K-Pop songstress Wheein has charmed audiences with her presence as part of the four-piece ensemble, MAMAMOO. Amidst the impressive ensemble of accolades and achievements, the 26-year-old departed from RBW Entertainment in June 2021, ready to spread her wings and venture into new territory as a full-fledged solo artist. Nine months after the release of her stunning debut EP, Redd, she launched head first into her solo career after signing with The L1VE. Founded by VIXX’s RAVI, the newly-established label aims to foster the growth and creativity of musicians across various genres.
On January 16, Wheein released her highly anticipated second mini-album, WHEE. The album paints a sonic image of the singer’s growth and transformation. The album title, WHEE, comes from the first syllable of her name. While her aunt was the first to stumble upon the name in a book, it was her own mother who coined the beautiful meaning behind it. Combining the corresponding hanja characters meaning “light/shine” and “person,” the singer’s name literally translates to “shining person,” evoking the idea of becoming a person who radiates positivity to others and in her endeavors. In her concept film, “STORY FILM: The Light,” Wheein introduces the album’s theme through a poetic dialogue describing light as “the root of all things, something that ceaselessly changes” and “the source that keeps [her] alive.” In the end of the video, the hanja character for “light” was projected onto Wheein’s face, further tying her identity into the album.
“Thanks to the love and attention of our Moomoos, my colleagues and I were able to wholeheartedly focus on this project. As much as I’ve laid bare my emotions and thoughts in this album, I hope my voice will reach your hearts and many of you will find the songs relatable. Through my upcoming album promotions, I’ll concentrate on showing the various sides of me. I ask for your continued interest and support!”– Wheein
With the support of her new label and musicians such as GROOVL1N’s K-R&B singer-songwriter Xydo, Sam Klempner (BTS, Monsta X, Tomorrow x Together, NCT, etc.), and RAVI, Wheein crafted a no-skip, six-track album that evokes the mystic, enigmatic, and colorful light of Wheein’s musicality. “I was very excited to share this album with my fans before the release,” she confessed to Kpopconcerts.com. “Now that it is out and getting so much more love than I expected, I’m having very good days!” Upon its release, WHEE instantly charted at #1 in 14 countries on iTunes and ranked #4 on the Gaon Weekly Album Chart. Meanwhile the title track, “Make Me Happy” also charted at #1 in eight countries on iTunes and secured Wheein the coveted first place win on M! Countdown.
WHEE is a testament to Wheein’s identity and rebirth as a solo artist. The album kicks off with title track “Make Me Happy.” Captivating listeners with it’s up-tempo beat and heavy bass, the song sings of overcoming obstacles and learning to fully embrace who you are and who you’ve become. The accompanying Alice in Wonderland-inspired music video follows Wheein after she falls down a wormhole and wakes up in a house, stuck in a seamlessly endless time loop. Using a one-shot film technique, the video shows Wheein navigating through various rooms, each displaying key motifs such as flowers and butterflies. As the song progresses and the video “loops” back to the first room, Wheein and her surroundings undergo a transformation. The once dull and dim rooms are painted in vibrant colors and are nearly filled to the brim with flowers and butterflies. In the final loop, Wheein is completely engulfed in a heap of flowers before transforming into a flock of butterflies. A vibrant blue butterfly in a display case is left behind with a placard that changes from “whee” to “in the mood,” referencing the singer’s Instagram handle. In an interview with NME, Wheein shared that magnolias appeared in her mother’s conception dream, symbolizing her birth, while butterflies were often associated with her since her youth, often referred to by her mother as a “butterfly child.”
As listeners fall down the rabbit hole and immerse themselves into the album, they can feel the warmth, love, and comfort that Wheein radiates throughout her music. Her soft vocals in “Pink Cloud” offers a warm, consoling hug and paints a sonic fairytale landscape with lyrics such as “The sunset at the end of the day / The gray sky turns pink / When we look at the bright light that we can see at first glance through the white clouds / we experience the feeling of being covered with sweet air.” She further projects her love in “Letter Filled With Light,” a sequel to her last fan song “Springtime.” While “Springtime” welcomes listeners to anticipate her impending transformation, “Letter Filled with Light” directly addresses fans who have helped her to shine bright above adversity. The lyric-less “Deserve (Interlude)” utilizes minimal sounds and breathy airy tones to segue listeners into the more robust songs on the album. Wheein’s confidence grows in “Pastel.” Through playful melodies and flirty undertones, the song compares her blooming desire for her lover’s attention to that of pastel colors in a palette. The closing number, “Paraglide” leaves listeners with a desire to leave their worries and convictions behind, take a leap of faith, and live in the moment.
During her busy schedule, Wheein found time to speak with Kpopconcerts.com to delve further into the album, thoughts on her new start, and how she plans to approach music in this next chapter of her life.
KPC: Congratulations on your new album, WHEE! How were you feeling leading up to its release and how do you feel now that it’s out?
Wheein: I was very excited to share this album with my fans before the release. Now that it is out and getting so much more love that I expected, I’m having very good days.
KPC: From the butterflies to the magnolias, you’ve embedded aspects of yourself into the music video for “Make Me Happy.” Could you tell us more about the creative process when working on this music video?
Wheein: This album was filled with my identity, so there are many symbols that represent me. The music video also required very detailed and diverse art installations. Each piece had to be handled very carefully so the whole shoot time was very long. In the end, I’m happy with such an artistic music video.
KPC: For this album, you worked with RAVI and international producers and composers. What was that experience like and how has it influenced you and your approach to music in any way? What about the creative process of this album excited you the most?
Wheein: Working with different people in a new environment was a fresh stimulation for me. It was an opportunity for me to re-discover my charms, which led me to have higher self-esteem and a more positive attitude. These changes were huge inside me and they’re also included in the album.
KPC: All six songs emit warm, comforting sounds for your listeners to enjoy. What has brought you the most happiness and comfort these days?
Wheein: I get a lot of good energy from my staff, and I usually get happy by feeling accomplished doing what I have to do. But first and foremost, I’m happy when my parents are proud of me.
KPC: “Letter Filled with Light” builds on your last song, “Springtime,” and serves as a love letter to your fans. What are some of your most cherished memories that you’ve shared with your fans?
Wheein: Every memory with fans is precious and I’m always thankful. Sometimes too thankful to express in words. They make me a better person, so I want to make my fans happy too.
KPC: The closing song “Paraglide” is about erasing your worries and focusing on the beautiful moments in life. How do you relax and unwind after a long day at work?
Wheein: I relax by having a good time with my loved ones. I would unwind drinking and talking with them.
KPC: As an artist that continues to evolve, what have been some of your favorite compliments that you’ve received on any of your pieces thus far?
Wheein: ‘Thank you for singing’, ‘You’re good at everything’, ‘I’m proud of you’, words like these truly make me feel invincible and help me to keep high self-esteem and positive attitude. I’d like to thank everyone for their kind words.
KPC: Whether with music or art, do you have any rituals that you do to tap into your creative mindset?
Wheein: I don’t particularly have a ritual, but I tend to do image training in my head a lot, and I also talk a lot when I’m nervous.
KPC: You’ve accomplished so much over your career. What are some dreams or goals that you are still chasing?
Wheein: As I’m continuing my career, I realize that it is very hard to be consistent. My goal is to steadily build an amazing career as an artist.
KPC: Thank you for your time! Do you have any messages that you would like to send to your international fans?
Wheein: I hope I can meet face to face with all international fans soon, let’s fight this hard time together. Thank you so much for your love and support. Stay safe, I love you!
Special thanks to Wheein and The L1VE for this interview opportunity!