I’ve been a fan of modern Korean music for many years now, primarily focusing on the music of the late 90’s and into the mid 2000’s, what I consider a golden time for the dance-pop styled music that I enjoy. This interest was heavily driven as a side effect of the Korean music game Pump it Up which heavily featured many of the artists and songs from this time period.
One of those tracks was a song called “Go” by a woman using the artist name “U;nee” (Spoken like “Yuni”). It was a pretty simple dance track, but I loved it. It was just that kind of composition that is just perfect to me. Without dwelling on it, this time period, the mid 2000’s, weren’t that great for me, but music games certainly helped me get through it. Oddly, I never thought to look up any more of her work – I don’t know why, it just never hit me.
Eventually, come late 2007, I would begin hunting for more information only to discover that on January 21st, 2007, she had died. More accurately, she had committed suicide, presumably due to a combination of stresses related to the music industry and depression, the latter of which I can easily relate to. This happened just weeks before the release of her 3rd album.
That’s why I’m even writing this today – it’s 10 years to the day since that event happened.
I would find out she had released 3 main albums, and before her music career had started in a teen-drama back in the late 90’s, and been in several films. The hunt was on for her content. It was easy enough to find her 1st and 3rd albums, but her second album is incredibly rare, and quite expensive. It was only late last year that I finally was able to find a copy that was “affordable” (I bought it as a present for myself), thus completing the trilogy. In that time I would also get additional copies of her 1st and 3rd, which remain sealed. I’m one of those collectors, after all.
Her first album, from 2003 is more of a typical dance-pop album, but with many varied styles mixed in. Her second album, from 2005, is more R&B inspired, with a much more sensual feel to it. The 3rd album, released after her death in 2007. is an odd mix, and really shows how she wasn’t feeling well during its recording.
I may have grown to know of her thanks to her first, and most prominent single, Go, but I grew to love most of her catalog. Nearly all the songs have something special about them, and I can listen to any album at most any time and enjoy the music.
Also last year was the only time I could find some of films she was in – one, which I can’t recall the title of, was a film done by the boy band Sech’Skies. It was more of a teen drama, but the next film I found, Rush, was something totally different: U;nee, under her birth name Lee Hye-Ryeon, was playing a more manipulative seductress of a character. Not at all the kind of person she herself was.
Indeed, that seemed to be an issue – after her first album, her image was pushed to be “more sexy” which some think really got to her, and combined with netizens liking her more for her beauty than her singing and dancing skills, it would make sense it would upset someone more reserved, as she is reported to have been.
It’s more complex than I can share here, really. Back in August I started a fan site to try to compile all the information I can on this subject, her work, video clips, and anything else I can gather together on her.
It’s a niche subject, but one I am passionate about. Everyone has that music artist they like far more than any other, and U;nee just happens to be mine.