In the relatively male-dominated K-pop scene, Taeyeon has become an unlikely torch bearer of girl power, and it’s not hard to see why. She’s proven time and again that she can play with the big boys, with her music videos raking in million of views within days – a feat often only achieved by male idol groups.
What propels this kind of frenzy? The answer is in her debut full-length album’s title – My Voice – an apt representation of her artistry.
Detractors might argue that K-pop has always hidden behind the veneer of slick boot-camp choreography, powerful visuals and a highly manufactured sound. To a degree, that argument holds water because K-pop, to a large extent, is very much a smoke-and-mirrors genre.
And that’s what makes My Voice an even more monumental record. Despite its air-tight production and glossy sound, the star of the show on this 12-track collection (13 on the physical copy) is Taeyeon’s impressive voice.
It’s a trait that the 28-year-old showcases to glorifying heights on the lead single and album opener Fine. Think of it as I (the singer’s epic 2015 hit) on adrenaline. What begins deceptively as a folksy acoustic-driven track soon progresses into a powerhouse pop ballad with its soaring goosebumps-inducing chorus. This is Taeyeon at her absolute best.
She immediately follows up on that emotional roller-coaster with the technicoloured Cover up. At first listen, the tropical disco-dance number conjures up notions of last year’s EDM-influenced Why. It’s an effortless crowd pleaser, but its inclusion also hints at the mass manufactured pop template of My Voice.
There’s no shortage of genres here as Taeyeon flits between pop rock (Feel So Fine), R&B (I Got Love) and atmospheric rock (Time Lapse) just to name a few.
While the variety here highlights the dynamic quality of the songstress’ voice, it kind of takes away from the album’s overall listening experience. In that respect, My Voice lacks a cohesiveness that was displayed brilliantly in fellow bandmate Seohyun’s recently released EP Don’t Say No.
But one can’t accuse Taeyeon of being afraid to experiment. The polarising I Got Love – a song that takes risks with its “non-chorus” chorus – sheds light on a fierce and sassy pop star.
Elsewhere, she hits all the right notes on the mid-tempo numbers (Sweet Love, When I Was Young, Lonely Night) which make up the more solid half of the album.
Whether or not My Voice will be paraded as a K-pop classic is up for contention really. But what’s for certain is that Taeyeon has certainly set a standard here. And the idea of other female K-pop artistes living up to that benchmark in the years to come is an exciting notion indeed.