If there’s anything to take away from Baek A Yeon’s Bittersweet make sure it’s every nuance of jazz she has thrown in here. For the La La Land enthusiasts, you will relish in this album’s pop-laced nod to jazz. The lead single “Sweet Lies,” featuring the elusive supporting vocals of The Barberettes, is one of few songs on Bittersweet that utilizes a rhythmic subset of the genre as a vehicle for Baek A Yeon to work her charm. And boy, is it ever charming.
Think IU if IU decided to release a bossa nova record. “Sweet Lies” itself has a soothing quality to it, likely thanks to its liberal use of guitar, even if lyrically Baek A Yeon is singing about being ghosted by a flaky guy. Her vocals are sweet and wonderful, delicately adding that top coat of irony to this cheeky single. It’s one of her best, definitely, and The Barberettes’ old-school harmonies fill in the gaps where Baek A Yeon pulls back, letting the instrumental do its thing.
“Just Friends” is even more playful and gratuitous with its sugary jazz concoction. Baek A Yeon opens up a bit more here, singing with a little more force than before, occasionally tiptoeing toward full belts during the song’s chorus. There’s a sudden jazz break tossed in near the end for climactic effect and would feel out of place hadn’t there been trumpets sprinkled throughout the rest of the track hinting at it from the beginning. Those horns return in the surprisingly fierce “Jealousy” featuring Jimin Park. But no song comes as a bigger surprise than “Magic Girl.”
It’s impossible not to fall in love with this gorgeous twist on 80s power pop. Baek A Yeon draws you in with her enticing vocal inflections and nostalgia-triggering melodies. By the time the reverb kicks into overdrive during the pre-chorus, chorus and, majestically, the middle eight, your feet have already tapped a hole through your floor and your heart has exhausted its final lifeline.
From light-hearted jazz sequences to hypnotic pop arrangements, Baek A Yeon’s comeback mini-album Bittersweet is a playful concert of magical pop that is not only successful at grabbing your attention but also proves to be exemplary in its delicate blend of genres. Given the length of time that it’s taken to get here — it’s been nearly four years since Baek A Yeon’s last EP! — it doesn’t come as a surprise that the singer has spent her time wisely tailoring her music to perfection. Save for a couple duds, Bittersweet is perhaps one of JYP’s strongest releases this year and an album sure to win the hearts of old and new fans of Baek A Yeon, who should really stop taking such long breaks between releases.
Genre: Ballad, R&B/Soul, Rock | Release Date: 5/29/17