Deep within Girls’ Generation leader and K-pop veteran Taeyeon’s third full-length album ‘INVU’, the vocal powerhouse finds herself plunging into a harrowing, brutally honest world of raw, turbulent emotions, leaving no room for hesitation or shame. From desperation and envy to obsession and longing, she dives into the ugliest, most vulnerable depths of the emotional spectrum on the 13-track record, making it one of the most genuinely, and well, painfully human of her career thus far.
- READ MORE: Taeyeon – ‘INVU’ review: one of K-pop’s brightest stars delivers a poignant, revelatory experience
‘INVU’ appears to be a pivotal point in the idol’s career, seven years after her debut solo mini-album ‘I’. The intensity of the record becomes even more significant when we remember that, despite proving herself a talented lyricist, the star has famously been guarded with her feelings and largely reluctant to write her own songs. “I’m still challenging myself, and trying to be better at expressing myself,” Taeyeon tells NME.
Her effort shines through on the rock-infused pop ballad ‘Can’t Control Myself’, which was the only song on the record she co-wrote. “Repeating bad days / I feel miserable, feelings are running out / It just keeps spinning like a loose ring / It doesn’t matter, I suppose this is how love is,” Taeyeon sings, resigning herself to a relationship that only brings misery.
“I felt more comfortable expressing my emotions freely,” the singer says of her new record, which she reveals was curated with her past experiences and memories in mind. Taeyeon adds that she had taken her time on this release, meticulously reflecting on her feelings in great depth and detail. “From then on, stories came together naturally […] which completed the album.”
With a career as long and illustrious as Taeyeon’s, the idol has tasted success in just about every form, reaching a point where awards and accolades are no longer necessary. That’s not to say that she has stopped winning them (this is the Taeyeon we’re talking about, after all), but her hope for this new era, she shares with NME, is simple: “I would like each and every person to find a song that relates to their current self.”
But even before the release of ‘INVU’, Taeyeon had already proven that, for her, 2022 is all about venturing into uncharted territory. The singer kicked off the year as a member of GOT The Beat, a sub-unit of the newly minted SM Entertainment supergroup Girls On Top that paired her with K-pop icon BoA, Girls’ Generation bandmate Hyoyeon, Red Velvet members Seulgi and Wendy, along with Karina and Winter of aespa.
“I might have not had the opportunity to get closer to such great people if it were not for [the group],” she remarks. “Practicing and performing with GOT The Beat members reminded me of my days as Girls’ Generation and how fun it was performing as a group.” While she was one of the more seasoned members of the group, Taeyeon confesses that she was surprised by the abilities of her younger counterparts. “I was amazed by their passion and energy,” she adds, later singling out aespa as a group she is “excited” to watch grow over as “amazing artists” in the coming years.
Outside of SM Entertainment, Taeyeon and Girls’ Generation have been and remain one of the greatest inspirations for aspiring idols and groups across the K-pop industry and, arguably, beyond. “I’m grateful, but at the same time there is a little bit of pressure because it takes effort to always present the best version of myself,” she admits of the sheer number of industry hopefuls who have named her as their role model.
“Nonetheless, it does feel good to receive such compliments, and it motivates me to become the best version of myself.” The star goes on to share her own words of encouragement for future stars in the increasingly cutthroat K-pop world: “Stay strong.”
“I don’t want them to do anything unwillingly,” she elaborates. “I hope they feel confident in expressing themselves so that they can become [the] unique artists that they are.”
Yet the K-pop industry isn’t always as ruthless as it seems; sometimes a silver lining can be found in between the relentless schedules and intense competition. Taeyeon brings up her tight friendship with the members of Girls’ Generation, despite the fact that the group have been on an indefinite hiatus since 2017, when the different members embark on their own solo careers.
She shares that the members of Girls’ Generation remain closer than ever, occasionally catching one another up on their solo endeavours over “a drink or two” or spontaneously crashing each other’s live broadcasts on Instagram. “We would also reminisce about the past and share memories,” she adds fondly of the girl group’s gatherings. “We know each other better than anyone else, so it always feels like home when we’re all together.”
Taeyeon’s latest studio album ‘INVU’ is out now.