Jeon Somi Talks “XOXO,” Rebellion, and Doing Her Own Thing

K-pop star Jeon Somi refuses to be, even for a second, someone she’s not. She lives life completely, undeniably on her own terms. As a kid, that manifested in constant hospital visits. She had the type of energy that couldn’t be contained in the physical limitations of a body — she needed to run around Korea’s forests and climb trees, falling be damned. 

Today, that energy and individuality manifests in her songwriting, and the dynamic path she’s setting in motion for her career. While Somi worked on her new title track “XOXO,” there were talks between her and her producers, many afraid how exactly the general public would react to this explosive, braggadocious version of her. Over a vivacious trap beat, the dance-pop track is filled to the brim with raw anger. Somi is no longer allowing her feelings to be trivialized — “XOXO” is an anthem for the independent with lyrics like, “Don’t say it was that bad fate, your girl’s the bad one.” (In the official English translation, the lyric goes, “Don’t call me a b*tch. Your girl, she’s the b*tch.”) Dangerous lyrics, according to Somi. It teases the full-fledged rebellion injected into every facet of her album XOXO, released Oct. 29.

Being vulnerable is part and parcel of being a true artist, but female creatives aren’t always allowed the same grace under the pressure of public perception as their male counterparts. A scorched-earth track about reclaiming your peace is powerful, yet leaves grounds for those to talk and — perhaps worse — judge. But for Somi, flourishing means kissing goodbye to limitations. She meticulously managed her album’s creation — from the concept’s inception to penning and producing nearly every song on it. As a result, she owned it. “F*ck it,” she tells Teen Vogue. “I just did it.” Her evolution, her rules.

It’s this sure sense of self that’s guided her to conquer the seemingly impossible as an artist on the cusp of worldwide domination. The music video for “XOXO” features offroad joyriding, down and dirty explosions, and spectacular rage as Somi forgets about some dusty ex, finalizing it with a handwritten “Boy, bye!” It’s an anthem for the dismissed women, now doing things their own way.

Somi has always allowed herself the radical act of feeling the extremes of every emotion — whether it be love, hate or, perhaps most painfully, growth. She’s an artist who wears honesty as stylishly as a Louis Vuitton piece (the luxury brand for which she’s a global ambassador). “I want to push all these boundaries back,” Somi says, explaining not only the song but more broadly, her career. “I don’t want to put myself in a cage.”

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