YouTube has been flourishing lately with active interaction between the audience and creators of colorful video contents. Though there are many presumed reasons for the growth in viewership, it is without a doubt that the COVID-19 outbreak has given many people more time to stay at home and watch enjoyable videos created by their favorite YouTubers. The reassuring and entertaining factors of their video content are delivered to their audiences in the most efficient way possible through the social networking platform. Unwilling to be subjected to any barriers segregating countries, YouTube has been connecting various contents online.
If you’re a big fan of covers songs, you’ve probably seen a short haired girl singing a cover of “Way Back Home” by SHAUN at least once while scrolling through your YouTube “recommended” video feed. This video hit over 7 million views, leading to a rapid increase in her subscribers. This YouTuber is known as YEN and with an angelic voice, she uploads covers of songs from diverse genres, from the trendiest pop songs to animation themed music which stimulates listeners’ nostalgia. With nearly 340,000 subscribers, YEN constantly tries to approach a big audience with entertaining contents other than cover songs, highlighting her desire to stay keen on the close connection between her and her subscribers.
The Hanyang Journal was able to meet creator YEN online. Though COVID-19 has hindered any actual interaction between the creator and the journal, we were lucky enough to hear virtual responses via indirect contact.
I. YouTuber, YEN
What motivated you to start your channel?
A. My friend recommended that I start a YouTube channel about two years ago. At the time, my friend and I had different background knowledge about the YouTube platform. She had intended to start a channel and had done months of planning while I didn’t really know anything about the platform itself. She persuaded me to open a channel despite the fact that I didn’t have any idea what I’d be making videos about. I was rather distressed about what I wanted to indulge in as a profession at the time, but I was sure about one thing: the fact that singing made me happy. I’ve always enjoyed singing to a crowd of people and I was just excited that I would be able to do what I enjoy by making a YouTube Channel.
What does your channel name, YEN, mean?
A. Sorry to disappoint you, but it really doesn’t mean anything. My real name is Ye-eun, and YEN is just my nickname. When first establishing my channel, there were all sorts of crazy ideas for its name. Since my name sounds like “Yeaheun” (Korean for “yes silver”), there was a suggestion that my channel name be “No-geum” (Korean for “no gold”), the opposite of the original meaning that my name implies when spoken. Another option was Silver since eun sounds like silver when spoken. After skimming through the possible options, I quickly concluded that YEN was obviously the least silly name.
We read through the comment sections on your videos and noticed that there are many listeners who want to hear your songs on official music streaming sites. Have you ever thought of releasing an album or debuting as an actual singer who regularly creates official albums?
A. Debuting has always been a great ambition and dream of mine. I first learned to sing with the intention of becoming a singer and is still is my ultimate purpose of singing to this day. I think that I have achieved a lot already and am truly grateful for the encouraging comments from all the people around me. This however does not mean that I have given up on my desire to one day become a singer. Simply thinking about performing a song that I made myself on a huge stage with bright spotlights overwhelms me. I am confident that if I keep trying, I will be able to fulfill this lifelong dream of mine.
When selecting a song to cover, is there a particular priority you take into consideration?
A. It is impossible to ignore the popularity of a song since the audience will be compelled to watching what they are used to. Considering this, I guess that factor is always a top priority, though popularity isn’t the only thing I consider when choosing a song to cover. Even if the song is unbelievably popular, I don’t cover it if I think that the song doesn’t suit me. I listen to it first and imagine myself singing it. I like to cover songs that comply with my style of music. I also try to picture what the song will sound like through my voice so that it would be nice for the listeners to hear.
Is there a particular video that you would like to try filming?
A. I usually film everything that I want to try even if it has less to do with singing covers. My channel has not only song covers but also videos with completely different contents. I don’t think there is a particular type of content that I’d personally like to try in the future because if there was one, I would have tried it out at the very moment I thought of it!
Among your countless videos, which are you especially fond of?
A. The videos that I made when I had just created my channel are the ones that really created a lot of memories. “Bbi Bbi” by IU or “Way Back Home” by SHAUN are two videos that I created before getting a lot of subscribers. I remember wearing the dinosaur costume for “Bbi Bbi” and feeling somewhat extremely shy about it. I feel the “newbie YouTuber vibes” when watching the earlier videos that I made after just having established my channel. It evokes many memories and emotions I felt when singing those covers. I do feel a lot more confident now compared to that time and have gotten used to singing in front of a camera. I can’t really sense the same nostalgic feelings that are aroused by the older videos.
