YENA – SMiLEY Review


Release Date: January 17, 2022

Track Listing

  1. Before Anyone Else
  2. SMiLEY (feat. BIBI)
  3. Lxxk 2 U
  5. VACAY


Choi Yena is the third (or fourth if you count Kang Hyewon’s special album W) of the former IZ*ONE members to re-debut as a soloist. Unfortunately, this debut is much to the disappointment of those hoping for YENAGLOW/EVERDUCK to become a reality.

She goes by her first name (stylized in caps) for her solo music activities. Unfortunately, if you search for her full name on Spotify or Apple Music, you get a different artist of the same name. So please be aware of that when you’re looking to add this album to your streaming service collection.

With that public service announcement out of the way, let’s move on to the album itself. SMiLEY is a short five-track album that features the self-titled single as its lead track.

SMiLEY is precisely the kind of song you would expect from one with the bubbly personality that YENA has. It would be insanity to think she would come out with something angst-ridden against character. The song’s lyrics are a burst of positivity, encouraging the listener to smile and forget about their troubles which again fits YENA perfectly.

What is funny about SMiLEY is that it feels more like a Japanese-style pop song than a Korean one. It has that super genki vibe all over it. One can easily imagine a squeak toy-voiced Japanese idol singing the lyrics in an out-of-tune and overly cute manner.

Well, maybe it’s best not to imagine that and be thankful we have YENA doing this type of song instead.

As for the rest of her EP? The majority of the songs follow the same template as SMiLEY. Meaning you get more high-energy and catchy pop songs. The ones that caught my ear are the kiss-off song LxxK 2 U and PRETTY BOYS. The former can be interpreted as a more vulgar phrase once you read the lyrics, while the latter has such an infectious beat and hook you can’t help but bob your head and sing along.

Before Anyone Else is the final song to take note of; if it sounds similar to the IZ*ONE love letters to fans such as With You and Lesson, then you are an attentive WIZONE. Given that YENA had a hand in writing/composing those particular songs, it should not be a surprise that Before Anyone Else has that same feel.

I’ll admit that when I heard that YENA was going solo rather than joining EVERGLOW, I was wary about whether that was the right call. However, after listening to SMiLEY, any trepidation about her going solo has gone away.

SMILEY is a fantastic debut that should appeal to those who like pop music to be unapologetically fun. The only drawback I can see is that it’s too damn short. But that only means there’s probably more goodness to come from her in the future.

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