Hyolyn is one of the brightest solo breakouts in recent years. After departing from Sistar in 2017, she brought us the iconic trio the following year: Dally, See Sea, and Bae.
Her latest track, You Know Better, is another step forward in an ever-evolving artistic identity.
You Know Better, released on the 22 May, was predictably unpredictable. It doesn’t have the sensuality of Dally, it’s not the honey-sweet pop of Bae, it’s not even the trance-like nostalgia of See Sea.
Instead, You Know Better, is raw, simple, pared back.
In many ways, it’s not as interesting a turn for Hyolyn. As a known powerhouse vocalist, this is a genre she not only has done before but has mastered.
Written and co-composed by Hyolyn, it’s no surprise that You Know Better, as an emotionally charged song, hits deep. The mid-tempo song has some elements of tropical house added in as a flourish.
It’s stepped build-up in the pre-chorus is one of the most remarkable things about this song. Well-paced and tender, it serves elevates the song right from the beginning. It’s an unmissable trait in a song that’s very regularly structured. By the second verse, you already know how the song is going to pan out – where it will lift and dip. It is predictable in that sense.
The change comes about, not from melody, but tone. Towards the end of the song, Hyolyn’s light, airy voice darkens, deepens, fighting against the air. In a song so much about loss and hurt, this struggle doesn’t seem misplaced whatsoever.
The music video, matching the tone of the song, is sombre and intimate. Hyolyn’s brief interview, placed right at the outset, is incredibly touching.
Although interview snippets framing a music video is not a novel concept, in Kpop it still feels novel and fresh. Most importantly, in this case, it feels genuine.
Hyolyn is recognised for her confidence, so her frank recognition of her insecurities sets the viewer afoot.
That’s a common theme in the music, which is visually sparse. We are afforded a few monochromatic studio shoots, emulating a photograph portrait, among red-washed inserts.
The music video isn’t inventive or particularly interesting, but it is striking. A close-up shot of Hyolyn’s face – the camera so close it distends her face, almost fish-bowl-like – lingers in the memory. Even after the fact.