With a string of successful solo releases already behind her, Taeyeon has carved a name for herself in the k-pop world. Outside of being the leader of Girls’ Generation, she’s proven herself as a talents vocalist, and more than capable of commanding the stage by herself. From her solo debut of I, to last years polished full-length album My Voice, she’s explored a variety of sounds and genres. Something New is no different. It lives up to the expectation it’s named sets, whilst also completely defying expectation at the same time both sonically and visually.
Opening with nothing but a simple muted snare, Something New gets off to a relaxed start. There’s no strong melodic line or idea initially introduced, but Taeyeon’s vocal’s subsequently become the star of the show anyway. A layering, autotuned effect on her voice, totally acapella, lends an ethereal tone to the opening that wouldn’t sound out of place in an Imogen Heap release. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the song will keep to this style as it goes, but that’s not the case. Having placed Taeyeon’s voice front and centre, the song then dives straight into a funky bass line that underpins everything else throughout. It’s chilled yet instantly catchy. Taeyeon matches this perfectly as she comes back in for the first verse. She has an almost chameleon nature in the way she’s able to stylise her singing to blend with the genre that she’s performing in. This gives the song, and nearly every song she does, an authenticity that a lot of artists simply wouldn’t be able to pull off.
From there, the chorus picks up an insanely catchy “na na na” melody, one that will probably be stuck in our heads for days. There’s little build here, no great swell of vocals or dramatic change in instrumentation. It’s restrained. This is possibly one of it’s greatest points. There’s no overdoing it here. It’s Taeyeon, simply mastering a different sound with confidence. A tagline from the producer announcing a “break down” sets up the listener for something of a drop into the bridge. But it never comes. What we get is equally laid back, if a little paired down to the verses, but takes us perfectly into the final chorus. The whole thing feels very influenced by 90’s RnB, whilst also placing it firmly into the modern k-pop landscape. Something New for Taeyeon, and something that can be added to her long list of diverse music choices.
Compared to the song, the music video for Something New is anything but chilled. Taeyeon takes on her darkest role yet and proves that she can pull that concept off with flare too. It’s so jarringly contrasting to the laid-back tone of the song that it makes what’s happening on screen even more shocking. We see her filling the role of contemporary celebrity perfectly, even going as far as to live stream from the red carpet. She signs for a fan, carries off a glamorous style with ease, and generally appears to be “normal.” She does exactly what is expected of her. That is until she reaches the elevator. At this point, Taeyeon starts wielding a hammer, attacking the men in the elevator with her and taking them down with sheer force. And after all that, she steps out, wipes her mouth just to ensure she looks the part again and walks out calmly.
This theme of violence occurs frequently, always appearing in time with the song’s chorus. In this next instance, she is seen being attacked by a maid with a knife, right after she was offered cake instead. “Have your cake and eat it” anyone? Later, we see her taking out two suitcases, mostly leading the viewer to believe she’s stuffed a body or two in there. Yet when she takes out and shotgun and blows them to smithereens, money cascades from the insides. At the very end, the video zooms out, showing the final scene on a TV screen.
It’s evident from the portrayal of celebrity to the double standards of the knife-wielding maid, that this could be a critique on the idol life. The image Taeyeon upholds verses the people trying to tear it down, and the shock they express when she fights back. This is further enforced by the completely opposite tones of the MV compared to the song. It’s not what’s expected. It’s exactly what’s expected. But that’s why this contrast works so brilliantly. One fan on Twitter named ffanya_0805 explained this theory perfectly. It’s definitely worth giving a read if your interest in spotting all the nuances that give this concept a lot of depth. And once you’re done, even the song takes on another meaning of it’s on. Taeyon keeps on proving that she’s a soloist to be reckoned with, and we feel like their will be lots of new music to keep on watching out for in the future.