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Bol4 gifts listeners with her ‘dream of Seoul’ through new EP

Bol4 performs at a media showcase for the EP “Seoul” in Seoul on April 20. (Shofar Entertainment)
Bol4 performs at a media showcase for the EP “Seoul” in Seoul on April 20. (Shofar Entertainment)
Singer-songwriter Bol4, whose real name is Ahn Ji-young, first moved to Seoul from her home city of Yeongju in 2014 to attend college. She officially kicked off her music career in 2016 after gaining fame through a TV audition program as a duo group.

With her new EP, “Seoul,” Bol4 draws out the years of joys and sorrows of the restless years she spent in the city.

“The EP ‘Seoul’ is Bol4’s Seoul. My Seoul embraces the different shades of my emotions, from the overflowing passion to the huge love I received, as well as the excruciating pain. I wanted to show this Seoul, made up of those emotions,” Ahn said about her new album during a media showcase that took place in Seoul on Wednesday afternoon, ahead of the album’s release that evening.

Just as with Bol4’s previous albums, the new EP also consists of music all written by Ahn.

Leading the album is a song of the same title, a mid-tempo tune that kicks off with a feel-good blending of funk synths and soft guitar sounds.

“Seoul used to be the city of dreams for me. I came to Seoul when I was 20 to study music at university, where I met many friends like me who wanted to pursue music. The song shows the dreams that we had, and how much we loved our music. I wanted to show how beautiful my Seoul was then through this song,” Ahn said about the titular track.

The album marks the artist’s official comeback in a year and half since taking a hiatus due to health concerns in 2020. She dropped the digital single “Butterfly Effect” in October 2021, but did not conduct any promotional activities.

Returning to the stage for the first time after a long break, the album is jam-packed with four sidetracks -- “Love Story,” “What makes us beautiful,” “In the Mirror” and “Star” -- rolling out Ahn’s heartfelt stories.

“Love Story” brings back the signature vibrant, sweet sonic of Bol4. In it, Ahn sings about a love story through a lighthearted high-teen pop melody.

Next up is “What makes us beautiful,” a fairy tale-like song which Ahn says delves into the topic of what makes us beautiful and how we go in search for the answer through an easy-listening tune.

Though it is a spring album, “Seoul” shows Ahn’s experience of not only the floral season, but also the preceding long, cold winter.

“In the Mirror” is a song that shows how she endured and overcame a dark time in her life.

“When I was going through a difficult period, I didn’t want to see myself in the mirror. I didn’t like how I looked. But I realized that I couldn’t continue living like this. I needed to protect myself, and one way to do that was facing my emotions and condition. The song is about my hopeful desire -- wanting to love myself again and to protect myself,” she said.

The last track on the album, “Star,” was actually the first score that she had written among the five.

“It’s quite an old song. I poured the emotions I had felt when I wasn’t feeling well into it. Although I cannot heal the exhausted hearts of listeners, I hope that they can feel like this song empathizes with them,” Ahn explained.

Among the five, “Star” is her most cherished song, as it embodies her rawest emotions.

“I was so forthright in penning out my emotions through the lyrics that I wasn’t even sure if it was okay to be (so honest). The song was the first one I’d made after taking a long break, and being courageous enough to go easy on songwriting -- the other songs followed one by one. It’s what made it possible for the other songs to exist, so it means a lot to me,” Ahn said.

Bol4 performs at a media showcase for the EP “Seoul” in Seoul on April 20. (Shofar Entertainment)
Bol4 performs at a media showcase for the EP “Seoul” in Seoul on April 20. (Shofar Entertainment)

Bol4, also known as Bolbbalgan4, originally consisted of Ahn and her high school friend Woo Ji-yoon. In 2014, the two had appeared on the popular audition program “Superstar K6,” the sixth season of the South Korean television talent show series Superstar K. They made their name known through the show.

The two signed with Shofar Entertainment in January 2015 and made their official debut on the music scene in April 2016 with the EP “Red Ickle.” They became chart-toppers in no time, releasing hit after hit such as “Galaxy,” “Some” and “Travel.”

The duet’s co-vocalist and guitarist Woo left the team in April 2020, citing concerns over her future career. Ahn continued with the stage name Bol4 as a soloist.

After dropping her sixth EP “Youth Diary II” in collaboration with Exo’s Baekhyun in May 2020, and the solo single “Filmlet” in November that year, Ahn announced she was taking a break.

Through her hiatus, Ahn said she came to let go of the instability that had long lingered inside her as she made music. She decided that she wanted to write songs more comfortably.

“The winter of my heart was longer than its spring. But with time, I wanted to feel the warmth of spring with more people, and that was when I started writing brighter songs. I focused on making sure that my story flows from the first to last track coherently,” she said about the overall EP.

Spanning what could be the lowest and highest of her emotions, the EP “Seoul” revolves around the key message of hope.

“This album holds my ‘dream of Seoul,’” Ahn said. “If you take a close listen, the songs all end in hope. I think that whatever adjectives or descriptions we put with the word ‘dream,’ it still leads to something hopeful.”

Bol4 also has a concert upcoming in May, her first concert with an audience in three years.

“I used to hold concerts with every new album, and it’s been so long that I had to look up my past concert videos to see how I had done it,” she said. “The show will center around the title ‘Seoul,’ so please look forward to it,” she added.

With only two days left until Bol4’s sixth anniversary since debut, she said, “I’ve received a huge amount of love in a short amount of time. I enjoy reading people’s comments about my songs. I always feel grateful when they say they’ve been encouraged or cheered up through my music, or that it had gifted them with new memories. It used to feel like pressure as well, but in the end I‘ve enjoyed it all. I hope to be loved more in the future.”

By Choi Ji-won (