Released June 28, 2016
- Starlight featuring Dean
- Hands on Me
- Up & Down featuring Hyoyeon
- Good Thing
The solo releases don’t stop. After Tiffany and Luna, SM releases the second EP from Taeyeon, Why. As I previously mentioned in the Tiffany review, Taeyeon will always be a singer. It’s hard to imagine her doing anything else. I’m guessing she doesn’t see herself doing anything else as well. The one advantage Taeyeon has over Tiffany in regards of their solo careers is that she already put out a project last year. She has something to work from. She (and SM) can go back and reexamine what worked and what didn’t work and try something else. The previous EP, I, didn’t have much to talk about. It was technically sound but lacked substance or depth (so did I Just Wanna Dance). So in that context, how does Why fair?
In short, Why is somewhat an improvement. It isn’t a complete realization of her talent and creativity, but there are moments of progression and intrigue that keeps me hopeful for the future. The middle of the EP give us the best versions of Taeyeon the soloist we’ve had thus far. Fashion sounds like something Luna would’ve recorded for Free Somebody, and I mean that as a compliment. As great as it was that f(x) was always SM’s musical guinea pig, it was also puzzling that the experimentation never bled over to their other acts more often. So to not only see SM give something like that to Taeyeon, but to also perform the song well is a good sign.
Up & Down is also a good sign of things to come. Teaming up with fellow Girls Generation member Hyoyeon, the two come together to provide what is almost the best song of the album. The song starts off strong with the strings and the brass instruments, then almost squanders all the good will with the air horns. It’s a testament to Taeyeon that she was able to keep the elements together even though they didn’t mesh and to sound as great as she ever sounded.
Unfortunately, that’s all the progress.
The other songs off the EP is standard issue. While it’s solid pop music, it doesn’t attempt to be more. That itself isn’t a problem, but when there are other songs that at least make the attempt and a song that succeeds in being more than just run-of-the-mill pop music, it becomes frustrating. SM’s other acts have had good to great music come out this year, why couldn’t Taeyeon? In addition, she is the leader and one of the lead vocalists of their biggest act. Don’t forget also that at least in the public, she has made no bones about being a singer and doing this for the foreseeable future. How is it possible that Why has songs that show that the pieces are falling into place and shows Taeyeon’s strides as a soloist, but is joined by songs that can’t escape the lowest common denominator means of production?
Musically, Why isn’t a disappointment. What is disappointing is that it ultimately failed Taeyeon because it actively acknowledges she can do more but isn’t willing to explore her capabilities.
So I’m left asking, why?