“Querencia”: Chung Ha explores the new depths and sounds of K-pop

With her first 21-track studio album featuring well-known artists in the industry and songs in three different languages, Chung Ha presents her versatility as a prominent female solo artist in the K-pop world.

The cover of her new album “Querencia” depicts the artist’s dramatic growth in artistic style and popularity in the KPOP industry ever since her solo debut in 2017 with “Why Don’t You Know.”

Courtesy of the official website of Chung Ha

The cover of her new album “Querencia” depicts the artist’s dramatic growth in artistic style and popularity in the KPOP industry ever since her solo debut in 2017 with “Why Don’t You Know.”

Rhea Goswami, Staff Writer

Chung Ha announced that she would be releasing her sophomore studio album on Jan. 4, 2021; however, it was postponed to Feb. 15, 2021 because the artist tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 7, 2020. “Querencia” is her first studio album after a year and eight months since her last mini-album “Flourishing.” Since then, she has dropped seven singles, and three of which are on this album. I have been listening to Chung Ha ever since her comeback with the song “Roller Coaster” in Jan. of 2018, and it was a delight to see her steady progression into a darker, more mature sound from her earlier bubble pop tracks. She has never failed to disappoint in the quality of her song production and vocals, which has led me to have high expectations for this album. 

In her about eight-minute “WiLD 949” interview with Gabby Diaz, Chung Ha revealed the painstaking detail and thought that went into producing this album. She reveals that the album is four chapters: NOBLE, SAVAGE, UNKNOWN and PLEASURES. Her producer suggested the idea of each chapter having its concept and theme to tell a story. The concept of the album lies in its unique name “Querencia,” which is a Spanish word for the place where one can be their true selves. Through this album, Chung Ha can show her true self to her fans. 

Two out of the four chapters, NOBLE and UNKNOWN, in this album, are heavily inspired by the Latin pop sound and reggaeton, which she was exposed to at a young age. Chung Ha grew up in Texas and detailed how lots of her friends were native Spanish speakers. When she would visit their house, she would often listen to reggaeton, and she developed a deep love for the music style. I love listening to Spanish music, especially artists like Rosalia and Bad Bunny. So, I admire Chung Ha’s bravery to step outside of her comfort zone musically. 

“Querencia” kicks off with NOBLE, which is heavily inspired by salsa and trap sounds. This chapter is my favorite out of all four chapters for its unique sounds and danceable tracks. The overall chapter is rich in live instrumentals, especially trumpets that provide a deep contrast to the synth bass. The sounds in this chapter thrive off of the complimenting guitar in the back. The first track is “Bicycle,” which is the title track for this album. It focuses on building excitement and energy with the excellent execution of the quick pre-chorus and post-chorus. The track features lots of electric guitars, which only add a deeper layer of power to the heavily trap and R&B-inspired song. 

The second track is “Masquerade,” which focuses on sounds and beats typically found in salsa swings. The theme of salsa adds to the passion found in Chung Ha’s lyrics and sensual voice as she baits her lover to chase after her. The build-up in the pre-chorus into the explosion of trumpets in the chorus enhances the Latin pop theme of the album. The passion beautifully transitions to the more vulnerable R&B-based third track “Flying on Faith.” Most of the chorus and pre-chorus revolves around the synthesizer and electronics from the producers. The chorus and pre-chorus hide the somber lyrics sung in English, which is typical for most Chung Ha songs. The somber tones get replaced by a more upbeat fourth and final track “Luce Sicut Stellae,” which translates from Latin to English as light like stars. The track features soft melodies and a bedroom pop sound, which are a perfect shift to the night theme of the next chapter SAVAGE. 

SAVAGE kicks off with “Stay Tonight,” which was one of the three pre- singles. “Stay Tonight” was an absolute favorite of mine in April and May. The dark glittery sound of the track is created through the disco-pop sound with a twist of harp and piano. The loud booming bass in the back dominates the chorus, which is coupled with 90’s house beats and electric guitar, to create the iconic track.

The next chapter UNKNOWN opens with the ninth track “Play” featuring one of the biggest artists in the Korean music scene Changmo. “Play” was the second pre-release single with a fun summer vibe with clear reggae themes. The light synth bass in the background provides a fruity and preppy touch to the song to elevate the upbeat tempo. Coupled with Chung Ha’s higher vocals, the song is reminiscent of her debut days with bubble pop summer concepts. Continuing with the Latin theme of the chapter, the tenth track  “Demente” features the Puerto Rician artist Guaynaa. This track is monumental for international music because it represents the first collaboration between a Latin and KPOP artist. Chung Ha proves that music has no geographical barriers. She confessed in an eight-minute interview with “Brooke Morrison ” that “Demente” was her first time singing in Spanish for the entire song, and how it was her most challenging track vocally. The track features prominent dancehall beats and a reggaeton rhythm to build upon the catchy pop song that Chung Ha has embraced. 

The last chapter PLEASURES is a slow close to the fiery album with rich melody heavy ballads. PLEASURES begin with the last pre-release single “X” which is much slower than the last two pre-release singles. Heavy emotions and sweet tunes are the centerpieces of this pop-rock track as Chung Ha shows off her versatility as a vocalist. 

“Querencia” managed to capture the true beauty of Chung Ha’s authentic self as an artist and human being, and truly gave its listeners their sense of querencia. This album exceeded my expectations in every way possible from the lyrics to the production to the beautifully directed music videos. I loved each track on this album, and I am excited to hear what new musical direction Chung Ha will explore in the future.