With 28 Reasons, the K-pop idol is carving her own path.
Seulgi is a certified ace. Best known as Red Velvet’s lead vocalist and main dancer, she’s a fluid, ever-evolving K-pop idol. It would be an understatement to say she’s grown since debuting with the group in 2014 and forming a subunit with Red Velvet’s Irene in 2020 before joining the SM Entertainment group, GOT the beat, earlier this year. Her debut solo EP, 28 Reasons, is just the icing on the cake. The six-song release visually and sonically explores the dichotomy between good and evil and shows Seulgi has the skill to stand on her own.
Speaking to me from Seoul during a Zoom call in late September, Seulgi exudes confidence. “Because this is my solo debut, I wanted to do a song that I could best pull off,” she says. “I felt like [the song] was the best concept for me as it brings out my strength and unique vocal color.” Seulgi says she was given creative freedom to explore how, exactly, to differentiate herself as a solo artist from her Red Velvet persona. “I was able to give a lot of opinions on what I was most comfortable and most confident with,” she says, including the EP’s artwork and title track to the choreography.
In the eerie “28 Reasons” music video, Seulgi awakens from a mattress in an open field with a chain firmly attached to her neck before the video cuts to her and backup dancers breaking into a choreographed routine. In another sequence, the concept’s dark vibe is paired with her costume, black leather pants and a maroon bustier top.
The EP’s teaser images and photo book are just as detailed. She’s dressed as Snow White and Grimhilde (the Evil Queen in Snow White) and explores how good and evil coexist within one person. Seulgi also tried her hand at songwriting, penning the lyrics for the explosive R&B track “Dead Man Runnin’.” The visual trailer for the EP consists of six sequences, each one representing a song and an exploration of both the mischievous and innocent sides of Seulgi’s personality.
“I really enjoyed shooting the visual for the trailer and my music video. I was able to try some acting and work on a fresh concept,” she says. On the set of the shoot, Seulgi recalls, she became emotional when she received coffee and a comforting snack cart from her family. “They gave me a lot of energy because of their support, and I was touched because it was their first time seeing me in my professional mode,” she says.
It’s been a long journey here for Seulgi. She joined SM Entertainment as a trainee when she was just 13 in 2007. “Throughout my long career with SM Entertainment, I have been fortunate to get involved in many collaborations with many different colors and concepts. I learned to be versatile,” she says. “With 28 Reasons, I’m able to challenge myself and feed into my own vocal colors and unique concepts.”
Throughout Red Velvet’s several eras — from “Happiness” to “Feel My Rhythm” — Seulgi has proven herself as a beast on stage, a versatile dancer who commands attention and is described as an “ace” by fans. Just check out her moves during live performances of “Naughty,” “Step Back,” and “Be Natural.” From precise finger tutting to energetic dancing and sultry choreography, she demonstrates her star quality. Plus, her impeccable vocal delivery and charisma carry fans into a trance. “I’m very humbled and flattered to learn that my fans call me an ace,” she says. “I find myself being too hard on myself because I don’t like making mistakes and want to do better. So my fans give me good energy and motivation to always do better.”
Seulgi isn’t only adored by her fans but her fellow Red Velvet members, too. Members Irene and Wendy came out to support Seulgi and visited her filming site. In a reaction video on YouTube, the members sing her praises and celebrate her solo efforts. Her success comes to her naturally — 28 Reasons has reached No. 1 in 40 countries on iTunes and has spent three days at No. 1 on the Worldwide iTunes Album charts, making it the longest charting album at No. 1 by a Korean female soloist. It’s crucial to note that not all members in K-pop girl groups branch out and become soloists. Reflecting on this, Seulgi emphasizes how grateful she is to debut on her own: “Not everyone has the chance to debut as a soloist, so I’m very happy and honored to work on this project.”
Beyond the K-pop world, Seulgi has dipped her feet into the fashion industry, most recently attending Peter Do’s Spring/Summer 2023 New York Fashion Week show. “It was amazing to see the show come together, and I felt very powerful and confident in the outfit fitted for me. I think K-pop and fashion are very important and influence each other,” Seulgi says. Seulgi was also selected as the first K-pop idol to be a global ambassador for the luxury Italian brand Salvatore Ferragamo. Since then, she has collaborated with brands such as Korean cosmetics brand Amuse, Volkswagen, Coca-Cola, and Converse Korea. Her talents don’t stop there, either. Seulgi is an artist at heart and even drew some artwork for the EP.
Carving out her path with 28 Reasons is a testament to her dedication and success. By tapping into her own unique vocal color and concepts, she tells the world she’s here to stay. “My solo debut is definitely the biggest highlight of my career so far,” she says. “I’m really honored because I’m able to be open and express further thoughts on this body of work as Seulgi, because it’s my own.”