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Jihyo on Zone, Twice, and Going Solo

Park Jihyo was born to be on stage—singing, performing, and captivating audiences with a coy smile. It’s why her fans playfully refer to her as “God Jihyo,” as if her natural charisma and passion for performance were bestowed by Zeus himself. But there’s no divine truth to Jihyo’s powerful presence; it’s the result of 18 years of dedication. The 26-year-old tenacious talent will be the first to admit that she’s worked hard to be where she is now: on the eve of her first solo release.

Her mini album, Zone, is more than a testament to her focus and determination; it’s a collection of seven songs that demonstrate her versatility as an artist. As the leader of TWICE, the highest-selling Korean girl group of the past decade and the first to sell out stadium venues in the U.S., Jihyo has weathered the ups and downs of international pop superstardom with her eight fellow members, all while nurturing their growth and championing their success. Now, it’s time for Jihyo to step into the spotlight on her own.

Fans got a taste of her solo project during the group’s Ready To Be world tour this year with a soul-baring performance of “Nightmare,” a dramatic, self-penned B-side track that showcases Jihyo’s powerhouse vocals and lyrical prowess. With lead single “Killin’ Me Good,” she’s embracing her inner femme fatale and delivering up-tempo R&B with a sensual groove.


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The album, out today, challenged Jihyo as both a singer and a songwriter. She pushed herself to try new vocal styles and delve into new genres. In that way, Zone is a mirror of her own adventurous spirit and willingness to push artistic boundaries. It’s also a letter to her 8-year-old self, the young girl who joined JYP Entertainment and sacrificed a normal childhood for this dream to become a reality.

As she steps onto the precipice of her solo debut, Jihyo radiates a sense of relief and anticipation. She’s excited to show fans what she’s capable of. Talking to ELLE.com from her label’s headquarters in Seoul with help from an onsite interpreter, Jihyo opens up about her solo album, the kind of artist she wants to be, and why she doesn’t have any regrets about entering the industry at such a young age.

You were quite young when you became a trainee. Did you always know that you wanted to release your own album one day?

I never really said, “I want to release a solo album,” but I always thought that I will do my best if the opportunity comes.

Why is this the right time to introduce yourself as a solo artist?

Up until now, I wanted to focus on TWICE, and even within the group, we had agreed to put our group activities as our main focus. But with our contract renewal, we began to discuss what it would be like to start showing more of our individual sides, and that’s how this opportunity came to me.

jihyo twice

JYP Entertainment

I saw TWICE make history at MetLife Stadium. At the show, you debuted your B-side track “Nightmare.” Why was that the song you wanted fans to see first?

I wanted to perform a song that was different from the title song. I wrote [the lyrics of] “Nightmare,” and from the moment I received the track, I said, “I really want to write this song. I really like this track. This track is so unique.” When the song was completed, I wanted to release the song quickly, so I thought it would be perfect for the concert.

Your single, “Killin’ Me Good,” makes a bold statement. It has a very powerful sound. Why did you want to make this the title track of the project?

There were a lot of candidates for the title song, and it was really hard to choose. But when I first heard the melody of the verse for “Killin’ Me Good,” the tune was so addictive and I remember listening to it over and over again. There is also a part at the end of the first hook that uses a vocoder, which I found really attractive. I was really captivated by these two aspects of the song.

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I love the lyric “You’re making me feel brand new.” Is this a new Jihyo you’re showing fans?

Honestly, that was not my intention! But now that I think about it, that’s a great message too.

What are some of the themes and moods you wanted to convey through the album?

I was able to express different sides of myself. When writing the lyrics, what I thought about the most, especially when writing the lyrics for “Don’t Wanna Go Back,” was that I wanted to write lyrics that I wouldn’t normally write for TWICE. This applies to the other songs as well, but for “Don’t Wanna Go Back” in particular. I wanted to express a different side of myself in each song.

What is the difference between a song that you would write for TWICE versus a song you would write for yourself?

Honestly, I don’t think there is too much of a difference in the songwriting process, but as I was making this album, regardless of whether it was a song that I had produced or had only written the lyrics for, I listened to all the candidate songs many times and arranged the album. I chose the songs based on what I had the confidence to do well and the songs that I wanted to do. Also, when writing the lyrics, I tried to use more direct and honest language than [I would in] songs for TWICE. The lyrics in TWICE songs are more sentimental and expressed beautifully, but I wanted to be more direct and honest in my songs.

