Mamamoo's Solar Puts Her Best Face Forward

Mamamoo's Solar Puts Her Best Face Forward

By Sarina Bhutani

Speaking with Solar feels like catching up with an old friend. As she settles into an evening Zoom call, the last of her day’s packed schedule, the usually ultra-glam idol appears in her most intrinsic state. Her hair, dyed back to its organic dark, is pulled up into a tousled bun, plus an eas white mask covers her bare face in accordance with her trendy white athleisure. The woman sitting in front of the camera looks different from the one we normally visualize on stage, although her confident although humble disposition remains intact. Talking to Solar is easy, and to know her is to truly love her.

because the leader of one of K-pop’s most spirited girl groups, Mamamoo, Solar has released three studio albums, 11 EPs, and 25 lead singles since her debut in 2014, alongside fellow members Moonbyul, Wheein, and Hwasa. Nevertheless, ahead of her first solo EP, piece of her still feels vastly unsure. “Even though it’s been eight years since my debut, it still routinely feels like I’m order kind of a rookie,” she tells MTV News. “With every song I release, I actually habitually feel nervous.” The “completely unpredictable” success of her debut single, “Spit It Out,” in 2020 only added to her mixed feelings, allowing her to “let loose a little more,” while also worrying about how her future releases would live up to the hype. “There were moments we thought, Oh, maybe we should delay the next comeback,” she reveals.

Nevertheless right after nearly two full trips around the sun, Solar finds solace in her newest work and reemerges with 容: Face (out today, March 16), a five-track EP that displays her numerous dimensions. The title, a play on her given name, Kim Yong-sun (“Yong” meaning “face” in Korean Hanja), encapsulates the project’s in general themes of exposition and self-expression, allowing her to show the world her truest self. Each track takes listeners on a sonic journey.

On “Raw,” a track originally in competition to be released throughout the “Spit It Out” era (hence the familiar melody), Solar demonstrates a dark and edgy concept: “It’s literally just the raw version of who I really am.” “Honey,” the comeback’s title and arguably the most audibly Solar-esque song here, was developed immediately upon hearing the  “du, du, du” beat that she sings at the chorus. Pop-R&B track “찹찹 (chap chap)” came to her as a random bolt of inspiration, while the jazzy “Big Booty,” a totally self-composed number, puts a classic spin on your average peach-emoji track. The EP ends on a high with “징글징글 (zinggle zinggle),” brought to Solar as an apt fit for her “cute and bright image,” and so the ideal way to wrap up her first solo project.

Solar releases 容: Face on the heels of her 31st birthday, which took place on February 21. (Pisces queen!) She says her thirties have deepened her thoughts and broadened her perspective compared to her twenties, the decade in which she both trained and debuted. This newfound sense of maturity and thoughtfulness is well-articulated during 容: Face. Below, Solar speaks with MTV News about the creative process in back of the EP and what she hopes for the future.

MTV News: You're an artist known for outlandish concepts and pushing boundaries. An example could be the bald-headed promo shoot you did for “Spit It Out.”  What was the in general concept you were attempting to achieve this time around with Face?

Solar: With the last album, “Spit It Out,” I really did everything and anything I wanted to for it. Even the bold attempts I wanted to create I put into the concept, so everything was wild and sort of out of this world. Nevertheless for this album, I was thinking much less of the things only I wanted to do because I had already done all of those. As a substitute, I was thinking with a more balanced approach of what the fans, organization, and I all wanted for it. I thought it could make a more complete album if I merged all of those with each other, so I listened to several suggestions while creating it. Yet if we're talking about an in general concept, it's more about giving a good feeling, rather than a specific concept. I wanted there to be a healing aspect to it, something that makes you feel better. It’s brilliant for spring.

MTV News: In one of your YouTube videos, you spoken about how your MBTI personality is INFJ. INFJs are well known to be very rare and unique and creative. Where do you know your creativity comes from? From where do you draw inspiration? 

Solar: Wow, even overseas MBTI is a trend? [laughs]  I think I get a lot of inspiration just from my day-to-day life. Whether they're things that I'm suddenly thinking about one day, words that pop into mind, things I've experienced, things I've seen, or really good food I've eaten, I get inspired by a collection of things and jot them down in my phone to look back on and think about later.

