YENA wants you to let go of yesterday’s worries and embrace a new day by, at least, greeting yourself a good morning.
Two days ahead of her second solo anniversary, YENA has returned with new music. Her signature positivity remains, but her music now reflects a clearer artistic vision and a bolder, more authentic self. Having charmed fans with effervescent mini-albums like SMiLEY, SMARTPHONE, and GOOD MORNING, and impactful singles like Love War and HATE XX, the artist plans to embark on a journey, slowly unlocking new musical realms. But fear not, her optimistic spirit will continue to shine through her future endeavors. “I think my positive attitude is the best thing I have,” YENA tells NYLON Manila.
One message rings clear with her third mini-album, GOOD MORNING: let go of the past, cling to optimism, and embrace every morning with a smile on your face, at least for today. “Erase the traces of tears from last night / Good morning, at least for today / No need to be afraid / It’s another day,” she sings on the bridge of GOOD MORNING. Describing the album as where she lays bare her autobiographical stories, YENA’s unadorned self and thoughts shown in the tracks including Good Girls in the Dark, Damn U, and The Ugly Duckling, coupled with her enthralling vocals are sure to bring comfort to the listeners.
“It really means a lot to me when so many people tell me that they’ve found empathy and comfort in my music,” she expresses. Following the release of her new mini-album, YENA opens up with NYLON Manila to delve into her journey from navigating the transition after three years in a group to actively shaping her sound as a solo artist. . Read the full exclusive interview below.
Since 2024 has just arrived, are there things that you’d like to try this year as well as goals you’re planning to achieve this year?
I would love to travel to different countries I haven’t been to yet and hold a concert so I can meet all Jigumi (YENA’s fandom name).
Your music has this bubbly, feel-good vibe that’s so addictive. Do you feel you’ve further refined your signature style with each release? Is there a point where you think someone could instantly recognize a YENA song just by the sound, that they will be like, “Oh, this has gotta be a YENA song!”?
It really means a lot to me when so many people tell me that they’ve found empathy and comfort in my music, and I hope to continue to spread my positive, uplifting energy.
Speaking of genres, do you plan to expand to other genres in the future, or do you feel happy painting within your signature “colorful” style?
There are so many genres that I haven’t tried out yet, and so many things that I want to do that I plan to slowly unravel one by one. At the same time, I want to create something that is uniquely my own, naturally incorporating my own charm and feelings that I can show.
Your albums tell a lot about you: SMiLEY fits your personality; you said that your most cherished possession is your smartphone, and that’s why you have an album titled SMARTPHONE. Could you tell us more about GOOD MORNING? Do you think your new album also plays a part in your personality?
I also tried to include a lot of my own autobiographical stories in this GOOD MORNING album. When I face various situations in life, I tend to solve them well with my own positive energy. I hope to convey empathy and comfort to many people who are struggling for their own reasons with this album.
There’s more of your genuine inner self on the album. What message do you hope resonates with listeners?
As the title song “Good Morning” says, “Yesterday’s worries and troubles ended yesterday! Tomorrow, the sun will rise again, and it will definitely be a good morning!” I hope you can relate to that part.
Since the album title is GOOD MORNING, I was wondering if you are a morning person? What’s usually the first thing you do when you wake up?
Actually, I’m not a morning person at all, and I don’t set the alarm very often. (laughs) I’m a person who loves being in bed. I spend as much time lying in bed as possible. I feel like I just wake up, use my phone, play games, and then just stay in bed until I come to my senses.
Speaking of your bubbly personality, I heard that you’re an extrovert. Is there anything new that you’ve discovered about yourself over the past years?
I think I’m a little bit stronger than I thought I was, and I think my positive attitude is the best thing I have, probably my biggest strength.
You mentioned that one of the cons of being a solo artist is that living alone is boring when before you used to live with 12 members, especially when you’re outgoing. How do you manage or cope with that now?
I still live with my brother because I don’t like to be alone. I don’t spend as much time alone as I thought I would. I’m always so happy all the time.
You took part in writing two songs: GOOD MORNING and The Ugly Duckling. What is the best way to sum up a day spent writing and creating music in a studio? Could you explain your creative process to us, and what was it like working with other music producers for this album?
There are many times when I think, “I’m so grateful to have so many good people around me, and I’m so lucky to have a good life,” and I really felt this a lot while working on my album this time. I feel so grateful to have someone listen to my story, empathize with me, and tell my own story through music.
What was your inspiration behind writing these tracks? I’m especially interested in hearing your thoughts on The Ugly Duckling. You were IZ*ONE’s self-proclaimed “duck” back then. Is that somehow connected? Tell us the backstory.
In fact, yes, my nickname is Duck, and I was so moved by the story of The Ugly Duckling fairy tale that I wanted to create a song that resonated with many people on this topic. I think it is more meaningful because it is a song that contains a message and encouragement that I want to convey to people my age or those who are first stepping into the society.
You enjoy making choreographies as much as writing lyrics. I heard you participated in making the choreography for “SMARTPHONE.” How about this time around for “GOOD MORNING”? How long did it take you to master the dance choreography?
Since this song doesn’t have a lot of choreography [of my own] compared to previous songs, I learned it in one day and it took about three days to master it.
It’s been 2 years since your solo debut. Looking back, how do you think your solo journey shaped you?
As I became more interested in myself, I learned about myself, what my charms are, and what makes me happy. It was a very interesting and enjoyable process and journey as I discovered new aspects of myself that I didn’t even know existed.
What do you think was the hardest part of transitioning from being in a group to being a solo artist? What were the hardest adjustments you had to make? Now, two years in, are you starting to feel more confident about CHOI YENA as a solo artist?
I had a lot of worries about whether I could fill the stage by myself and whether I could handle the responsibility, but I think the more I did it, the more fun it was and the quicker I got used to it. Every time I worked on a new album, there were a lot of really fun and interesting moments as I was able to see and show a new side of myself. There are still so many things I haven’t done and so many things I want to do, so I’m really looking forward to the future and I want to keep working as hard as I am now, so please look forward to my future.
Finally, do you have any messages to your fans in the Philippines?
Thank you for sending so much interest and love even from afar, and I will try my best to repay the love you gave me in person! I love you!