pop was strong and I liked it. But I always wanted to sing songs that highlight my vocals more. I wanted to relax a bit and create the music I wanted to do,” she said.

It is her first album in two years after her sixth, “Hurricane Venus.” And she seems to have taken more control over her music, stepping away from her image as a manufactured pop star and “Little Baby BoA.” The title song is lyrical hip-hop, which is arranged with a weighty hip-hop beat and melodic orchestration that definitely focuses primarily on her vocals.

“From some point, I wanted to listen to real music, instead of just electric sound. It’s my personal preference,” she said, adding she had only two hours of sleep after filming her comeback show. SBS exclusively produced and will broadcast her return to the stage on Friday.

BoA (S.M. Entertainment)

Born and raised in Gyeonggi Province, she was picked up by S.M. Entertainment, led by singer-turned-entrepreneur Lee Soo-man, at the age of 10. Two years later, she debuted with her first album “ID: Peace B (2000)” and surprised the country’s music scene with her extraordinary talent in singing and dancing.

She then took her talents overseas. Her success in Japan was enormous. BoA is still the only foreign artist in Japan who has two albums that sold more than 1 million copies.

Her album “Listen to My Heart” sold 930,000 copies and two others “Valenti (2003)” and “Best of Soul (2005)” sold 1.24 million and 1.09 million, respectively. She enjoyed continued success in Japan until 2008, becoming less active in her home country where local agencies started to produce idol groups instead of solo artists.

“I think I was lucky, there was no other female singer who could dance and sing at the same time. Amuro Namie got married and there was a lot of interaction between Korea and Japan because of the 2002 World Cup. I think the audience liked it because the song was well written.”

In September 2008, her agency announced that she will make her American debut. As she contributed much to S.M. Entertainment by making the first inroads into Japan, she was again standing on the frontline to make herself known in the world’s largest music market.

She released her debut American single “Eat You Up” and her self-titled English-language album in the following year, but did not get the success she won in Japan.

“From 2007 to 2009, I was in a slump. It wasn’t like things didn’t work out well, but was more like an identity crisis. I didn’t know where I was heading,” said she.

BoA (S.M. Entertainment)

BoA returned to Japan in early 2010 with new album “Identity,” but headed home for the first time in five years to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her debut. Her Korean album, “Hurricane Venus” topped the chart instantly but failed to stay at No. 1 for more than two weeks, facing of the thriving popularity of idol groups.

“Now I would like to become an idol star,” she joked. “My position is ambiguous. I’m neither an idol nor an artist. I want to be in between. But I don’t need to worry. The audience decides who I am, and the labels rather help me experiment with a variety of genres.”

It was a TV audition program that brought the public’s attention back to her, though not as an untouchable world star, but like an elder sister living next door.

She appeared as one of three judges in popular SBS survival show “K-pop Star,” along with two leading figures in the country’s entertainment industry ― Yang Hyun-seok of YG Entertainment and Park Jin-young of JYP Entertainment. BoA, representing S.M. Entertainment, touched many by being honest and genuine to the would-be stars. And her experience with contestants has inspired her.

“‘The Shadow’” is a song about what I felt while doing ‘K-pop Star.’ When you work for a long time, you get used to it. I didn’t really have time to reflect on my past, but the participants’ passion for music reminded me of it. They are going to walk the path that I have taken. I have watched their growth over months, not only just as a judge but also as a fan and a friend. They inspired me."

Now the star is expanding her career to acting.

She recently finished the filming of her Hollywood debut movie “COBU 3D” directed by Duane Adler, screenwriter of dance movie “Step Up” and produced by Robert Colt. She plays Aya, a sexy and passionate character who falls in love with Donny, played by “Dancing with the Stars” heartthrob Derek Hough, even though they find out their families own rival dance clubs. The film, inspired from a Broadway show with the same title, is more like a dance movie with star-crossed lovers theme. It will be released early next year, said BoA.

However, her first experience in acting was not satisfactory, she said.

“As soon as I watched a rough cut of the movie, I felt embarrassed to see me acting. But the dancing part will be quite interesting to watch,” she said.

BoA (S.M. Entertainment)

Asked of how she picture herself in 10 years, she said “I would still be working in the entertainment business, maybe as a singer or as an actress. I might already be married by then.”

But being a mother is the last thing she wants, said BoA, who thinks of herself as a perfectionist when it comes to work.

“But I don’t want to be a mother. I don't think kids like me either. Even my nephews are scared of me,” she laughed.

By Cho Chung-un

Intern reporter Jennifer Ryu contributed in this article ― Ed.