We’ve been counting down every day from the beginning of April and highlighting our favorite female vocalists in kpop.
Sitting pretty at #1 is…
So, MASSIVE TW for money issues, parental death, cancer and other heavy topics for the below content because it’s gonna get a little (okay, a whole lot) personal in order to really capture what I think about Suhyun’s voice.
Please be advised.
The kpop song that probably means the most to me in all the world is AKMU’s Dinosaur.
A little backstory.
The first time I got a glimpse past my childhood and into the world of adulthood, I was 13 years old.
Until that moment, I was oblivious to the kinds of struggles my parents went through. I knew enough to know that we didn’t have a lot of money, but I never grew up without necessities.
On birthdays and other gift giving holidays, I also usually got what I asked for. Both of my parents worked, but we moved around a lot for my dad’s job, something I didn’t really like because every time we’d move, I’d have to make new friends.
When I was 13, we had only been in the newest city for probably four months. I’m not sure what it’s like in other countries, but in the USA, during certain hours of the day in front of schools, there are school zones where you have to drive really, really slowly for safety reasons.
On this particular day, my mom was driving me home and ended up driving through a school zone faster than she should have been, my usually careful mother. We got pulled over by the police, and while we waited in the parking lot for him to write the ticket, my sweet mom just started bawling.
It was jarring because it was the first instance of its kind. I’d never seen her cry that way. I asked what the matter was–isn’t it just a fine? Yes, she said, but we’re already struggling so much, she admitted. It isn’t ‘just’ a fine.
I realized then for the first time that we didn’t just ‘not have money,’ we were very poor. My parents worked long hours with my mother as a caregiver and my dad taking whatever contracting jobs he could find all across the country because that was what they had to do to keep us okay. The houses of my childhood I imagined as sprawling castles were not that, and were only made warm and memorable by my family’s love.
Three months later, my mom would suddenly pass away from cancer we didn’t even know she had because we couldn’t afford medical care.
The ugly monster that had been terrorizing my family since I was a child–something that I sensed but couldn’t put my finger on, that I knew existed and brought trouble and danger and chased us out of our house every few years–it had finally shown itself to me.
Now that I am an adult, I long to be able to tell her that I finally get it. That I know the monster now. I want to thank her for what she did, I ache for the chance to pay back all that she’d done for me as a child. I want to scream louder than it, now that I’m finally big enough to.
How does this tie into AKMU? Because in Suhyun’s voice in Dinosaur, she tells that entire story and countless, countless others just like that.
Just with her voice.
The lyrics reflect that idea of course–being a child who is too young to truly understand what’s going on in the great big scary world but knowing that something nefarious was lurking all the same.
In my old neighborhood
In my old neighborhood, in the basement of a villa
Four members of our family lived
They lived happily
Under the bathroom door
There was a mouse-hole
Every night, my father tossed and turned
No problem; I didn’t know anything
In the song, the duo talk about how this sense they have is reflected in their dreams as a dinosaur–a creature that is something most kids marvel over as something fantastical and scary and just real enough.
I still remember that time clearly
Me, who was too young to be afraid of anything
What made me jump
What made me jump
What made me jump was
When I was young, I dreamed about a dinosaur
All of that sense they had as children that something wasn’t quite right, that some force was terrorizing their family innocently manifested as a nightmare about dinosaurs.
And then one day, they are both old enough to understand what it was that happened, and Suhyun sings the lines that literally makes me cry EVERY. SINGLE. TIME:
You broke down our window
You roared at my family
If I see you again
Then I’m gonna shout louder than you
Her voice the first utterance sounds almost uncertain….
I’m gonna shout louder than you
It slowly gets more emphatic…
I’m gonna shout louder than you
Until she’s so confident and angry and wishing she could rid her parents of the problems they faced, that she finally yells it right in its face:
I’m gonna shout louder than you!
Like, that’s an entire song, right? The music, the lyrics, the story. Storytelling songs aren’t uncommon, and the lyrics on their own do a fine job, but it’s her remarkable voice that really brings it to life.
She has this angelic tone throughout the chorus and early verses, singing those ‘oooh’s in a way that is almost whimsical, free, childlike, easy. Her voice is gentle as she recalls throughout the verses of the song her childhood memories.
But when she becomes an adult, when she is finally tall enough to look the beast in the eye, her voice becomes mature, strong, determined as she promises she’s going to shout louder than it. That she’s going to blow back at the big bad wolf who huffed and puffed and constantly blew their house down.
Just her voice all by itself is telling that story. Honestly I feel like even if the only lyric in the song was “dinosaur” sang twice in the chorus, I’d still be able to get an idea of what it’s about somehow.
That takes talent, and that’s before even talking about her actual technical skill. There is no other voice like hers in kpop, something you can hear not just in the crystal clear sailing tones in Dinosaur but in the light and easy wind of her verses in FREEDOM and in the cutesy way she makes How People Move what it is. Even her solo pop song Alien stands out from other such sounds due to her unique voice which you don’t usually hear in female soloist songs.
While everyone on our list certainly deserves their spot on our list, Suhyun stands head and shoulders above the others in terms of talent, and for all that her storytelling, versatile voice is able to do, she stands at number one on our list.
Here are a few of my favorite instances of her voice below.
ab6ix astro ATEEZ baekhyun blackpink bts chung ha cix cravity dreamcatcher DRIPPIN exo gidle golden child got7 hoppipolla ikon itzy iu Kang Daniel mamamoo MCND mirae MONSTA x nct Oh My Girl Oneus ONF OnlyOneOf Pentagon PIXY Purple Kiss Red Velvet Seventeen SHINEE stray kids Super Junior T1419 Twice TXT Up10TION Verivery Victon WEi WJSN