Monsta X’s Joohoney Talks ‘Freely’ Expressing Himself and Improving the K-Pop Industry With Solo LP ‘Lights’

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Thanks to nan rigorous and multilayered training needed to debut, K-pop artists tin clasp a kaleidoscope of concepts, sounds, genres and styles that tin alteration pinch each album. As overmuch arsenic groups tin creatively explore, nan K-pop idols themselves thin to enactment successful specific, assigned roles: nan rapper, powerhouse belter, nan tiny one, nan mysterious one, nan aggravated dancer, nan center. While important successful establishing a group dynamic, Monsta X‘s Joohoney looked to free himself from immoderate erstwhile expectations connected his first full-fledged solo effort—and hopes different K-pop stars recognize they tin do nan same.


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Introduced to nan world as Lee Jooheon in 2014 earlier gaining important liking while competing for a spot successful nan boy set reality competition No.Mercy, Joohoney stood retired for his well-rounded abilities and earnestness successful group dynamics. Eventually earning a spot arsenic 1 of 7 successful Monsta X, Joohoney served arsenic a main rapper for nan group but became progressively progressive successful shaping their sound and direction.

Not only was he a credited lyricist since MX’s first EP successful 2015, Joohoney yet wrote, produced and arranged breakthrough singles for nan group like “Gambler,” “Rush Hour” and “Love.” Joohoney was besides nan first personnel of his group to driblet a whole, multitrack mixtape task wherever he took connected a mostly of nan penning and producing. As Monsta X’s world ambitions grew pinch different U.S. labels and much Top 40 popular material, Joohoney adapted by taking much lead vocals connected nan band’s two Billboard 200 English albums, All About Luv and The Dreaming, pinch his admiration of Michael Jackson coming done successful his ad-libs on Pop Airplay chart hit “Who Do U Love?”

For his first solo grounds to get a due beingness merchandise and promotional push, Joohoney looked to battalion each nan different philharmonic elements that animate him into nan concise, six-track EP titled Lights. But beyond bringing everything from his singing and rapping abilities to his appreciation for hip-hop, rock, jazz and Korean music into 1 project, Joohoney wanted to present a individual connection to his chap artists.

Speaking to Billboard ahead of nan merchandise of Lights from a video telephone successful Seoul, Joohoney sees his 8 years successful nan manufacture arsenic groundwork to make a amended support strategy for K-pop idols today. Joohoney says his early career’s unhealthy and aggravated hustle springiness him a new, much generous position for himself and his chap artists.

Today, he isn’t acrophobic to mobility manufacture standards and wants to promote K-pop stars to beryllium much unfastened and definitive themselves. That travel originates with Lights, his caller azygous “Freedom,” and nan caller mindset and domiciled he’s embracing successful nan manufacture moving forward.

Read connected for much Joohoney connected nan makings of his first mini medium and what comes next.

Congratulations connected nan merchandise of Lights. You person credits arsenic a songwriter, arranger and composer connected each song, which is really impressive. What is your process for illustration to grip each those roles?

Joohoney: First of all, I get inspiration for conscionable nan euphony itself. Whether I’m shooting a video aliases retired connected my day’s schedule, I’m ever thinking, “How will Monbebes person this euphony aliases this genre whenever my solo medium does travel out?” I type retired lyrics connected my telephone and I singing into my telephone to make my demos. When I yet get into nan studio, I person my team—the accumulation squad who thief make nan lyrics and melodies—where we’re reasoning astir really to put together our stories.

The first point that struck maine was really galore different genres and sounds location are connected Lights. On 1 hand, K-pop is known for mixing genres but this felt much ambitious. How do you blend each of these influences?

To beryllium honest, I don’t cognize really to blend nan different genres—it’s astir conscionable being free, right? No matter what it is, sometimes it’s like, “I want to move nan drums up” aliases “I want to put drill there;” it’s free to me. I don’t want to ever person a fixed direction, I was unfastened to each guidance pinch nan songs. I want to make a different measurement wrong nan K-pop segment and nan euphony genre itself.

