The emancipation of Taeyeon. That’s the best way to describe I, the first mini album from Girls’ Generation leader Kim Tae-yeon.
On her official debut as a soloist, the Jeonju native delivers a collection of dynamic K-pop confections that distance herself – sonically, at least – from her girl group background.
You won’t find the bubblegum-pop flirtations along the vein of the smashing Gee or the sexy electronic flourishes of Run Devil Run.
As far as comparisons to Girls’ Generation’s subgroup TaeTiSeo are concerned, Taeyeon seems perfectly comfortable dialling back the sass in the absence of members Tiffany Hwang and Seohyun.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, really. In her pursuit of individuality, the 26-year-old has managed to surprise by associating herself with the refreshing template – by girl group standards at least – of soft rock.
The opening title track for one, is an uplifting cut with skeletal beats that highlights Taeyeon’s stellar voice with its gorgeous layers of vocals. Largely anthemic and at times ethereal, I is a bold song that encapsulates the singer’s artistic liberation with its sweeping and soaring melodies.
It’s a shame then, that the following U R and Farewell see Taeyeon dishing up crowd-friendly – albeit bland – snoozy ballads. No doubt, those ballads showcase her emotive vocal delivery. But at the same time, they’re a huge step back from the ambitious sound of the opening number.
But Taeyeon redeems herself on the sweet Gemini and bubbly Stress. On the R&B-tinged Gemini, Taeyeon – with perfectly constructed falsetto and delicate notes of “oohs” – serves a lovely and delicate song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Mariah Carey record.
That said, I works as a reflection of Taeyeon’s strength as a vocalist. The record is a commendable solo effort. An excess of artistic confidence would have propelled it to greater heights.