"Something New" is the newest album from K-pop superstar Kim Taeyeon, and it marks a serious departure in her sound. (Image via KPop Republic)
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The release lives up to its name, offering listeners a side of the South Korean singer they’ve never seen before.

Since her last album “This Christmas” was released December 2017, Kim Taeyeon has been working on new music, the fruition of which is “Something New.” Characterized by strong techno beats and an R&B vibe, the “I” singer has demonstrated, once again, exactly why her music consistently tops the charts in South Korea.

As a gift to her fans before her Japan Tour, “Something New” has given Kim’s fans something to obsess over. From her time spent singing bubblegum pop as a Girls’ Generation member, to heart-wrenching official soundtracks (OSTs) for Korean dramas and eventually her own solo debut, Taeyeon has enchanted her listeners with pop ballads and a majestic voice. That being said, “Something New” would bring any OG Taeyeon fan to a darker, slinky, oddly entrancing and even psychotic side of the queen of OSTs.

Here are the six bops of “Something New.”

1. Something New

The Music Video: Psycho Taeyeon is honestly my new aesthetic. There’s something weirdly beautiful about the way that the usually mellow “I” singer cries off her mascara, murders a bystander, bellhop and murderous maid, tosses suitcases filled with (what I presume to be) bodies and cash and runs barefoot  across a rocky expanse.

After nearly a decade in Korean music industry, this music video seems like a way for the veteran artist to both chastise and reward her listeners. From the outside looking in, the gorgeous singer seems to be living her best life, but as she admits in many interviews, Taeyeon has expressed how being analyzed in the public eye has stunted her personal growth, and how this results in her being less expressive with her peers.

As the leader of Girls’ Generation, the years she spent channeling a cheerful and bubbly personality for the sake of her fellow members and TV shows has officially been overturned in favor of a more expressive, albeit dark vibe. As the video switches between black and white to bursts of color intensified by slo-mo and other distortions, the observer is sure to ask: Where did this Taeyeon come from?

Say goodbye to the veneer of flawlessness; the cold, sinister expressions of the doe-eyed singer are enough to convey that the “Something New” is a part of her identity as much as the title of Kid Leader was.

The Song: Cue the high hats, because “Something New” is off to an intense start. Kim’s voice drones in a capella with a synth-like harmonizer distorting her voice, emphasizing the aimlessness in lyrics like “People walking without time to spare, this is like a jungle. I’m zoning out with a sigh.”

But ooh, the newly sassy tone of Kim’s inflections goes so well with the groovy bass line and claps. I love that this takes on a casual but also biting vibe, because her voice rides smoothly over lyrics like “Dreams that have become similar like it’s stuck in a mold.” This contrast between subject matter and the music itself creates a addicting concoction — casual savageness is her new aesthetic.

Falling in pace with the rhythm of the drums, the “nananana’s” of the chorus are sung in a refreshingly carefree manner and laugh at the urgency that’s built up in the line “all looking for it frantically, something new.” My favorite line from casually savage Taeyeon is: “All you do is dye the world with colors you like.” Goodbye, anti-fans, Kim Taeyeon is on a roasting mission and there is no escape.

Aside from the lyrics, this groovy, beat-intensive and almost retro-feeling style of her title song is completely different from previous work like “I,” “Why” and “Fine,” most likely due to her newfound artistic freedom in choosing the type of music she sings.

It is no secret to the K-pop community that the “Something New” singer has always preferred groovy and R&B-styled songs, such as “Goodbye,” from Girls’ Generation, more than cutesy and wildly addicting fan favorites like “Gee.” 

2. All Night Long Ft. Lucas (NCT)

Featuring Lucas of NCT, this song starts off with a drum beat that sounds vaguely familiar to Rihanna’s “Umbrella” intro. The combination of the clean snare and high hat with the sporadic strum of the guitar serves as a head bobbing base for Lucas’ intro rap. In contrast to her slinky tone in “Something New,” Kim now breaks into a song with clear voice that is accented by the drums in the background. 

The subtle changes in the drumming patterns, wacky noise additions and tweaks to the melody all keep the listener waiting to “All Night Long” for more twists. Written about the feel-good-new-relationship feeling, this song serves as a reminder to enjoy life when the going gets good.

3. Baram x3

As a play on the Korean words “bara” and “baram,” which respectively translate to “look” and “wind,” this song has a playful vibe with a bite. The lyrics poke fun at how “when I call you, I keep waiting for you who won’t pick up,” so she has to “look, look, look, wind, wind, wind.”

The joke, of course, is that no one can see wind, and that she only hears wind because no one is replying to her. The way that she sings the soft sounding “b’s” in both “bara” and “baram” adds a bouncy playfulness to the addictive chorus.

4. One Day

With twinkling bells gently ringing in the intro, “One Day” is a sweet mid-tempo song that brings the listener back to a magical place in time. The dreamlike piano underneath the bells sounds almost as if the music was twinkling from a music box.

It’s oddly specific, but the “Something New” singer definitely brings back some of her angelic vibes into the album through this song. Listening to the song conjures an image of staring at a music box and wishing for a fairy-tale romance. Taeyeon’s distinct timbre alongside the drums and the chorus gives the song a groovy feel that transforms the initial innocent music box vibe into a mature and hopeful song.

Something common through all the songs in the album is that Taeyeon repeats phrases with subtle differences. While the hook is catchy, her adlibs at the end of the song would have been amazing if they weren’t muted and layered on top of the repeated chorus. If, “One Day,” she performs this song live, it would be perfection to hear her sing all of the adlibs in this song over a prerecorded ending chorus.

5. Circus

Undoubtedly a fan favorite, “Circus” is the kind of ballad that Taeyeon is known for.

Complete with a piano intro, the song is about her experiences as a musician and performer. For Taeyeon, life as a performer is like an endless circus act. Through the harmony of her new beat-intensive flair combined with her signature ballad style, she has found her voice as a solo artist in the “Circus” that is the Korean music industry

6. Something New (Inst.)

Like her very first mini album, “I,” this mini album also includes an instrumental version of her title song. 

Even without the help of her music label to promote her new mini album, this album has been topping music charts left and right with her title song nabbing the 12th spot on the iTunes chart shortly after release.

It’s more than “Fine”, now “I” have “Something New” to listen to this summer besides “My Voice” until “This Christmas.”

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Christine Fang

University of California San Diego

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