'Super Star K' diva Minseo sings about poetic, relatable love

Su Jin Jang, Dec. 15, 2016, 9:21 a.m.

South Korean balladeer Minseo, 20, sings as if she wants to heal people with love pain. With a mellow guitar and string sound, her ballads work well in artsy book cafes and other modern hangout spaces. The star of the singing competition show "Super Star K: Season 7" has enriched her songs "First" and "You Love You" with imagery of down-to-earth feelings that relate to people in love. "First" is a young woman's confession of her unsuccessful first love, and "You Love You" is a calm yet biting criticism about a selfish ex-lover.

"If I'm given a chance to write my own lyrics, I'll be putting in lots of emotions and poetic expressions in a way that many others can relate to," Minseo said in her interview with Yonhap News Agency last week.

Her trademark blend of poetic expression and stark reality has put Minseo on the cover of "Monthly Project Yoon Jong Shin" for two consecutive months. The music project, launched in 2010 by Korean veteran producer and singer Yoon Jong-shin, shines light on songs with high artistic value. "First" was featured in the music project's October edition, followed by "You Love You" in November.

About her much-liked songs, Minseo recalled, "I sang the October ballad ("First") in a classical style, in a sad, hearty way, whereas I tried to do it more calmly and indifferently in the November song (You Love You'). It goes like, 'I'll let you go and keep it calm.'"

Minseo has yet to release her own album, since the music project doesn't count toward her official discography.

The meek-looking yet strong-willed young talent said she does not have a fixed role model, despite her openness for musical advice from her seniors.

Yoon, who is her boss and chief of Mystic Entertainment, is one of her biggest advisers. He has given her recordings by other eminent singers, international or domestic, from which to learn. One day, he showed her a video recording featuring Japanese diva Nakashima Mika, whose explosive vocal performance impressed the young South Korean singer.

Minseo has endeared herself to veteran artists with her politeness. Her uncalculating personality came with rewards, as many renowned professionals offered to work with her.

Kim Jung-man, the first South Korean photographer whose works were sold in Sotheby's, asked her to model for him. Besides natural objects, the photographer has worked with top-class actors such as Lee Byung-hun and actress Jeon Do-yeon. Minseo is one of the few pre-debut faces to appear on Kim's finder.

"It was marvelous, looking at myself in his black-and-white works," she recalled. "It was exciting to see a totally different self from another person's perspective."

The 62-year-old photographer's advice for Minseo was to stay modest at all times. "Always work with modesty, as if you were a nobody," he told her.

Despite her hectic life as a musician, Minseo's everyday life sounds quite simple.

I start off easy in the morning. After breakfast, I go to (vocal) training or to the gym," she said. "On off-days, I stay home and watch movies and television series that I missed. When the weather is perfect, I venture out to cafes that I have check-listed."

She likes to freely scribble her feelings and thoughts on her blog, which inspires and helps her brainstorm for her next project.

When and after "Super Star K" went viral at the end of 2015, she found it hard to roam in public spaces without being noticed. Now, she feels freer to sip coffee in a cafe or stroll down the street on her own.

The singer has her own worries and anxiety about her musical career, but she thinks she has not experienced difficulties so extreme that they can be qualified as a "slump."

"I think my biggest 'slump' was when I couldn't fall asleep for one night," the born-optimist said. "It was more of a troubled period than a slump."

Minseo also laughed at the memory of her post-Super Star K diet, saying she shed 10 kilograms after the show ended.

When asked about her future ambitions, Minseo said she does not dream of some extravagant celebrity life.

Cutthroat competition doesn't drive her, either, though she said she does feel motivated when her peers suddenly take a big step forward with strong performances.

"That's when I feel intimidated," she said. "I don't think I've been craving to reach the top spot in a leap."

At this moment, one of her wishes is to have many international listeners to check out her songs. She also hopes to perform more songs for Korean television series and films.

She's already done that with "The Footsteps of My Dear Love," a duet with Gain of K-pop girl group Brown Eyed Girls featured in the award-winning film "The Handmaiden."

"All I want is to sing a song that can genuinely move people to cry," Minseo said.

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