K-house & techno artist Park Hye Jin has surprised us all with both familiar and different sounds in her latest album, Before I Die. She is loyal to the hypnotic techno beats that she is known for, but it’s pretty clear that Hye Jin is trying to break into the music industry from a slightly different angle with trap and hip-hop experimentation.
She said on her Instagram, on the day of the record’s release, that she did everything she could in Korea to excel in her career, but felt that moving away was the only way she could truly chase her dream. This album is clearly a creative outlet that represents the emotional effects of those life changes.
Overall, the album takes both a positive and sometimes pessimistic note out of themes such as sexual liberation, dealing with burnout, fear, doubt, love and family—‘Sunday ASAP’ shows that Hye Jin never allows herself a work break, choosing to only designate Sunday as her day of rest. Meanwhile, in the lyrics to ‘Never Give Up’, she deals with people “treating me just like pure shit” by fighting back with a consistent hip-hop beat reminiscent of the ‘90s American hip-hop scene. With this, she asserts her dominance in popular American hip-hop and rap styles. Moreover, the tracks vary considerably, with ‘Me Trust Me’ pairing a wonderful guitar riff with trap beats, to the non-lyrical ‘Hey, Hey, Hey’ experimenting with Boiler Room-esque hard techno. It’s clear to see why Park Hye Jin released ‘Let’s Sing Let’s Dance’ and ‘Whatchu Doin Later’ before the album release date, as they are definitely two of the most exciting songs of the album with their catchy hooks, girl-boss attitude and sophisticated rhythms.
The album starts with softer tunes, moves to hard beats, before finishing with an introspective tone with ‘i jus wanna be happy’. Hye Jin originally wanted to call the tune ‘I Hate Myself’ but decided to name it by the hook, which is translated from Korean. Her last track shows the impacts of imposter syndrome that many artists face, particularly when they are underrepresented in the music genre that they choose to pursue; for Hye Jin, it is her race and accent which sets her apart from other artists in her genre. This is shown by ‘Never Give Up’, which shows the hurdles of race in a predominantly white industry. Her choice to give her fears of moving away a positive outlook shows us that doubt and fear is acceptably natural and human.
The songs ‘Can I Get Your Number’, ‘Whatchu Doin Later’ and ‘Sex With Me (DEFG)’ give the album a fun, club-ready and care-free tone to her other emotionally charged works. ’DEFG’ is a clear parallel with her tune ‘ABC’ in her 2018 EP IF YOU WANT IT, almost satirising, playing around and showing off a changed perspective and confidence towards her life — “A, I want you // B, I need you // C, I miss you” turns to “D, I tell you // E, I eat you // F, I fuck you”. She is much more assertive in her attitude towards her sexuality, personality and heritage.
Overall, Park Hye Jin’s first full studio album Before I Die is a promising look into the future of her music—she has allowed vulnerability into her life by not only experimenting with different art styles, but also through her lyrics. She has always maintained her identity through her Korean lyrics in all of her albums, letting us know that she is proud to continue her unique representation within the house genre.
Before I Die by Park Hye Jin was released on 10th September 2021.
Words by Brooke Cadwell
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