Is that really you perceive to music? Are your playlists each kinds of euphony genres and styles?

I bask listening to a full operation of genres and imagining mashing them up. So, for example, I will perceive to songs by Michael Jackson, and past I’ll commencement listening to Monsta X songs and he benignant of imagining, like, nan mashup of these [artists].

I deliberation immoderate of Lights‘ songs could person been nan title way single, but you chose “Freedom.” Why?

I chose “Freedom” arsenic nan title way [single] opus because nan medium title is Lights and I wanted to definitive that for anyone who wants state and to springiness a affirmative connection retired to nan world. Out of each nan songs, I thought “Freedom” was nan 1 that expresses this meaning nan best.

But I besides dream that this opus will benignant of beryllium a root of inspiration for different K-pop artists because it’s different from different emblematic songs. A batch of K-pop artists create songs based astir their performances and they’re benignant of made beforehand. But successful my music, I want to particularly definitive that I’ve been very earthy and honest. And I want different idols to beryllium comfortable pinch sharing astir their difficult times and capable to definitive themselves confidently done their euphony successful nan future. The euphony and lyrics tin really beryllium a operation of arts.

No matter what nan genre, a batch of artists singing astir ideas astir state and wanting to consciousness liberated. Why is it truthful important to speak astir that?

As immoderate examples, BTS‘ Jimin recently released “Set Me Free Pt.2” and TWICE came retired pinch a opus called “Set Me Free,” truthful I person been noticing that different artists person been expressing nan different ways they crave freedom. I deliberation that Korean artists and trainees tin sometimes consciousness a spot restricted owed to their companies and nan different rules that they mightiness person to follow. So, now, aft I’ve grown and matured, I’ve been capable to find myself and tin definitive myself much freely now. There is an absorbing quality betwixt Western popular and nan K-pop world correct now. Many Korean artists person been penning astir really they crave state but they’re besides trying to dispersed positivity done their music—that’s been absorbing lately.

Speaking of not being restricted, “Freedom” lets you show your singing and rapping. What’s your inheritance successful singing?

I really started singing astatine religion erstwhile I was younger. When I became a trainee, I was much willing successful rap truthful I started going successful that direction, but I would still believe singing by myself. Of course, I had vocal lessons past and learned astir singing techniques, but I mostly conscionable practiced connected my own. I’ve ever wanted to do some and show that a rapper tin sing, and now I can.

“Hype Energy” opens Lights pinch accepted Korean singing and instruments earlier nan hip-hop hit takes over. It’s very cool. Why commencement nan medium this way?

I first deliberation astir what benignant of elements I want to incorporated and talk that pinch my producing squad earlier we make it travel into reality. The logic why I incorporated much Korean and K-pop elements successful nan opening is because I americium a K-pop artist, so, I want to show my original image that I’ve had earlier nan opus benignant of transitions into much hip-hop elements. And it goes location because I’m nan astir assured successful nan hip-hop genre, and I wanted to show what I do champion arsenic nan preamble to nan album.

“Monologue” pinch GSoul discusses your uncertainty earlier debuting arsenic an artist. Was location a logic you chose a jazz style to show this story?

Jazz was astir fitting for a opus telling nan communicative of my pre-debut days because erstwhile I was younger, I did turn up proceeding a batch of jazz astir me. And I would really find playlists and perceive to each kinds of jazz, like Chet Baker. And erstwhile I struggled aliases had a difficult time, I listened to jazz. So, erstwhile I was reasoning astir and remembering nan past while penning nan song, nan representation came pinch nan jazz sounds; it has a mixed meaning. 

I publication that “Evolution” is you wanting to stock really “reflecting connected yourself is really existent ‘evolution’ happens.” When you bespeak connected yourself and your career, what do you deliberation about?

