It’s not every day that we get a K-Pop release of this magnitude.
Taeyeon’s first full-length album My Voice is not just grand in scale – the deluxe version features a whopping 16 songs (17 if you include the CD only bonus track “기억을 걷는 시간”) – but it’s also monumental in terms of how far it goes to explore every aspect of Taeyeon’s god-given gift.
For many, Taeyeon is considered one of K-Pop’s strongest singers. Not only is she vocally capable of carrying a tune (a pretty nice one at that), but she has repeatedly proven her versatility as an artist; First with Girls’ Generation, then as a part of sub-unit TaeTiSeo (TTS). It’s not until the last couple of years that we’ve been able to get a much better sense of how far Taeyeon has grown as a soloist, all thanks to her solo projects, with My Voice serving as the end-all testament to her talent. At least for now.
My Voice is carefully constructed to showcase Taeyeon at her finest, accomplishing this best in the bookends of this album. The newest single “Make Me Love You,” which opens the deluxe edition, drops Taeyeon squarely onto a dreamy and atmospheric jam that remains rather constrained in its arrangement, doing so only to allow the singer better room for emotional expression. Taeyeon doesn’t quite let herself get there on this song as if trying to be cautious in her beckoning (and in that sense works well for the song), but she does a considerably better job of it on “Fine,” her first lead single off the album.
“Fine” is an impassioned pop-rock ballad that Taeyeon elevates with powerful choruses, adding layers of harmonies as she ascends toward a grand climax of vocal explosions. Elsewhere, songs like “Lonely Night” and “Love In Color,” two songs that waltz in late in the collection, are exquisite examples of Taeyeon’s gentler side. She’s vaguely sensual in the R&B mid-tempo “Lonely Night,” while at her most expressive in “Love In Color.” The latter is one of the most controlled songs on the album, with very little theatrics, yet Taeyeon succeeds in drawing out a perfect amount of emotion to strike at the heart strings.
Some of the most interesting aspects of this album are found in the experimental playground of sounds that are relatively new to Taeyeon. “Cover Up,” for instance, is a bouncy EDM track that rings familiar to some of SM’s recent EDM endeavors on STATION, and Taeyeon sounds pretty damn good on it. Meanwhile, the ballsy “I Got Love” tests Taeyeon’s stylistic limits. Her resolve to see this song through to the end is commendable considering how little time she is given on the song to hit all her notes before moving aside for the instrumental. I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to work the other way around.
Of them all, though, the dance-pop “Eraser” packs the biggest punch. Taeyeon is in her ‘TTS’ zone on this one, proving that she can be as equally aggressive all on her own. Her voice fits perfectly within this song’s production, piercing right through bounce-based hand claps and every brass element present. The vocal processing, however, like in a lot of the other tracks on My Voice, shifts in and out of hollow-y reverberation and heavy compression that is either hit or miss depending on how complex the instrumental happens to be.
Something else that is hit or miss about My Voice is its sluggish middle third. “When I Was Young” and “Sweet Love” do very little to add spark to this album. The only song in this section that stands out is “Time Lapse,” which provides an interesting listening experience by shifting styles throughout the song to generate the mental image that we’re cruising through space and time itself. But again, something about the mastering of this song isn’t quite all there. Either way, questionable processing aside, it’s hard to downplay Taeyeon’s vocals when she’s singing some of her best songs yet.
And so it only made sense that the folks at SM Entertainment titled this thing My Voice because it is indeed explorative of Taeyeon’s vocal potential. Her voice is the common thread that joins this collection at the seams. It is an album rich in compositions that do their best to push Taeyeon out of her comfort zone and into realms of music that she hasn’t played in before.
If you are a fan of Taeyeon’s singing, then this album will do more than just satisfy your enthusiasm to hear her voice — it will heighten your appreciation for Taeyeon as a full-fledged performer.
Genre: Ballad, Dance, R&B/Soul | Release Date: 4/5/17