You mentioned that you wanted this album to showcase what you do best. So can you tell me: What does Jihyo do best?

What I wanted to show through this album was my ability to sing a variety of genres. I wanted to try and be adventurous with genres. I also wanted to focus on my performance on stage. I want to show myself as a performance artist.

jihyo twice

JYP Entertainment

You’re an amazing performer. I felt that at the MetLife show. Where does that desire to perform come from?

I personally have so much fun on stage. I enjoy every moment. It’s kind of like acting, and that process is really fun for me. That’s where I gain my confidence and why I light up on stage.

Your fans make a lot of different edits of your performances, and your expressions are always so good. Do you spend a lot of time working on facial expressions?

I don’t think I have ever practiced my expressions before. Of course, I do monitor my performance, and I try to figure out which part to improve on. But I don’t really practice. What gives me the energy is the fans’ reaction. Now that I know my fans really enjoy my performances, I find myself becoming brighter and more energetic when performing exciting songs.

Do you ever watch your performance back and think, I killed that?

Sometimes, I do! [Laughs.]

This album is a huge showcase for you as a songwriter, and I know it’s really important to you to have a level of creative input in your work. What was the overall process like writing for this album? Did you feel any pressure or did you approach it with a clear mindset?

I felt a level of pressure that I have never experienced since my debut. It was actually really challenging, and there were times I said that I don’t think I can do it. It was very difficult. And because I had written the songs, it was difficult to be objective in determining whether a song is good or bad, or how a certain part is. I couldn’t discern, and as I became overly sensitive to every little detail it put a lot of pressure on me. That’s how I made this album, and even now as I listen back to songs, there are areas that I wish I could make better, but I know that I did my best. And I’m going to settle with that.

Since it’s your first album, there’s so much you can learn from the experience. Is there one thing you took away from it that you learned about yourself as an artist?

As I was preparing this album, I discovered vocal styles that I didn’t know I had in me. “Oh, when I sing this type of song, I get this type of feel, and when I sing this type of song, I sing in this style.” I discovered these areas, that I didn’t expect prior to making this album.

I recorded a lot of live performances while working on this album. We didn’t do a lot of this when promoting TWICE albums. I don’t know if this will be a spoiler, but recording live performances and singing a variety of songs was an exciting, new challenge for me.

Do you have a song on the album that’s the most personal to you?

I put a lot of thought into each song, and I don’t think I can choose just one that stands out as being the most personal. But “Room” was a song of a genre that was a new challenge for me. It has a calm mood but includes a singing rap. I don’t think I have ever shown this style before, so it’s something new. So that stands out to me.

I’m sure you’ve thought a lot about this being your first album as a solo artist. How do you see yourself outside of TWICE?

I am someone who enjoys having a lot of different experiences. I think that’s also why this album was born. I want to continue to take on new and different challenges and experiences. “Ah, this [experience] is like this, and this is how this [experience] is.” I enjoy discovering new things and challenging myself. I’m a very adventurous person, and I hope you sense that on this album.

billboard women in music show

Twice performing in March 2023.

Christopher Polk//Getty Images

Are you competitive?

I’m most competitive with myself.

You trained for 10 years before you debuted in TWICE at 18. You were very young when you joined your company. Being such a young trainee and going through that very difficult process, how has it influenced the artist you are today?

I think the type of artist I am today was decided after my debut. Rather than being trained in that area or style, I think the 10 years of training was the time when I built the foundations so that I could become an artist of a certain style. But I didn’t know the kind of artist I wanted to be until after I debuted.

You’ve previously expressed that you had some regrets about training so young. How do you feel about that today?

As I’ve mentioned before, I am quite forgetful. [Laughs.] I think I have forgotten a lot of the difficulties I went through back then. I am filled with more memories of myself today and think that I am who I am today because of those painful memories that I once regretted.

Do you think your younger self would be really proud of where you are today?

I hope she would be.

What’s your mindset like these days?

Right now, my mindset is, “I have worked hard on the album, so I would like to wrap it up well too.” There are still performances left to do, and I want to perform them well, finish up the promotions well, and go on tour again. So far, I’ve had to focus on both my solo album and the tour, and I look forward to being able to focus solely on the tour.

Would you say that you’re happier than you’ve ever been at this stage in your career?

I think, more than happiness or contentment, I feel a greater sense of accomplishment.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Crystal Bell is a culture writer living in New York City. 

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