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[Herald Interview] Singer-songwriter Yuju on 'Dalala,' liberation and staying true to herself

Yuju returns with self-made single "Dalala"

By Choi Ji-won

Published : Sept. 20, 2023 - 09:08

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An image for Yuju's digital single An image for Yuju's digital single "Dalala" (Konnect)

A member of once-famed girl group GFriend, singer-songwriter Yuju says one of her most liberating moments is when she strolls down the bustling streets of Gangnam, going unnoticed by anyone.

With a cap over her head and mask covering the face, Yuju says she often goes on such night strolls in the glitzy neighborhood to get closer to the people and feel the energy.

It was on one of those nights that her new song, "Dalala," was born, the singer recalled during an interview with local media on Tuesday. As she watched people with earphones passing on the streets, the first few lines of the song popped up in her mind.

"Dalala" is a song about such liberating sensation. At the same time, it turned out to become a source of liberation in itself, the singer explained.

The new digital single comes six months after she put out her second EP, "O," an autobiographical album reflecting on the emotions she'd experienced in her nine-year music career.

The exhausting production process nudged her into trying something more freewheeling. She found herself humming casually as she tried to release herself of thoughts.

"When people hum a melody that they don't know the lyrics to, they usually sing 'dalala.' That became the first inspiration. Because my previous album was such a contemplative one, I wondered what I would get if I went for the complete opposite and emptied my mind. The song started from such simple curiosity," Yuju said Tuesday.

An image for Yuju's digital single An image for Yuju's digital single "Dalala" (Konnect)

"Dalala" is the first song that Yuju has been credited as the main composer and the sole lyricist. The singer recalls this was possible because she didn't pressure herself to make a song but jumped into the process naturally.

"It was a sort of uncertainty, now I think of it. I didn't believe I was ready to write my own title track and since there are so many other talented songwriters. For the first time, I broke out of the box and composed. I was confident that this time it was mine," she said.

The song is a pleasant and easy-listening tune, but Yuju says the process of creating was not a breeze. To deliver her genuine emotions, the singer attempted self-recording for the first time.

"There are ups and downs. I could sing however I wish, but that way, I might get swept by emotions and lose the objective ear. I struggled to keep my balance, while at the same time, holding onto that initial spark in my heart that had turned into this song," Yuju said.

The music video was an incarnation of the subtle infusion of her reality and fantasy, she said. She worked closely with the music video director to convey her ideas onto screen.

"There's a scene where I'm dancing alone inside an empty lift. Then someone gets on, and I freeze, embarrassed. Like that, the music video conveys that, although I act as if I'm unconcerned about others, I'm actually not. I suppose it's something I can tackle with time as I get to know myself better," she said.

All her music is a reflection of her current self, and despite the song's cheerful mood, Yuju wanted to make sure that the song and the music video was not portrayed as lighthearted.

"As unintentional as its start may have been, the song was inspired from an idea that resulted from my most pensive period in life. I stressed to the director that I wanted the gravity to show in the beginning and the end of the film," Yuju said.

An image for Yuju's digital single An image for Yuju's digital single "Dalala" (Konnect)

Just as "Dalala" had released Yuju from her own bounds, she hoped the song could free listeners, even for about three minutes.

Debuting solo in January 2022, around seven years since her 2015 debut as part of the now-defunct group GFriend, Yuju now feels she can rely on herself. The budding singer-songwriter said her goal is to define her own musical genre -- "Yuju's genre" -- through her upcoming solo career.

More important for this genre, rather than the musical talent, is staying true to her virtues, she said.

"Music in essence is about empathy, and to do that, I need to strive to stay down to earth and compassionate with others," she said.

"As an artist, I hope to be independent, capable of making my own music. I've always revered people who have a genuine passion for what they do, and I hope that is how I could be perceived in the future."