Oh, and if you look at the ending credits on the video of my singing “Bbi Bbi”, you’ll see me bumping my head into one of the shelves in the room. My friend who was filming the video told me to make a cute expression, and I was so embarrassed that I started jumping about and running all over the place. I couldn’t stay still after trying to make a cute expression so I bumped my head on one of the shelves in embarrassment. The scene seems funny, and I also laugh when seeing it but I must say it really did hurt terribly.
II. My Personal Life, YEN
How do you spend your time when not filming videos?
A. I mostly spend my time preparing new videos. Recording my voice and practicing or recomposing the songs that I will sing later are two usual routines of mine. I don’t really like crowded places, or even leaving the house for that matter, so I usually stay at home doing whatever I have to do.
I don’t think I do anything that I could confidently call a hobby but I do like watching dramas and movies and reading. I have always liked fictional stories because they allow you to infer and imagine the conclusions. Movies and books are always open to diverse interpretations since they don’t have fixed answers. I guess watching or reading such fictional tales and imagining endlessly about a false reality is how I like to spend my time. If I don’t feel like engaging in daydreams, I just lie in bed and roll around tediously like a caterpillar.
Do you have a dream? Is it different from the one you had when you were young?
A. I don’t know if this is considered realistic or not, but I really want to be a rich and unemployed person. For a more ambitious and difficult dream, I want to be a singer. When I was little, I just wanted to be a person who would appear on the television screen. As I grew up, that dream eventually specified into becoming a singer. Though I know that it is challenging, I still dream of becoming a singer so I guess that my dream has been the same since I was little. I had dreamed of appearing on television and now I wish to become a singer so the ultimate goal hasn’t changed much while the means of achieving it has developed over the years.
What is your biggest motivation and what was the most meaningful moment in your life?
A. My biggest motivation is both my family and the people who wish to hear my songs. Both groups are those I value most and who make me the happiest. Thus, when the video “Way Back Home” reached an unbelievable number of views, I felt great happiness. The comments were flooded by people who wanted to hear more of my songs and my mother was extremely happy about it. It was overwhelming to have all my most valuable people rejoice over an achievement I had reached.
Are there any musicians that you personally like the most? Why?
A. Considering Korean songs, I like all of IU’s songs. However, I usually listen to pop songs, so most of the music that I listen to are sung by foreigners. I can’t choose my favorite because I have too many artists in mind when it comes to likeable music. Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, The Weeknd, Birdy, Tory Kelly, Billie Eilish, and Alessia Cara are just a few of my favorites. If I really had to choose just one though, it would be Taylor Swift. I have liked her since her debut and I can name all her songs from the first album to the latest one. Her songs always leave me dumbfounded with questions like “How does she make such songs?” or “How can she sing so well?” or “How can she pull off that sort of genre?” She surpasses the word “favorite” and I truly admire her.
III. YEN, From Now On
How would you describe your 2020?
A. I must say, it has been a bit tough, and I am sure that many others also feel this way. Other than the pandemic, I did have some health issues and a bunch of mixed reasons led me to fall into a slump. Throughout this year I faced hardships one after the other. I constantly thought to myself that it would be nice if I was warned before bad things struck.
It doesn’t mean that the entire year was solely filled with gloomy days though. There were indeed happy moments, and I suppose that those days are what helped me to keep going through 2020 despite the countless adversities that I had to face.
Is there anything you want to try or achieve in 2021?
A. I don’t really have a massive special goal but I always have an endless list of ‘things to accomplish’ at the beginning of every year. Gaining 1,000,000 subscribers is one thing. I suppose this is every YouTuber’s goal. Releasing an album completely directed and performed by myself is another goal on my lengthy checklist. Losing weight and exercising are always on the list as well, but they never seem to get accomplished. In this way, I’m not the kind of person who comes up with creative and novel New Year’s resolutions.
Other than my somewhat daily objectives, I do want to hold a fan meet up when the COVID-19 pandemic finally eases up. I really am looking forward to the day I will be able to sing in front of my subscribers. If this turns out to be too difficult, it would still be nice if I could host a small meet and greet with them.
Do you have any last words for your subscribers or the audience of your videos and music?
A. Though I don’t have much to offer, I am always grateful for your anticipation and interest in my channel. It really encourages me and makes my day. I will continue to make great quality contents and always remain open to new ideas or suggestions that are directed at my videos. The weather is getting unbelievably cold these days. I hope everyone stays warm and free from the flu, particularly on these days, when everyone is in a vulnerable state. Thank you for having me!