On the resurgence of HANN and the concepts behind (G)I-DLE's most emotive mini-album yet
In 2018, the same year they made their debut, South Korean girl group (G)I-DLE released a track called HANN. With the English title Alone, the track orbits around the Korean concept of han, a complicated cluster of feelings with no direct translation. Han is a labyrinthine emotional state; it is grief, sorrow, remorse and regret, all rolled into one single-syllable word.
To the members of (G)I-DLE, this very emotion would also be the springboard they’d launch off of and chart their growth. And just three years later, the group has come full circle.
Their EP, I burn, opens with a track of the same name. HANN, this time with the English title Alone in Winter, paints a picture of han’s complexities once more—only this time, it’s more than just a tell-all of the bitterness that accompanies a breakup. The 2021 rendition of HANN doubles down on the emotion, fully basking in the complexities of a feeling that pulls you in different directions. There are interesting points of connection in the lyrics (the 2021 version of HANN’s verse “As if the promise to erase you / was a lie as well” links back to the 2018 original’s hook “I’ll forget you” and “I’ll erase you”) and in the instrumentals (both tracks are built on dramatic strings and piano riffs), but I burn’s opener is easily a step up in terms of maturity and sound.
HANN (Alone in Winter) sets the stage for the rest of (G)I-DLE’s tracks off I burn. Emotive, dramatic and all linked together by a central theme of parting.
HWAA, their title track for this comeback, takes the idea of separation a step further with its imagery. “When we first started planning for the concept, the image we had in mind was a woman caught in winter,” shares Soyeon, the team leader. They developed three concepts—winter, flower and fire—which would then become central themes for HWAA and I burn at large. She explains, “There is an order to them. The three concepts come together to convey the message that you set fire to the winter-like frozen heart to bloom a flower. Winter represents the emotions frozen cold because of a breakup. Fire is the will to melt the frozen heart. Flower is the new love that comes after once we have fully confronted a breakup.”
This fusion of themes reflects sonically as well, with an engrossing back-and-forth between tension and softness. The same can be said about the choreography, with the soft, flowing arm movements stiffening and intensifying in the chorus.
“We are singers to begin with, and we also write music. All our members are artists,” explains Soyeon, whom the group proudly calls their “quality guarantee mark” due to her heavy involvement in the production of (G)I-DLE’s albums. “Instead of focusing on how we should convey concepts, we focused more on delivering sentiments. We wanted to share those emotions like a novel with the audience.”
Members Minnie and Yuqi in particular had the opportunity to bring their ideas to the table with self-composed tracks. MOON, composed by Minnie alongside FCM Houdini and 667, builds up and releases a gradual tension, leading up to a palate-cleansing touch of rock in its bridge. She shares, “It’s been a while since my song got to be on (G)I-DLE’s Korean album. I feel very proud and incredibly excited for this. I’ve always been making music, but making it onto an album wasn’t easy to achieve.” Minnie also partook in the composition and writing of DAHLIA, the final track on the EP.
“This album feels like a gift for me too,” Yuqi chimes in. LOST, Yuqi’s self-composed and self-written pop dance track, arguably has the most interesting melodies on the entirety of I burn. “This is the first time my own self-composed song made it on the album. Only one track of mine made it this time, but it still let me prove that I can make music.”
Special thanks Cube Entertainment and MCA Music Philippines
Art Alexandra Lara