K-pop sensation Wonho has – with the help of his fans – risen to new heights.
Words: Abigail Firth.
Wonho had a turbulent end to 2019. After his departure from group Monsta X in late October, fans were left reeling, and for a minute, it seemed like everything was falling apart.
But, like a phoenix, the South Korean singer/songwriter/producer/performer/king of the gym selfie emerged from the flames just a few months later, freshly signed to a subsidiary of his former company Starship Entertainment, ready to unleash some bangers – and some tearjerkers – on his fans.
The unwavering support of his fans throughout the ordeal has helped carry Wonho through, and by the time his first EP ‘Love Synonym #1: Right for Me’ came around in September, he was stronger than ever. First dropping the pre-release single ‘Losing You’, an English dedication to his fans (dubbed ‘Wenee’), followed shortly after by the deliciously camp and groovy number ‘Open Mind’, quickly establishing himself as fearless, honest and versatile.
When we catch up with Wonho, he’s just released his second EP, ‘Love Synonym #2: Right for Us’, led by sultry and theatrical single ‘Lose’ and building on his solo debut’s strengths to deliver something darker and moodier. Outside of music, his online presence since going solo has propelled him further into the spotlight, picking up fans with every Instagram post and garnering him one of the more diverse fanbases in K-Pop.
Since initially debuting in 2015 to rebooting as a solo artist last year, it’s already been a long road, and certainly one with a few twists, turns and bumps, but it’s far from ending yet. So put your seatbelts on and enjoy the ride, as Wonho enters the most exciting phase of his career yet.
Hi Wonho! What have you been up to?
Hi Dork Magazine readers! I’ve been busy promoting my new album. I’m so excited to say hello to you all.
What can you tell us about your new album ‘Right for Us’?
This album is the second series of ‘Love Synonym’, and it provides a new definition of love that restores freedom through loss and hope. The most important message is “Let’s be together for a long time” to my fans.
What’s the difference between ‘Love Synonym’ 1 and 2?
In the last series ‘Part. 1’, I announced that I would come back to my fans and introduce Wonho to the world. It was a process of finding my own colour, while ‘Part. 2’ seems to show a more solid and mature worldview. I’ve expressed my ambition and passion to share more things with my fans.
The tracks on this album are a lot darker sounding than on ‘Part 1’, how were you feeling when creating these songs?
I tried to include my message that I wanted to send to all the fans on each track. I was excited to see how the fans would react. If you listen to the songs on the album from the first to the last track, you can feel that I’ve tried to put in a variety of dark to bright colours!
Are you inspired by other art forms outside of music?
Yes, I often get inspired by watching movies.
Is there a link between ‘Losing You’ on ‘Part 1’ and ‘Lose’ on ‘Part 2’?
The album itself is a continuation in a way that ‘Part 1’ is more like finding what’s right for me, and ‘Part 2’ is figuring out what’s right for us, but the two songs do not have a direct link. ‘Lose’ is the track where I try to focus more on the performance itself to show an intense, strong stage, whereas ‘Losing You’ was my sincere letter for my fans WENEE.
Is there a reason the songs dedicated to your fans – ‘Losing You’ and ‘WENEED’ – are both in English?
I hope it will be a song that fans all over the world can listen to and sympathise with, so I decided to write in English, which is the language used in most countries.
There’s a collaboration with Kiiara on this album, how did that come about?
After listening to ‘Ain’t About You’, I was wondering if I could find a suitable vocalist for this song. It’s my first solo collaboration, so it’s a very meaningful track. While listening to various vocals, I heard Kiiara’s voice and thought, “OK, this is the voice that I’ve been looking for,” so we made it happen.
You’ve written on a lot of these tracks, when did you start writing songs?
Ever since I was a trainee, I’ve always been interested in writing lyrics/composing. Since my debut, I’ve been working on them steadily until now.
Did you feel like you had to prove yourself when you debuted as a solo artist? Are there any expectations you’d set for yourself?
I actually wanted to quickly convey the message of gratitude and what I really wanted to say to my fans, who’ve been waiting for and supporting me a lot through music. I would be grateful if my fans could feel my sincerity through my music. Making pleasant and happy memories with WENEE for a long time, is the most meaningful goal for me.
Has your approach to work and being an idol changed at all since debuting solo?
I would say I feel a sense of responsibility when creating music and performing on stage as a solo artist, but it always motivates me to try my best to execute various sides well, for my fans.
You’ve always been confident on stage, and you’ve definitely shown yourself to be confident on social media, but is there a difference between the Wonho we see as an idol and the person you are in your personal life?
I don’t think there’s a big difference between me as an artist and the person in my daily life. I start my days waking up, exercising, eating well, and taking good care of myself. I would say the difference would be that I invest more time in my album preparations as an artist.
Your fanbase is super diverse, how do you feel being seen as a representative for so many people?
Thank you very much for sending me your love and attention. Thanks to my fans, I am able to create and perform my music, which means a lot to me. I will continue to work hard to repay the love I’ve received.
Similarly, you’re seen as quite (forgive the pun) an open-minded person, you’ve got a lot of male fans and your concepts are seen as pretty gender-fluid, were you aware of that? How do you feel about it?
I am very thankful to be loved by a lot of people all over the world. I think that my music is more valuable and meaningful, because it is loved and not limited to any age, gender, religion, or culture. I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who supports me.
Could you describe the artist you aspire to be?
I want to be an artist who loves fans the most. It isn’t easy to meet all of my fans in person, but if I could be someone who gives them the greatest love and strength in their lives, there would be nothing more meaningful to me than that.
When it comes to creative direction – the music videos, performances, album concepts – do you have a hand in that?
I try to actively share my ideas and opinions when it comes to being part of these creative processes. I truly enjoy being a part of this, since it feels great to think about which messages or concepts will be shown to my fans, and to imagine how they would react to them.
What else can we expect from Wonho in the future?
I’m sure you will be able to see me with more mature and deeper colours of my music in the future. I will continuously show my fans my sincere message and love through my music, and always sing songs that are for my fans. I will “promise to hold you so tight and I’ll never let go”. Love you so much, WENEE!
Are there any particular genres or concepts you’d like to try out?
It would be great if I could try disco, future, or retro genre one day. There will be many more things to come in the future, so please keep an eye out for me!
What music/artists are you listening to these days?
Since I enjoy listening to all kinds of songs of different genres and moods these days, I usually listen to random playlists that are automatically recommended to me each day.
Finally, which is your favourite track on the new album?
I would say ‘Outro : And’ and ‘Ain’t About You (Feat. Kiiara)’ are my favourite songs from this album. You will find each track has different charms and attractive points.
Taken from the May 2021 edition of Dork, out now. Wonho’s album ‘Love Synonym Part 2: Right for Us’ is out now.