MTV News: The title track for this comeback is “Honey.” We also get to hear you rap on the song, which was so unexpected. What made you wish to include that section?

Solar: OK, so while preparing for this album, one of the initial thoughts that I had was, I have to try rapping. I have to rap. So, for me, it seemed like a must to put it in there. And immediately after doing it, if there’s ever a good rap or something I can experiment with, I’d love to do it again. I habitually hope to continue trying new things.

MTV News: Trying new things usually be a usual theme for you, and you’ve said in the past that you “want to be an artist that makes people look forward to what [you’ll] do next.” How key is it to you to keep pushing yourself as an artist?

Solar: For me, it’s something that is very crucial. In some ways, it may would be one of the most essential things. As soon as an album releases, it's technically something that will last forever, right? That moment is cemented in time. Thinking of this, it's like a record of my thoughts as I was making the album, and also my condition, plus a number of things. So, the things I wanted to do at the time, the things I wanted people to hear, and messages I wanted to convey are all included in the album. This is why it's very crucial to me to habitually try new things and take on challenges to evolve.

MTV News: Would you mention that you’re someone who thinks about legacy, or what you’ll leave behind? 

Solar: Rather than thinking also deeply about legacy or leaving beyond some group kind of footprint, it’s more key to me that as soon as people listen to the album, they feel good in the moment. I care more about the albums being comforting for people, something they can use to heal themselves any time they’re not feeling good, or in their down times.

MTV News: You care so much, in particular, about how you make your fans feel. Are you that kind of person in your personalized life, too?

Solar: Being a piece of Mamamoo, I was able to meet so several fans routinely, and because of that, I tend to think more about them. And right now, while living my day-to-day life, I realized that there really are some people that love me much and thus passionately. For the people that put in so much time and effort into their love for me, I actually really imagine them because they give me so much, I'd like to return that much for them. I habitually think, What can I do for them that can repay that categorize kind of passion?

Courtesy of the artist
MTV News: Speaking of Mamamoo, how do you know your experiences in the sort factor into the way you make music for yourself? Is there any crossover between that process and this process?

Solar: I've learned a lot within those eight years with Mamamoo, yet even right now, I am actually still continuing to learn from. Although because I have been in Mamamoo, and we released so much music with each other, it's one of the reasons why I can even be mobile as a solo artist, so I’m very thankful. It’s taught me so much.

MTV News: Eight years is a long time to be with each other, especially any time so several groups fall into the seven-year curse. What do you know makes Mamamoo special? What's the key to your longevity? 

Solar: I think what makes Mamamoo special is that each member actually has their own unique color, and we each also have a lot of passion for music. So any time we're with each other, a lot of that synergy comes into the scene. And even right now, once people watch us or look at us, they habitually think, Wow, they have so much energy. Wow, they come with each other so well.

MTV News: Since you said each member’s uniqueness, all four of you have had a big solo comeback in the past few months. Hwasa had Guilty Pleasure, Moonbyul had 6equence, Wheein had Whee, and right now you have Face. Right now that each of you have taken a turn with a solo project, does this mean a Mamamoo comeback is next?

Solar: Because each member has already completed their own solo project, I do really hope to show as Mamamoo with a new project, nevertheless it's not going to be immediate. It’s something that we’re continuing to work hard towards, however maybe not now. I am going to very, very cautiously mention maybe this year, yet, again, it’s not definite! [laughs]

MTV News: Can you at least promise some more funny dance practice videos? The video for “Hip” is a universal fan favorite! 

Solar: So whenever we're with each other as Mamamoo, there is lots of really funny things that just happen of course. I think you'll certainly have the ability to be able to see more of that in the future as well. It’s just us!

MTV News: Aside from a Mamamoo comeback, what do you hope for in the future? What are you personally looking forward to?

Solar: Honestly, I just wish to live as happily as now, working as I do and doing what I like. I hope for fans to still be waiting for my music and loving what make. I'd like have the ability to meet their expectations and just continue to be happy.

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