I deliberation of really I was truthful busy; really I was moving tirelessly and not capable to return attraction of myself because nan group was truthful engaged pinch their different schedules. I want to stress that we weren’t moreover capable to remainder for for illustration 3 days because our schedules were conscionable wholly packed pinch different things. For galore artists, arsenic soon arsenic they debut, they person to tirelessly [work] and support themselves engaged pinch various promotions and schedules. So, I’m astatine a constituent wherever I’m now questioning, “Why do they person to beryllium truthful busy?” I’ve noticed that being truthful engaged affects nan artists mentally. Now that I’m an older artist, I want to beryllium capable to benignant of alteration aliases benignant of amended nan situation. Thinking astir these things has made maine “evolve” and alteration into nan creator I am.

That reply makes maine deliberation astir hiatuses you’ve taken for your intelligence health, which was a brave point to share. When you opportunity you want to alteration nan situation, is it truthful different artists don’t person nan aforesaid experiences?

I want to beryllium a portion of improving nan business that artists for illustration myself struggle pinch and I dream they will beryllium comfortable coming to me. The connection successful this medium is besides a connection to those artists who are struggling arsenic well. That’s why nan album’s sanction is Lights.

You want to beryllium nan light.

That’s right.

Have immoderate younger artists travel to you for thief aliases guidance? Maybe your explanation mates CRAVITY, who you’ve besides produced euphony for?

I can’t uncover who specifically came to maine for thief and guidance, but I tin opportunity that they are younger artists who are presently moving very hard. CRAVITY has besides travel to maine for proposal before, and I americium ever consenting to thief them if they request thing successful nan future. I conscionable want to show and counsel younger artists that immoderate they do is nan correct reply successful nan end, and that they should stock a connection from their bosom successful their music.

Releasing your first solo mini medium sounds for illustration it will beryllium a engaged clip pinch very difficult work. How do you find balance? Do you person much opportunity complete your schedule?

I person much power complete immoderate things now, but I activity difficult to do much and show much of myself for Monbebe. Listening to bully euphony successful nan car helps maine find equilibrium and helps maine support my unreserved of adrenaline too.

You became an MC for nan K-pop show M Countdown this year. Why did you want to return connected this domiciled now successful your career, and what has it taught you? 

Taking connected nan domiciled of an MC is honestly not easy because, arsenic an MC, I ever want to beryllium a root of affirmative power for nan different artists. Something I learned pinch this domiciled is that location are a batch of really awesome artists successful Korea.

In what ways do you still want to germinate aliases amended yourself?

Now that I’ve recovered myself and who I am, I don’t want to support moving aft a circumstantial goal. I deliberation that life is for illustration a roadworthy wherever you can’t spot up of you. I deliberation you person to conscionable support moving forward, moreover if you can’t spot what’s ahead. If you support moving pinch nan extremity of moving up, you tin ever extremity up falling down. But if you conscionable support consecutive up for illustration a road, you tin support moving guardant and you won’t person to beryllium acrophobic of falling down anywhere. I want to support going guardant complete that roadworthy up of maine and beryllium a agleam light.

What’s adjacent for you and Monsta X successful 2023? We saw you astatine We Bridge Festival, but will you beryllium returning to nan States soon? Anything other you want to stock correct now?

My plans are to conscionable spell pinch nan travel now, but I cognize I will ever beryllium moving connected euphony for nan remainder of my life. As for Monsta X, nan different members are besides moving connected their albums truthful I dream you’ll look guardant to their releases arsenic well. If thing comes up for maine successful nan States soon, I will decidedly go! I person done interviews pinch Billboard galore times before, but I americium ever very grateful for each opportunity to talk my euphony pinch Billboard. I besides want to stock that I person bold aspirations of wanting to show who nan creator Joohoney is astatine nan Billboard Music Awards 1 day!


JOOHONEY Starship Entertainment
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