It seems like only a short time has passed since a full album release from SM’s powerhouse vocalist Taeyeon. Yet it’s been a full three years since 2019’s Purpose, and it’s safe to say that a lot has happened in the world since then. It’s just a well, then, that in a time of such uncertainty, Taeyeon has released her most assured and cohesive album yet. INVU (cleverly pronounced as “I envy you”) is Taeyeon at her finest. Oozing catchy pop rhythms and gorgeous vocal lines, the entire album feels as comfortable to listen to as slipping into a soft cardigan on a winter’s day. But that’s not to say there are no surprises tucked away in its pockets. There are moments of intense emotion, soaring ballads that Taeyeon gives wings to with her voice. There are also more sultry entrances, and unexpected twists aplenty to be found amongst its thirteen tracks.
The title song, INVU, falls somewhere in between the familiar and the new. Upon the release of its accompanying music video, it could definitely be said that Taeyeon was going for something a little different. That imagery is ethereal, matching well with the somehow deep yet breezy dreaminess of the song. The first verse has a striking line of English – “I think I lost my mind, but it’s my kind of love” that pulls the listener along into a wonderful pre-chorus. Taeyeon’s voice here does all the hard work, the instrumental dropping out to allow us to be carried upwards with the vocal line, and then down again into the synth-driven chorus with its simple refrain: I-N-V-U. Low key whilst also packing a punch, it’s the kind of song that will slip into your head and stay there. A great choice for a first release.
Following this up is a real puzzle of a song. Some Nights is the kind of song that sets the listener up to think they know exactly where it’s going. Until it doesn’t. The chorus has elements of jazz in its melody line, along with the feel of a k-drama ost at parts. It’s a contrast to the more laid-back guitar and bass of the verse. It continues the ethereal through-line that INVU establishes but throws a curveball here and there.
Can’t Control Myself is a song we’ve heard before, but it’s great to hear it on this album. Taking more elements from pop-rock than any other genre, there’s a raw feeling to the chorus that the lyrics reflect. A perfect follow-up to this feeling, Set Myself on Fire, sonically shares a few similarities with Red Velvet’s Psycho – similar melodic lines and driving bass. Moody in tone yet also strangely light considering the topic.
Track six sees Taeyeon diving into a funky bass with gentler vocals. Toddler, despite its name, is dripping with a grown-up sultriness without relying on it too heavy. There is a lovely little minor twist in the melody of the chorus which fits perfectly.
Siren uses its name to great effect, much like INVU does. Much of the backing track sounds like sirens, reflecting their whirring until we hear an actual siren faintly in the background of the much fuller chorus. And the speak-singing style found in the second verse switches up the feeling enough to keep the song really interesting. Cold As Hell follows a similar idea, yet is far more unsettling for it. The creepy pattern in the background of the second half of the pre-chorus makes the unexpected gritty beat drop following it even more satisfying.
If there’s a song that’s truly timeless, it would unironically be Timeless. With an 80’s influence on the drums and synths, mixed with modern trends, Taeyeon tops it off with a high, powerful chorus that could almost sound anthemic. Heart is also a track that uses an older style to give it some identity. It’s much quieter than previous tracks and breaks up the album well before No Love Again picks up the pace with a much more dance-friendly beat.
You Better Not and Weekend are both a little more playful, with the former seeing Taeyeon taking on somewhat of a wry tone with the subtle threat of the lyrics. It’s nice to have a breather with Weekend, then, the perfect song for listening to in the car on a summer’s day weekend drive. Another song we’ve heard before, but its place here is the perfect penultimate track.
Ending Credits is designed to be the closer of the album. Not only does the title reflect this, but the feel of the song does too. The instrumental is open and drifts between its long synths and echoes. Taeyeon sounds equally wistful, drawing her voice back in for the quieter guitar sections of the verses.
All in all, it’s very rare that we get anything lackluster from Taeyeon. INVU is a culmination of all her talent and experience in the industry, producing an album that barely has any low points. her vocals are sublime and the confidence that underpins every track means that not once does any style or genre attempt feel insincere. The title tracked received All-Kill status recently and it only follows that the album should do the same – it’s an all-kill of an experience,