hannah bahng Copes with Abysmal Experiences and Emotions on Debut EP

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Although it may seem that 20-year-old newcomer hannah bahng is at the beginning of her journey as a music artist, her roots within music run deep. After discovering her passion for music at a young age, she began chasing her dreams, learning to play the piano and guitar and participating in auditions for Korean entertainment agencies, such as JYP Entertainment. Despite her career not commencing how she initially envisioned, she did not give up, creating vlogs on her YouTube channel, which has amassed over 1.7 million subscribers, in 2021 and later starting a music career as an independent artist under her label, Bahng Entertainment, last year. Now, hannah has opened another new chapter of her career, releasing her first project, The Abysmal EP.

Her multilayered talent is present in every area of this EP, including her songwriting, music video directing, choreography, composition, and production. She kept collaborative efforts to a minimum, mainly working alongside producer Andrew Luce to complete the project. In an EP entirely written by hannah, she utilizes various different genres, including pop, alternative, and R&B, to candidly reveal impactful stories of self-discovery in her teenage years. 

In her interpretation of what listeners can expect prior to consuming the EP, hannah explains that it is entirely representative of her, which means some elements are more somber than others.

“The project explores many different sides of me that might not always be positive. It’s like I ripped a couple of pages from my diary and sent it into the world,” hannah states.

The seven-track EP commences with “OLeander,” a captivating alternative pop B-side track she released last summer alongside the EP’s final song, her debut single “perfect blues.” “OLeander” combines hannah’s yearning for a questionable lover with the Greek mythology of Hero and Leander. In this Greek mythology, love leads the couple to their deaths. Leander drowns in the ocean while trying to meet Hero on a stormy night. Upon finding out what happened to Leander, Hero joins him in death. Hannah interprets this dark tale, singing beautifully about a tempting love that can lead to demise. She co-choreographed and directed a fascinating performance video for “OLeander,” where she further emoted this mournful story through contemporary dance.

The EP dives into an even darker direction with “POMEGRANATE,” a mystical alternative R&B song where hannah loves someone who causes her immense paranoia. Similar to “OLeander,” this song pulls inspiration from Greek mythology, this time utilizing the story of Hades and Persephone. In this mythical tale, Hades falls in love with Persephone and takes her to the underworld to marry him, despite her not reciprocating his love at the beginning of their relationship. Hannah conveys this by describing wanting to be with someone, despite the range of unstable emotions that come with the potential of unrequited love. The way hannah intensely evokes her deep emotions with every lyric is amplified through exceptional alternative-rock instrumentation, especially the fascinating electric guitar solo that closes out the song.  

A more mellow approach is taken with “Vertigo,” a pop song that highlights her vocals due to its simplistic piano production. Although most of the song strictly features hannah and a piano, it depicts waves of changes, as the piano speeds up and slows between the verses and choruses, complementing the emotion in her delivery. The tempo heightens the most toward the end when an electric guitar and additional background vocals commence. 

Not only does the instrumentation take the listener through a journey, but the lyrics do as well. Hannah is constantly running from her emotions, feeling like she is always in a state of vertigo, or feeling dizzy and unsteady. “My head’s in a car that’s driving away a hundred miles per hour / As I’m terrified and scared of what’s to come / I want to feel euphoric, but abandoned by mine,” hannah sings. She describes her constant thoughts, from feeling the adrenaline of life’s fast-paced movement to feeling worried and afraid.

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The latter tribulation is given greater depth with “hannah interlude,” a short piano ballad she wrote, composed, and produced solely. She reveals her fear of future changes. However, she intentionally included an encouraging voicemail from her mother to wrap up the song.

A beautiful, airy pop ballad with some elements of classical music, “Abysmal” showcases the difficulty in processing emotions and knowing the answers to everything, especially resonating with the youth. “Raking in all the knowledge of the world does no good / Yet there they stood / Questions left unanswered bother my soul / Racing through lack of fuel,” hannah sings.

Hannah interprets “Abysmal” through movement in its music video, which she directed. In a YouTube livestream for the EP, hannah revealed she relearned the art of ballet specifically for this video, as she had not danced ballet since the age of 12. Dusting off her ballet slippers and perfecting her moves, she does ethereal ballet choreography, capturing the frustration described in the lyrics.

Before hitting the play button, the next song’s title, “tonight’s the night i die to a frank ocean song,” is intriguing, insinuating an intense story is bound to be told. This emotional pop song describes a vivid experience hannah had on a flight with turbulence so intense, that she felt she might die. Along with the alluring title and storytelling, her stunning introductory vocalization and lighthearted closing sentiment were minor details that lent to the song’s tale as she captured fear with the introduction and relief at the end. 

There is an air of sorrow throughout The Abysmal EP, but a slight shift occurs in the optimistic tone of the EP’s closer, “perfect blues.” This drum, guitar, and ukulele-filled pop song shows hannah recognizing fears about her music career while being excited for what is to come. “I scream pleading to take me, take me far away / I feel guilty singing take me, I slumber today / Oh, I pray to make new waves, feeling blue, a phase,” hannah sings.

Although many lyrics throughout hannah’s EP touch on the turmoil and uncertainty of processing emotions at a young age, her reflective interpretation of events in her life, immaculate production value, and eye for enticing visual representations of her songs show her ability to transform negatively into beauty. Throughout the project, any new listener can leave having learned a lot about hannah’s life and thought process while potentially relating to her in some way.

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