After years of waiting in anticipation, Sandara Park shows the world what a Dara solo Korean debut looks, feels, and sounds like.
The wait is finally over – after over a decade since her epic debut as part of the iconic K-Pop girl group 2NE1, SANDARA PARK, also known as Dara, is back. Technically, she never left the scene, but she does return to the music scene as a solo act gracing the stage. While 2NE1 made waves as a group with their bold, swag aura, Dara opted to highlight a different side of her with her debut. “The album is entirely different in genre and concept from the music I used to perform with 2NE1,” Sandara explains to NYLON Manila. “So I’m curious and worried about how my fans will react.”
THE AWAITED SOLO DEBUT
Titled after her name, Sandara Park is a digital mini-album that consists of five tracks: the feel-good title song FESTIVAL, a remake of Uhm Jung Hwa’s 1999 track of the same name, and the B-sides PLAY!, DARA DARA (Prod. GRAY), T MAP (Prod. Heize), and the concluding song HAPPY ENDING (Prod. SWJA). According to Dara, all the songs on the album fit her voice tone and range nicely, adding, “That’s why many people are saying that they finally get to hear my real voice.” She continues that it’s a process of finding what suits her best, that if you listen to the five tracks in order, the listeners will feel that the lyrics and voice represent Dara well.
Ever since her first appearance in the K-Pop scene, Dara has engaged in various activities with the 2NE1 members. However, this particular project has provided her with a fresh outlook, as she used to prepare for everything alongside the members in the past. “Everything I’ve done many times before felt new to me.” Now that Dara takes on the responsibilities of both preparation and promotion all by herself, she finds the importance of continuously challenging herself with something new. “However, this is also me, and I am incredibly excited that I can express another side of myself,” she says.
As Sandara Park is a record that fits the overall personality of the singer, Dara believes that choosing her favorite track is quite challenging, and it depends on her mood and condition. During the interview, Dara picked FESTIVAL: “The hot weather and extreme sunlight remind me of the cool music.”
INVOLVEMENT IN THE ALBUM
Fourteen years in the K-Pop music industry, it’s the first time Dara has participated in album production, and it’s for her solo debut EP Sandara Park — a huge milestone and special moment for the act. Dara shares that taking part in the process was challenging and burdensome, but it’s something that makes this release even more meaningful. “I didn’t need any new inspiration for the lyrics because I have been writing down whenever I feel a certain emotion or inspiration on my notepad,” she reveals. “I brought some of the journals that I worked on the notepad for this album.”
Dara revealed that she personally reached out to the artists and all the song producers, including GRAY, Heize, and SJWA, among others. She handled everything from scheduling recording sessions and discussing the lyrics to organizing the meetings. While it was not without its challenges, Dara found the entire process enjoyable, and she felt delighted by the compliments she received from them.
While the audience can make their own assumptions of the vibe Dara offered with her beats, instrumentals, and music video, she aimed to convey diverse images through various elements such as the visuals, including her hair, make-up styles, and outfits, where she explored styles ranging from cute and pure to sexy and unique concepts.
“I decided to pour everything,” says Dara. “It took a lot of time to change each style, so I ended up having less sleep.”
“After debuting as 2NE1, I grew exceedingly while working with my members,” Dara exclaims. Over the years, the singer has shown her growth and improvement not only musically but also in terms of performance and fashion. “2NE1 transformed me from someone who was simply cute to someone who is hip and stylish,” she states.
Dara has learned one significant lesson that she brings with her until now, and that is the importance of being a persevering person in the face of obstacles going her way. Despite feeling hopeless at times during all the years in the industry to release a solo album and make a comeback as a musician, Dara firmly believes in the motto “Don’t give up!” She adds, “I didn’t give up and kept working hard, and finally, the album was released.”
“There are so many friends and artists who helped me with this album,” says Dara, expressing her immense happiness to the people who provided their support during the album’s creation. “I was extremely happy.”
THE PHILIPPINES AS HER SECOND HOME
Even before her prosperous K-Pop career, Dara already left a mark in the Philippine industry, both as a singer and an actress. She rose to fame as part of the talent search television program, Star Circle Quest, where she eventually starred in numerous films, including Bcuz of U and Can This Be Love, and released classics such as In or Out.
“The Philippines is my second home. I spent my childhood and school days [in the Philippines], even as an adult,” Dara explains, who adds that the Filipino culture feels even more familiar to her than the Korean culture. “I always introduce the Philippines to Korean people as a country filled with joyful, gentle, cheerful, and music-loving people.”
“Fiesta” is the word Dara would like to describe the Philippines. She elaborates, “Because the entire neighborhood celebrates even for a birthday party; it’s just a festival itself.”
Toward the end of the interview, Dara shares that she is looking forward to performing her solo album in the Philippines, relaying her gratitude to all the BLACKJACK (2NE1’s fandom name) and DARAling (Sandara’s fandom name) who have supported her unwaveringly throughout the years, even while performing in the country without new songs. “Thank you so much for your love and support. Mahal ko kayo!”