Park Ji-min / Photo = YG Entertainment

This is the first album where I’ve been able to do the music I want to do. I think I would just be satisfied with people thinking, ‘So this is the kind of music she’ll be doing from now on.’”

This is the goal of singer Park Ji-min who is coming back with her first new solo album in two years. After coming out on top on the first season of the SBS survival audition program, K-pop Star, in 2011, Park Ji-min formed a duo called 15& with Baek Yerin during the following year and made her debut into the K-pop industry. In 2016, Ji-min released her first solo album titled 19 to 20 and started receiving attention as a solo artist. Although she has done collaborations with other singers and taken part in TV soundtracks, it has taken Ji-min two years to come out with another album under her own name. On September 4 at 6:00 p.m., her second mini album, jiminxjamie, was released via multiple music sites.  

When we met with Park Ji-min on the third at a cafe in Nonhyeon-dong, Seoul, she seemed to be pretty pumped up about her upcoming album. “Park Jin-young kept on pushing back my comeback date and said that I had to come back with a good song; that he thought a better song was out there. When he heard ‘April Fools,’ the title track for this album, he said, ‘Let’s go with this one!’ That’s how the album came about,” explained Ji-min. A total of five tracks will be on Ji-min’s new album, three of which she wrote and composed herself.

Over the past two years, Ji-min has spent all of her time in a studio, working on new music. As a result of the hard work she put in, she was able to come out with a song that satisfied both her and Park Jin-young who is not only the founder of her label, JYP Entertainment, but who is also someone who has been around the industry as a musical artist for a long time.  

“‘April Fools’ is based on something that actually happened. For this album, I wanted to fill it with the kind of music that I want to make. The album is titled jiminxjamie because Jimin has the image of the young girl that people saw on K-pop Star, while Jamie has the new image that I will be showing people from now on .” 

“April Fools” is a song that likens the determination to not be swayed by a disingenuous person to April Fools. Park Ji-min’s timbre, which has become more mature, naturally melds with the lyrics. The 19+ rated music video for the song explores dark themes and has a distinctive ambiance.

Because I was so young when I came out on K-pop Star, I couldn’t shake off the image that people had of me as that cute girl who sang ‘Over the Rainbow.’ I continued on with that image for a while and then when I became an adult, I developed a more distinctive style as I was making music. I would say to my label, ‘This is the type of music I want to pursue,’ and I was able to come out with the kind of music that I want to make.”

Park Ji-min / Photo = YG Entertainment

Before she underwent her transformation, Ji-min did have some concerns about how the public would react. “I worried that people would be confused or think that the new changes didn’t suit me. I focused on showing people the real Park Ji-min, the 22-year-old girl, instead of trying to come off as pretty or sexy. I think that people will look at my changes in a positive light,” Ji-min said with a shy smile. 

It has been six years since Ji-min made her debut into the K-pop industry; two of those years were spent on hiatus while she completely immersed herself in writing music. During that time, Ji-min became more ambitious about her music. She had to do some research into writing music that told her story, whereas before she would ponder over the best way to sing a song given to her by another songwriter. Rather than feeling nervous about my comeback, I was filled with the desire to present people with good music,“ she said.

Pop and R&B are the genres that I normally listen to. Because I don’t tend to listen to mainstream music, when I was writing my own songs, they didn’t have a mainstream sound. Park Jin-young would say, ‘Try to make it a little more mainstream.’ I learned things as I went along. I made songs that capture my style while still being mainstream.”

Ji-min introduced her musical style as being a true picture of who she really is rather than being embellished with a flashy concept. She emphasized, “The most important thing to me is to make music that shows and talks about things that I can at my age.”

The 22-year-old songstress added, “I live a dynamic life, and that gives me new musical inspiration every day. I have a lot of songs I want to write, which makes me happy.”

There were times when I lost confidence. When I would play Park Jin-young a song that I wrote, he would always find things that were lacking. I got told, ‘This isn’t the kind of song that would do well in Korea.’ When others would tell me they didn’t like a song that sounded good to me, I wondered, ‘Am I not cut out for this? What makes something mainstream?’ I did a lot of research into ‘mainstream things.’ Those were tough times, but I learned a lot.” 

While Park Ji-min was going through the songwriting process, she was able to draw more strength from her peers in the music industry than her family. As I started to make friends who make music, I became the kind of person who shares their story with others. It was really encouraging to have friends that would always empathize with me and offer support, “ Ji-min said.

Through my music, I expressed myself as I truly am, without any bells and whistles. I think my strength is my ability to make people feel as if they’re watching a close friend and not some distant person. I want to try a variety of genres in the future. I plan to express myself in a multitude of ways, so I hope that people look forward to hearing more from me! 

Translated by Jennifer Earwood