I’m back in the studios, and from the look on hyung’s face… I can see he has something planned for me, but he wasn’t going to tell me yet.
“Where’s Skye?” I asked hyung.
“He went for a last minute radio show,” he said. “We’d better start recording.”
I went into the booth and spent the next 3 hours there until the producers were satisfied. When the session ended, I was asked to sit down at the table. The 2 producers and hyung were about to deliver me the news they’d been holding back all day.
“We’d just fixed a deal with YG,” the producer said. “We’ve decided to bring forward your mini album.”
“What?” I exclaimed.
“Calm down, Sierra,” hyung said.
“Am I even ready for a solo career?” I asked.
“It’s been 3 years, almost 4. We should think you’re ready,” the other producer said.
“Part of your album, including another version of ‘Crazy’, will be produced by YG,” the producer continued. “And YG has picked one of their artistes to collaborate with you on the mini album version of ‘Crazy’.”
“Who is it?” I asked.
“T.O.P,” the producer said.
I sank back in my chair. This was getting more and more surreal by the minute. The whole idea of me having my own mini album was still hard to digest, and now they’re adding to it by telling me that not only is it being brought forward, it was going to get a huge amount of exposure by featuring T.O.P from Big Bang. That little appearance he had made for Uhm Jung Hwa’s D.I.S.C.O had already made it phenomenal overnight. I wondered if I could hold my own next to him.
“We’re going to start recording concurrently with your existing schedule. You’re going to be extra busy, so you’ll need to try to cope,” hyung said.
“You’ll continue to shoot ‘Girls On Top’, and we will try to fit in these recording sessions in the night, and you may miss some of your days off. You’d better be prepared,” the producer pointed out.
“Are you people really sure?” I asked them, looking from one face to the other.
“It’s decided,” the other producer said, matter-of-factly. “You just need to follow your schedule.”
“I’ll work out your new schedule soon. We may need to shift some of your events around since we’ll need to synchronize with T.O.P and G-Dragon.”
“G-Dragon?” I stammered.
The name dropping was driving me crazy. I’m going to be working with all these talented people on my solo debut, and I don’t even feel ready.
“He’ll be producing a few of your songs. T.O.P will record ‘Crazy’ with you and help out with the producing of the tracks too,” hyung explained.
“Gawd…” I exclaimed, as soon as the 2 producers had left.
“You really need to relax, Sierra. You stressing is not going to help produce a quality album,” hyung said.
“You people are really just springing everything on me,” I said. “It’s driving me nuts.”
“Get used to it,” hyung said. “At least they’re not putting you on ice…”
“S-Cube isn’t dying,” I said. “They have no reason to do that to me. I only expected them to try and boost Skye and Shoei’s popularity, since guys are easier to market. I never thought they’d push me up first.”
“They’re making their investments worth it… so you’d better not disappoint them.”
“When will our first session be?” I asked hyung.
“Next week,” he said. “It’s a good thing this 4th album is taking less time than the last one. We’ll have it on the market in time before the awards, and hope for at least a win.”
“Is that why you’re rushing the mini album as well? So that I can try to get a nomination?”
“Something like that…” he said. “If we can’t get the album out on time, we’ll release a single instead.”
“The management really is going for the kill this year,” I said.
“There are too many new acts in the market this year… just like every year, and we need you kids to exert some dominance in the market.”
“Sure…” I sighed. “Whatever you big shots want.”
That night, I called Jae Joong and whined.
“I think you can cancel your plans to come back,” I said.
“Wae? What happened?” he exclaimed.
“Remember what I told you about my mini album yesterday?”
“Plans have changed…” I said.
“They’re bringing forward my mini album, and we’re collaborating with YG.”
“If we can’t make a mini album on time, then we’ll just release a single.”
“They’re rushing to get you in the running for the awards season?” he said.
“Bingo…” I drawled.
“Are you sure you can handle it?”
“Why not? Filming a drama, making an album with my own band, and making another with artistes from a rival company. All in a day’s work,” I said.
“Now you’ve got me worried,” he said.
“Don’t be,” I said. “I’ll be fine. I’m just worried that I won’t be on par with T.O.P,” I said.
“T.O.P’s been hauled in?” he asked.
“And G-Dragon is producing. So, yea… I’m really nervous now,” I said.
“Well, he’s a rapper,” Jae Joong pointed out.
“He can actually sing,” I said. “And he has this unbelievable stage presence. How am I going to top that?”
“Erm… he is T.O.P,” Jae Joong laughed. “You can forget about topping that.”
