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Kwon Eun Bi feels like she has grown stronger as she embarks on a solo K-pop career after 12-member girl group IZ*ONE, of which she was the leader, disbanded earlier this year. Her debut solo single Door and mini-album Open were released this week. Photo: Woollim Entertainment.

Former IZ*ONE leader Kwon Eun Bi on her debut solo single Door and album Open, and how they mark a new era for her after K-pop girl group disbanded

  • Kwon is the first ex-member of IZ*ONE to go solo, and says she feels ready to show off ‘Kwon Eun Bi, myself’ by making her own music
  • Speaking ahead of the release of her first solo songs, some of which she co-wrote, she admits to some anxiety but says ‘I’ve grown stronger’
Tamar Hermanin United States

As one of 12 members of K-pop girl group IZ*ONE, Kwon Eun Bi was launched to fame in 2018, and served as the band’s leader. Now she’s the first one to begin a solo career after the group’s break-up earlier this year.

“I feel good overall, but I have a lot of weight on my shoulders about needing to show my own colours. It’s my first time, so I’m trying to show myself as best as I can to everyone,” she says over a video call from Seoul ahead of the release of her first EP, Open, on August 24, which is fronted by the single Door.

As a member of IZ*ONE, Kwon was associated with the colour purple, but that’s not one of the three colours she thinks describes her style as a soloist. “First is red!” she declares. “White and black too. Because I have a lot of passion, so red, while white is for purity and prettiness, but also there’s a sense of chicness, so that’s the black.”

IZ*ONE was formed as a multi-year, but temporary, K-pop girl group through the competition television programme Produce 48. Although the show, and IZ*ONE’s final lineup, was ultimately determined to have been rigged, the band saw a lot of love from the very start of their career until the end of it, and each of the dozen Korean and Japanese women who were part of it have become celebrity darlings.

While Kwon is the first one to release a solo album, anticipation is high about what others will do, especially as there is talk of several members joining subsidiaries of Hybe Corp., the label of superstar K-pop boy band BTS.

On the song Rain, also known as Rainy Road in Korean, there’s a line, “You won’t disappear even if you’re rained on.” While the song, which she co-wrote, is about an ex-lover, the line feels representative of Kwon’s struggle to get where she is now: while IZ*ONE was Kwon’s highest-profile project to date, she had previously been part of another girl group, Ye-A, which released their first and only single in 2014, when she was a teenager.

I created that song really thinking about its performance style, and wanting to show a side to myself I had never shown before
Kwon Eun Bi on her single Door

Now 25 years old and on the third stage of her career, Kwon admits to feeling some stress and anxiety, as well as excitement, while preparing for her first solo release after everything that’s preceded it, but felt the support of fans online as they anticipated the arrival of Door.

Open is meant to show the world who Kwon Eun Bi is as a soloist, but she carries all her previous work experience with her. “I feel like [throughout it all] my mindset has changed, and I’ve learned to accept things. I’ve grown stronger, like a tree [growing up from a seedling].”

Kwon took a hands-on role in planning the album from its early stages, and has lyric writing credits on another of the six tracks in addition to the funky, electro-swing Door.

“I created that song really thinking about its performance style, and wanting to show a side to myself I had never shown before. ‘I can suit anything, I can sing anything, I can show you guys anything’, that’s what was on my mind while creating Door,” she says.

“As a songwriter, when working on songs for IZ*ONE as a group, I really drew on my imagination, but as a solo artist I drew on my life and also some books.”

In the case of Door, she thought about children’s books, and the music video from the song features an Alice In Wonderland concept. She also was inspired by the books of South Korean pop-culture critic Hee A Park, including one that features a series of interviews with different celebrities, which Kwon says she knows many K-pop idols have also read.

“I want to make my own music,” says Kwon Eun Bi. Photo: Woollim Entertainment

One question Kwon thought about a lot based on those celebrity interviews was, “Are you content with your own life?” At the moment, on the verge of this new Open-ing, she says she’s about 60 per cent content.

“I want to fill that other 40 per cent with my skills as I improve and grow. Every day I’m always feeling that need to get better. Right now, I’m focusing especially on developing as a singer since now I’m a soloist. It’s so much more difficult, I really felt while working on this album that all the solo artists out there are really amazing people.”

Kwon feels she has grown from the experience of creating her first solo release. The album is a new beginning for her as a soloist, but represents the culmination of her determination to become a successful pop star.

“When I was a trainee, I only had one goal, to debut. When I was in IZ*ONE, my goal was to be loved by everyone. Now, since I’ve debuted and since I now am receiving love, I want to make my own music, and that’s what I’m trying to do right now. Just trying to show off ‘Kwon Eun Bi, myself’ through my songs.”