2016 has already seen earlier icons in the industry returning to the scene and introducing themselves to the new generations of fans. However, it seems that this trend will be continuing into the new year with the return of legendary groups such as SECHSKIES and S.E.S. The same is to be said for soloists, with the return of an artist who is dubbed as the original sexy diva of the Kpop scene.
After eight long years, Uhm Jung Hwa returned on December 27th with her new album, “The Cloud Dream of the Nine” and performed for the first time on this year’s SAF Gayo Daejun – one of the big end-of-year concerts in the broadcasting industry. Not only did this mark the soloist’s return but also showcasing her talent for fans who may only know her for “D.I.S.C.O”, her 2008 collaboration with Big Bang’s T.O.P.
1 . Oh Yeah
“It’s really frustrating. Love is not forever.
Stay for a while, It might be a joke in your head.”
The album as a whole sticks to its original namesake; Kim Manjung’s novel set in Tang Dynasty China that focuses on the perspective of the Fairies: the eight women romantically involved with the central character, Yang. However, Uhm Jung Hwa brings a modern adaptation with this album, opening with a highly-anticipated collaboration with SHINee’s Jonghyun.
The duet could be considered as an exchange between the lovestruck Faries and Yang; noting that although love appears to be a beautiful feeling, it may in fact be just a dream between two individuals. Musically, there are indeed similarities in the composition of “Oh Yeah” compared to Jonghyun’s previous solo hit, “She Is” but the bright, playful R’n’B style suits the unique tone of both artists without overpower each other.
2 . Dreamer
“A lot closer, It’s not beautiful to me.
Everything is a dream. I wish it was happening.”
“Dreamer” is the first of two title tracks that promote the album and this is where Jung Hwa’s signature elegance comes into play. Continuing the themes from “Oh Yeah”, the perspective of this single moves to the realisation that a relationship is coming to its end but there is still a longing to relive happier memories.
There is a retro feel to the instrumental, blending disco and New Romantic elements with a modern jazz bass line and synth which is a step away from the typical “ballads” released from female artists. Despite the lyrics focusing on a non-existent romance, the single as a whole is still highly infectious that any fan can discover and immediately dance along to.
3 . Watch Me Move
“Between the spilling light, I’m experiencing a new world
I wanna fill this world with only me”
In terms of how the album follows the original novel, the second title track can be in the perspective of Moonlight and Wildgoose, two dancing girls who crosses paths and both fall in love with Yang. Describing the intense emotions experienced with new love, the song is very seductive in its progression and invites the man of her dreams before disappearing and becoming a dream to him.
Comparing both promotion singles together, “Watch Me Move” is the more modern of the two. The instrumental is highly influence by the Tropical House genre; one that has paved the way for several hits within 2016 such as f(x)’s “4 Walls” and BoA’s SM Station collaboration with Beenzino. Jung Hwa’s vocals play a big role with the song itself, providing an hypnotic melody as if she herself is the dancing girl enticing someone into her own world.
4 . Willow Forest
“When you lightly align your eyes
As you know, Pull in your mind and drive it crazy.”
Drawing the album to a close is 버들숲, translated as “Willow Forest”. In terms of story, infatuation has become attraction as the lyrics portrays a blissful fantasy between her and her companion, restarting the cycle of love’s dream that is told in the album’s entirety.
Blending several elements of the two leading singles together, this ethereal track is a hybrid of House and Orchestral EDM – made popular to the mainstream market by British artists, Clean Bandit. The incorporation of a classical violin melody and low club basslines form an interesting combination that provides a sense of fantasy, perfect for relaxing or travelling in the dark midnight hours.
It has indeed been a hot minute since “D.I.S.C.O.” but with the end of 2016, Uhm Jung Hwa’s return continues the strong return of first-generation idols and proof that the seniors of the industry can still perform to the ever-growing level set by rookies of the previous years.
Where title tracks are concerned, “Dreamer” has a stronger impact in comparison to “Watch Me Move”, which relies more on the visual and performance element present in the music video. “Dreamer” on the other hand is very simplistic and holds onto the winning retro formula that made her previous single such a big hit, with a few tweaks to suit a growing global audience.
Overall, the album gives justice to the story it was inspired by, creating a whimsical and stylish story of love from beginning to end. What do you think of this legend’s return to the music scene?
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To a new K-pop fan discovering Uhm Jung Hwa for the first time, this latest release from the first-generation star is a breath of fresh air from the sexy idols and emotional balladeers of today.
However, to those who have grown up with her hits and even to the rookies that look up to her, “The Cloud Dream of the Nine” is just evidence to how she can evolve with the times and just how far her talents can go in vocals and aesthetic. Uhm Jung Hwa is indeed one of K-Pop's true divas.
"Watch Me Move"