“So you agree that I’m gonna fade next to him?”
“No… it was a joke. You’ll be fine,” he said. “You can sing, you can dance… there are things that you probably do better than him.”
“You can speak Chinese?” he said, lamely.
“Gee… that makes me feel superior now,” I said.
“You’re as good as he is,” Jae Joong said.
“Then why don’t I feel that way?”
“You need to start believing in yourself, Sierra. You’re going solo now. You need to exude confidence,” he said. “I’ve seen that side of you. You need to show it to the world now.”
“And what if they decide I’m being cocky?”
“There will always be lovers and haters. You know that. We just take it in stride.”
I kept quiet for awhile… I realized I was just beating myself up for nothing. I’ve been convincing myself that I wasn’t ready to go out alone all this while. If the management thinks I am ready, who am I to argue? They obviously see something I don’t. Or at least they are just ready to take a gamble and see if I could produce some results. This was my chance to move up.
“Araso…” I sighed.
“Good girl,” Jae Joong said, and I could picture him smiling.
“So what did you have for dinner?” I asked him, and he started yakking to me about his day.
Shoei finally got home that night. He dropped his bag on the floor and immediately slumped onto the sofa.
“So how does it feel to be married?” Skye asked him.
“Don’t ask,” he groaned.
“What did you do today? Pump iron? Do sit ups with Su Bin sitting on you?” I laughed.
He looked so beat up; you’d think he spent the day doing hard physical labour.
“We cooked dinner,” he said.
“And that wiped you out?” Skye cackled. “You’re really losing your touch, aren’t you?”
“Leave me alone,” he grumbled, and covered his face with a pillow.
“I’ll make you some tea,” I laughed, and walked off to the kitchen while Skye continued to aggravate him.
I shut my eyes as Skye continued to attack me with questions.
“Here…” nuna said, and I opened my eyes to look up at her. “Have some tea.”
I sat up and took the cup of Chinese tea from her hands.
“Thanks,” I said, and took a sip. “What’s this?”
“Pu er,” she said.
“Okay…” I said, and took another sip.
“So?” she asked as she sat down beside me with her cup of tea.
“So?” I answered her question with a question.
“How’s the wife?” she smiled cheekily.
“She’s fine,” I said.
“You’re not gonna dish?” she asked.
“What’s there to dish?” I said.
“How’s your first day as a married man?” she probed.
“I kinda realized that you’re not such a pain to live with,” I said to her, and that earned me a smack on the arm.
“What did she do to you?” she laughed.
“She can’t cook. Her mood changes every other minute,” I said.
“She’s kinda weird. I just have a feeling that the way she’s acting is not the real her,” I said.
“Why do you say that?” she asked.
“Her eyes… she hardly ever meets my eyes.”
“Maybe she’s shy?” Skye piped in.
“Oh… believe me, she’s far from shy,” I said.
“But did the filming go well?” nuna asked.
“It’s fine. I think it lacked a little chemistry in the beginning, but we’re building on it.”
“Good,” she smiled.
“So anything happened while I was gone?” I asked.
“Someone’s getting her own mini album,” Skye tattled. “And just in time for the awards season.”
“What?” I exclaimed, and looked at nuna.
“I start recording next week,” she grumbled.
“I thought it was supposed to be out next year?”
“They’d decided to make the best of what’s left of this season. But that’s not the biggest issue here.”
“There’s more?” I asked.
“Big Bang’s on the album too,” she said.
“Yea… I had that same reaction,” Skye laughed.
“Just 2 of them though,” she added. “T.O.P and G-Dragon.”
“Just? These 2 are enough to shoot your album to the top of the charts,” I said.
I’d just gone for a day and it felt as if the whole road map for our careers have changed drastically.
“I told hyung I wasn’t ready,” she complained. “But he and the management didn’t give me any choice.”
“You are ready,” I said to her. “If you wait any longer, you’d be past your prime.”
“Gee… thanks for reminding me,” she said sarcastically.
“You think they’d fund a project that’s going to be D.O.A?” I said.
“I know… but it’s just freaking me out,” she said.
“Just do what you’re supposed to do,” I said.
“I’m just worried about the live performances that would come. I don’t feel ready to perform on my own.”
“Nuna… you’ve had collaborations with Brian and Hwan Hee, with Hae Rin… with so many others. Why would you be nervous now?”
“Cos this is my album? My first real solo project,” she said.
“Nuna… sometimes you make me feel like strangling you,” Skye said, his voice was serious and hard.