If there was ever any doubt about K-pop going global, just listen to Chung Ha, the multi-hyphenated singer, dancer and choreographer who stormed the international stage with her song “Demente” this year. The reggaeton-tinged single marked the first time a K-pop artist released a song sung entirely in Spanish, and instantly wowed fans both old and new.
Born in Seoul but raised in Dallas, Chung Ha has always wanted to be an artist for everyone, regardless of genre, location or language. Namely: The songs on the 25-year-old’s debut album, Querencia, range from tough EDM to house, hip-hop and flamenco pop, with a touch of Caribbean beats and dirt. The mix of styles and inspirations is something she says she wanted to experiment with when she started her solo career in 2017.
“I’ve always been interested in music from different cultures around the world and I love to challenge myself on every project I get on,” she tells Rolling Stone. “It’s not exciting to stick to a single concept.”
The idea of movement has always been a part of Chung Ha’s career. After spending most of her childhood in the United States, she returned to Korea to devote herself to the performance life and eventually studied dance at university. Known for their hip-hop moves and edgy choreography – Chung Ha Freestyle’s compilation videos have garnered tens of millions of views on YouTube – Double Threat eventually won a spot in the 11-piece girl group IOI as the lead dancer and lead singer. After a short-lived run with the group, Chung Ha takes steps again, this time as a solo artist.
Querencia was released in February and delighted fans and critics alike with its variety of musical styles and melodic themes, from the fast-paced rap verses of “Bicycle” to the R&B grooves of the seductive slow jam “All Night Long”. “Chung Ha’s voice has become one of the most versatile in K-pop, it can easily transition from delicate whispering notes and flirtatious come-ons to full-bodied diva belts and singing effortlessly in Korean, English and Spanish. The performer says it’s a by-product of living in America, where cultures and genres mix.
“I grew up in the United States and made many friends from different cultures and backgrounds who allowed me to be naturally exposed to American pop culture, Latin pop and their Spanish language,” she explains. “The difference between pop music, K-pop, J-pop and Latin-pop is the language. Instead of being shy or scared about the barrier that different languages bring, “she says,” I want to challenge myself to sing in many different languages. “
As the pandemic stalled tour plans, fans around the world are eagerly awaiting Chung Has’s return to the stage to become a dynamic live show. And although she may have sung about being a little “insane”, that’s actually a good thing in Chung Ha’s world: whether she changes her language or her dance moves, she always keeps the fans on their toes so they never know what she expects next.