Chungha, On Courage
ELLE Singapore|November 2021
From pursuing a career as a solo artiste to marrying unconventional elements in her song and dance, this lion-hearted singer is bent on constantly pushing through K-pop boundaries
Chelsea Tang

In her homey apartment where she stays alone with two puppies, K-pop visionary Chungha has been singing her lungs out, over and over. The songs From Now On and Love U, pop tunes from Blooming Blue, a 2018 EP released during her earlier days as a solo artiste ring through the house, as she practices from the living room to the bathroom, and back. With a name and mien instantly recognisable, and a track record of anthemic tunes to back her stellar rep, millions of eyes and ears around the globe have been charmed by her silvery voice and magnetic dance moves — but Chungha remains skittish for this one upcoming gig.

“For the first time in my life, I sang a song for my friend at her wedding, and I was so nervous,” she laughs. “Even though I practiced many times for it… I’m not sure if my neighbours heard me singing. I might have to apologise to those living above and below my apartment.”

No one would’ve guessed that there would’ve been such a side to Chungha when it comes to performing — not when she seems so perfectly made for the stage. When dancing, the 25-year-old is a sight to behold, moving fluidly, yet also seemingly in flashes. Her smooth voice is powerful, her body is nimble, while her gaze is intense; she is the very incarnation of song and dance. To be able to captivate and command such unwavering attention — for the world to stop and stare — this is the kind of charm that requires guts and talent, and such is a gift special to Chungha.

“Chungha likes to be banjjag banjjag [Korean for ‘shiny and flashy’] on stage,” she says, yet lightly blushes when told she’s crowned as one of K-pop’s biggest dancing queens. Not many can say they’ve successfully popularised anything in South Korea — the hub of fleeting trends — but Chungha is one of the few who can. Since performing a freestyle waacking dance routine on the South Korean reality girl group survival show, Produce 101, the singer’s good name has been one that’s tied to the unorthodox dance style in K-pop choreography.

“It was a dance style that I was used to [since my earlier dancing days], so it came out naturally,” she says. Peer closely, and you’d realise that the dance style appears in most of her chart-topping music videos, like Snapping, Roller Coaster, and Gotta Go. The house- inflected disco-pop summon Stay Tonight especially, holds special meaning for her as she had the chance to take over Mnet’s Studio Chroom stage for that performance, alongside her La Chica unnies, her dance crew. “I wanted to promote the waacking culture more, and it seems I have succeeded a little. I remember being really proud of myself,” she adds.

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