Struggling to find that new artist to fall in love with? Fear not, our contributor Kess Leung is here with the latest and greatest musical recommendations of each week. In this edition, Kess highlights South Korean R&B/Jazz musician Esna.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Esther Nara Yoon, better known by her stage name Esna, is a Korean American singer-songwriter and composer. Graduating from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) with a degree in jazz vocals, Esna sings and composes ballads that range from R&B to Jazz, as well as featuring lyrics in both English and Korean. She is currently based in South Korea, where she collaborates with fellow Korean acts and K-Pop idols, in both producing and composing.
Esna first started her music career by uploading covers on YouTube and participating in the popular South Korean singing competition ‘Superstar K3’. Her first solo release was a soundtrack titled ‘Bite My Lower Lips’, which she wrote for major Korean television series The Heirs, a notable early achievement in her career. After co-writing several songs, Esna finally broke through with ‘Some’ in 2014, a K-Pop and R&B track written for Soyou, member of popular K-Pop girl group SISTAR, and Junggigo. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out she had written this track, as it was a huge hit, spending 6 weeks at the top of Billboard Korea K-Pop Hot-100: the all-time chart record. The song flows well between Soyou’s husky voice and Junggigo’s velvety presence, featuring an infectious rap verse by Lil Boi from Hip-Hop duo Geeks.
Silky and breathy, her voice is well-suited for this jazzy track, belting out the occasional high note while, maintaining control over her pitch in masterful fashion.
‘Some’ may have highlighted Esna’s promising talent as a lyricist and producer, but I personally discovered her music through her solo releases and collaboration with now popular girl group MAMAMOO, in which she co-wrote, composed and even featured on several of their songs. Some of these which stand out include ‘Piano man’ and ‘Gentleman’ from the group’s second EP Piano Man, and ‘AHH OOP!’ from the album Pink Funky. The track ‘Gentleman’ has two versions: the Korean version a collaboration between MAMAMOO and Esna; the English version a solo track. In both versions, Esna’s voice is a highlight, seamlessly blending together with the other girls’ harmonies in the Korean release and shining alone in the English alternate. Silky and breathy, her voice is well-suited for this jazzy track, belting out the occasional high note while, maintaining control over her pitch in masterful fashion.
Rich and soothing at the same time, the track is one that pairs well with a warm cup of tea on a cold night.
2014 also saw the release of ‘I, I Love You’, again in both English and Korean. The song is a Jazz ballad, featuring Esna’s intoxicating voice and beautiful piano melodies. The raw emotions in the song’s lyrics resonate deeply with the listener, and it remains my favourite in her discography. Rich and soothing at the same time, the track is one that pairs well with a warm cup of tea on a cold night.
In 2015, Esna released her first EP, eSNa The Singer, containing eight bilingual tracks that are largely influenced by retro and jazz aesthetics. Some of the songs include previously released single ‘A Little Lovin” and a solo version of “AHH OOP!’, as well as the single ‘Me, Today’. A personal highlight would have to be ‘Better Than Average’, a powerful song with an attitude that radiates energy reminiscent of that in the musical Chicago.
Since then, Esna has released a handful of singles and Eps, with her most recent being an EP titled Have a Drink. Lead single ‘You Deserve It’ has an R&B-pop feel that is similar to the work of Korean artist, Dean. Subsequently, fans who enjoy Dean’s musical style would definitely enjoy this track.
With so many well-produced songs that display her talents under her belt, it is puzzling as to why Esna is yet to garner attention in the music industry. Check her out on Spotify, Apple Music, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook: I promise it will be worth your time.