Through a series of original songs, Huh Yunjin has been sharing her perspective about life as a K-pop idol. The LE SSERAFIM member kicked things off last year with ‘Raise Y_our Glass’, which she released to commemorate the first 100 days of the girl group’s career. It was followed by January’s ‘I ≠ Doll’, a reflection on life in the spotlight, and March’s ‘Love You Twice’, about her desire to improve while receiving love from fans around the world.
The latest is ‘blessing in disguise’, an effusive celebration of getting through the tough times on the journey of finding out where we’re supposed to end up. Born in South Korea, Yunjin would spend most of her youth in New York, before taking a gamble as a teenager and moving back to her birth country in hopes of becoming a K-pop idol. During that process, she would find herself being sent back to the US, only to ultimately end up back in Korea.
“Especially lately, I’ve been feeling a lot of gratitude and happiness, and feeling kind of relieved in the sense that I did go through everything that I went through, because it ultimately led up to this moment,” Yunjin tells NME over a video call ahead of the song’s release. “I wanted to talk about how I believe that gratitude gives us the strength and the power to look at the world in a different way and rework our path in life.”
Nowadays, LE SSERAFIM are one of the most popular girl groups in K-pop, but Yunjin’s route to get there took some pathfinding. As a teenager attending her upstate New York public school, she partook in musical theatre and choirs, and in 2018 moved to Korea to become a trainee at Pledis Entertainment, best-known as the home to K-pop boyband SEVENTEEN.
That summer, Yunjin appeared as a contestant on the South Korean reality TV competition Produce 48. While her stint on the series impressed audiences, the singer ended up being eliminated before the finale – her dreams of debuting dashed when it was just within reach. “I was so distressed. I remember being so heartbroken because it was my first big challenge and then I was not able to overcome it,” she recalls.
In that moment, her future once again became unclear and she contemplated giving up on her idol dreams for a typical college experience instead – and that was nearly the case. In ‘blessing in disguise’, Yunjin reveals how “one September night” she was cut as a K-pop trainee and sent back to the US.
“I think obviously the biggest blessing in disguise was being cut from the team and then coming to LE SSERAFIM”
“I got called into the office and they sat me down. They were like, ‘Yunjin, I don’t think you are a fit for this team, so unfortunately we’re going to have to let you go,’” she says before stopping herself, reassessing how it happened before continuing. “No, the way that they worded it, I think, was, ‘You will no longer be able to come along with us. Your path ends here.’”
“I think obviously the biggest blessing in disguise was being cut from the team and then coming to LE SSERAFIM,” she reflects. Yunjin would move from Pledis Entertainment to Source Music in 2021 and the rest, they say, is history. “There were moments where I felt very hopeless and distressed and helpless. But after going through that kind of situation, I’m now able to look back and realise that it was all for the better.”
Yunjin has put all that turmoil and hardship into ‘blessing in disguise’, which she describes as having a lot of “layers” to it. “This song, it’s very fun, very energetic and bright. But the topic itself can be kind of bittersweet,” the singer explains. “There could be hardships or inconveniences that you encounter, and there’ll be disappointments in life. But hopefully after you grieve and take time to go through it, you will realise that it was all just a blessing in disguise.”
To this day, Yujin has a pinned memo in her notes app on her phone titled “Inspo”, stemming from her days as a trainee tinkering with songwriting. It has all of her ideas and passing thoughts jotted down. She also takes pictures and screenshots things, and looks into her diary for inspiration from the past. “I saw the phrase ‘blessing in disguise,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s such a good representation of how I feel about a lot of things in my life’, so I wrote it down.”
There was a learning curve while leaning into disco-pop and funk for ‘blessing in disguise’, with her prior songs being more alt-R&B and rock balladry. It was out of the singer’s comfort zone, as she describes, so it took her some time to figure out the direction she wanted to take. After two months of work, Yunjin was still getting nowhere fast, until the phrase suddenly came to her again while brainstorming in a practice room. “Then I wrote it in two hours,” she adds.
“It is therapeutic for me to just express my feelings. At the same time, it’s therapeutic to know that I might be doing something good for the world”
The experience of writing ‘blessing in disguise’ reflects the song’s nature: Yunjin struggled, couldn’t get to where she wanted, and then it ultimately worked out for the best. Along with representing a creative struggle, it also was an emotional one for the burgeoning songwriter, who shares that she has “a little more self-doubt” than she did for her other releases.
“‘Is it good enough? Did I do okay? Is this okay to release?’ But our in-house reactions are very positive, and my members all really like it,” she adds. “And our performance director [Park So-yeon], her favourite track was ‘I ≠ Doll’. But after hearing this track, she’s like, ‘No, I’m obsessed. This is my one pick now. This is my favorite one.’”
Yunjin had actually started to explore songwriting with Source Music – for both herself and LE SSERAFIM – long before the world even knew about the group’s existence. “We hadn’t debuted yet, but I was very thankful that they saw something in me and gave me a push to continue developing my skills,” she says. “I had made stuff in my bedroom, but never so that people could hear it. It was more like ‘I’m writing this just as therapy for myself.’”
While songwriting is still a way for Yunjin to express herself, she also hopes that getting up close and personal with her music will become therapeutic outlet of sorts for fans and listeners as well. “It might be too vulnerable, but at the same time I have this belief that there will be someone somewhere out there who will relate and get even the littlest bit, an ounce of reassurance that they’re not an outcast or they’re not someone who’s alone.”
“I think that music and art should be a little personal in order to make people feel something,” she adds. “So I think that it is therapeutic for me to put that stuff out there, to just express my feelings. At the same time, it’s therapeutic to know that I might be doing something good for the world.”
As for the future, Yunjin teases to NME that she has a lot more solo releases up her sleeves. “One of them [features me] being extremely vulnerable. It’s actually the song that I’m most scared of releasing,” she says, though the singer believes that all comes with continued growth and exploration – for herself and others alike. “I think it will hopefully touch a lot of people, move people or, I don’t know, give them something to think about, to ruminate on.”
Huh Yunjin’s new song ‘blessing in disguise’ is out now.
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