IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Cutie aims for staying power

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Aug 15, 2013

The song is Gwiyomi and so is the singer.

The term is Korean slang for "cutie" and Hari, the singer of the hit song, could well pass for a manga character in person.

At a media conference held at her distributor Warner Music Singapore's office on Monday, she was dressed in a cream and black dress with dainty pink nails, her hair done up in two little buns.

The 23-year-old also had a variety of gestures to accompany her responses. They range from holding up her hands to cover her face to sticking her tongue out. When asked to demonstrate what she looks like when she is angry, she gives herself pretend-horns with her fingers.

Speaking through an interpreter, she says, though: "I don't intentionally try to be cute, but people around me say that my actions are cute. Maybe it's also because of the song's cute image."

She performs the ditty with a series of cutesy hand movements and, for the final flourish, she lightly kisses the five fingers of one hand and the thumb of the other hand.

The video went viral early this year and has since been covered by fans across the region, as well as top South Korean groups such as Super Junior and Girls' Generation.

While some have speculated on the Internet that it was BtoB boyband member Jung Il Hoon who came up with the song, Hari clarifies that this was not the case at all.

She says: "The lyrics have been going around in Korea without anyone claiming the rights to it, so have the actions. But we added the melody to it and released it officially." She thinks it might have been a high school student who came up with the gestures.

Hari's manager interjects to add that Jung did the male version of Gwiyomi and that is why people think he came up with it.

So, for the record, Hari is the original singer of the official version released on Feb 18. Her video of the song has notched up more than 4.4 million views on YouTube.

It is her first single and it seems to have come about entirely by chance. Before becoming a singer, she had part-time jobs such as waitressing and working at a computer gaming centre.

Hari, who lives in Seoul, got to know Dandi, a record producer, as he was "someone in my neighbourhood". It was Dandi who approached her to sing the Gwiyomi song and had her audition over the telephone. "I didn't even know he was a producer before that," she adds with peals of laughter.

Thanks to the popularity of the song, she flew on a plane for the first time to come to Singapore for a promotion tour. She heads to the Philippines and Hong Kong next. Unfortunately, flying is not an experience she relishes.

With pretend shivers, she says: "I have an acute fear of heights and I had to take some medicine to slow down my heart rate. Even then, I felt quite scared and was sweating and didn't enjoy the flight."

Besides promoting the single, she had some time to see the sights here as well. Her favourite attraction is the Merlion and she demonstrates how she posed with it, as though the water spouts right at her.

Hari is not the only one enjoying her success. She says: "My parents like the fact that I've become famous and my younger brother likes to show off that I'm his sister."

If she is worried about being pegged as a one-hit wonder, she is certainly not showing it. She adds: "I don't mind if the song is more popular than the singer, that's fine."

Having stumbled into singing, Hari, who is single, is now determined to make it work. She says: "I'm going to work really hard and I see myself being a singer for a long time."

bchan@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Aug 15, 2013

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