She’s no K-pop star but DJ Soda is lighting up the Korean music industry – here’s how she’s planning to keep her fans happy
- A major headliner at Asian music festivals in recent years, DJ Soda has more than 4 million followers on Instagram and over 1.5 million on YouTube
- As well as releasing her own music, including last year’s Shooting Star, she is looking forward to an upcoming collaboration with Momoland’s Ahin
DJ Soda knows people think she’s only here to put on a good show, but she hopes they give her music a chance too.
The baby-faced blonde bombshell closed out Sunday’s “Joy Ruckus Club’s K-pop Superfest” event, performing at the online concert for viewers across the world. Though she herself is not a K-pop idol, she felt excited to be included in the event, even if it was a bit of a struggle due to there being no live crowd.
“At first it was a bit lonely to go up on stage without any audience, but there was a monitor where I could see live comments and that gave me a lot of motivation to put on a good performance until the very end of the show,” she says backstage after her set.
Though she admits her energy is a bit low after the high of performing, she radiates excitement when discussing her work. “Since there was no audience available on the site, I worked really hard to turn up the heat more without seeing anyone.”
The 33-year-old, born Hwang So-hee, has been a major headliner at many Asian music festivals in recent years. She has more than 4 million followers on Instagram and over 1.5 million on YouTube, where she frequently shares content of her performing as an electronic artist as well as from her everyday life.
“Since I can’t tour, I’ve been at home recording, working on new sets and doing a lot of live-streams. I was kind of afraid to do a lot of live-streams though because it’ll stay for all history on YouTube and people might remember it for a long time, leaving all sorts of comments,” she says.
“At first, I saw a lot of comments where people were having negative opinions and stuff, and I’d be hurt. But now I feel like when I read comments, I can grow from them and improve. I’ve overcome it and I’m now really happy to do more live-streams.”
It may seem contradictory for someone with such a sizeable presence on social media and a major following among music festivals for DJ Soda to express concern about people’s comments, but she admits being aware of the constant accusations that she is all style over substance.
“There are so many people who say I do fake DJ-ing, or I’m just performing and not DJ-ing and whatnot. But I want people to know how hard I’ve worked for my career. It’s been 10 years since I started DJ-ing. I started out with turntables and now I can DJ with an LP. I have my own style that’s different from other DJs and I really want people to know the music is important, not just my performance.”
She admits to taking a year off from being active on social media because of the reactions she was getting, but ended up having a mindset change after the experience.
“At first, when I read all the negative comments aimed at me, I took a year off to rest and not think about anything. But after I took a year off, there were no comments. I realised that no comments is a scarier thing than having negative comments, so I started taking in all the comments to try to turn them into something I could grow from.”
DJ Soda still isn’t able to perform as much as she’d like, with the K-pop Superfest event being her first in two months, but she’s working on more music even as the pandemic is still hindering festivals and club scenes around the world.
Though she has yet to sing on any of her songs, she says she hopes people can hear her voice along with her music soon.
DJ Soda, whose stage name comes from her school nickname hwangso-da, the Korean term for “a cow”, has been DJ-ing since high school. While her parents thought she was doing schoolwork, she was actually surfing the web and discovering new music. Soon she discovered electronic music and hip-hop.
“I fell into hip-hop, which cured my heart when I was sad, because it made me really feel through the beat. I started to realise I wanted to DJ. I began as a hip-hop DJ, and still have a focus on hip-hop beats. Nowadays, the performances where I’m jumping up and down and feel that feeling in my heart … those moments are when I’m the happiest.”
Her early DJ favourites were Diplo and Yellow Claw, though she admits she hopes she can get a worldwide number one hit song “like the Chainsmokers”.
Now that she’s gained a growing reputation, she admits it’s still a surprise to her.
“I never knew I’d be this big. I still don’t have an exact idea why people love me, but I think it may be my bright image. I am always really happy and showing positive vibes. People always comment on my posts, ‘You’re smiling all the time.’ And because I’m a female DJ, a lot of my female fans saw me and realised they also can become a DJ and they told me. That really is inspiring me to continue on this path.”