20150207_seoulbeats_taeyeon_rain_2016 is already shaping up to be quite the jam-packed year for SM Entertainment. In addition to their already full line-up of artists, the company announced their plan to debut the dynamic new boy project NCT, as well as a new weekly release series known as Studio. For the Studio series, Lee Soo-man ambitiously announced the company’s plan to release a new digital single each week for an entire year. The first artist to kick off the single fest would be 2015’s break out solo artist, SNSD‘s Taeyeon.

Much like obvious choices for SNSD members to go solo, Taeyeon is also the obvious choice for artists to kick off a new digital campaign. SM has never excelled in digital sales, but Taeyeon has the talent, fan base and broad appeal that allows her to break the SM digital barriers. When the first teaser was released, fans realized they were in for a track more jazzy, slow and perhaps a bit gloomier than its predecessor, “I.”

At first listen, “Rain” feels awful upbeat for such a melancholy song. Taeyeon’s jazzy vocals and the smooth instrumentation lull listeners into a tranquil evening rain, only to break their hearts with painful memories. The track, however, isn’t about moping; it’s about the slow process of moving on, the way memories linger and find us in at the oddest moments.

When it rains, the memories fall down and the pain spreads

I look at you that starts pouring out

Then I freeze in the times that are so clear, as I am wet with the memories

Then I draw out the beautiful you in the rain

For a passing moment in the middle of a night rain, Taeyeon allows herself to lament the love she once had. It’s one of those fleeting moments after a break-up where even if you have moved on to the best of your ability, you allow yourself to be weak — if only for a brief, quiet second. It will pass, and the sun will come up the next morning, but there’s catharsis in allowing yourself to long, to miss, to hurt.

20150207_seoulbeats_taeyeon_rain_4Of course there is pain in the recollection, but there’s warmth and affection in there too. In a small way, there’s even a hint of hope. Not a hope that the love will come back, but that the storm will end, and she will go back to her life. What’s lovely about that feeling of hope is that it isn’t granted directly through the lyrics, but rather through how Taeyeon sings the song. The lyrics are sad, but her voice is nostalgic and warm, leaving the song itself feeling much more bittersweet than simply melancholy.

The long and dazzling season

Will it fade away and stain inside the photo album?

The night is growing deeper

Promises that I can’t forget

Your warm embrace, goodbye

As for the music video itself, it doesn’t contribute much to the release but it accompanies it quite nicely. Instead of the literal interpretation of the lyrics, the aesthetics focus on Taeyeon lounging around her apartment. As the memories continue to pile up through the evening, the apartment too is flooded. It’s quite lovely symbolism, though I’m still not sure what to make of the shots of Taeyeon pouring glitter into the fish bowls.

20150207_seoulbeats_taeyeon_rain_10What I appreciate most about the video and the release is how much the concept highlights Taeyeon’s talents and visuals. Her voice carries the track exactly right, even if at times the back track is a little too loud. She’s lovely to listen to — no matter the style — and also lovely to watch — no matter the concept.

That’s what I like to think of as the magic of Taeyeon; she’s so easy to project any image on and have it stick. SM has been quite clever with their marketing of the SNSD leader. Even in the group’s early days, while some members were designated the happy viruses, ice princesses and eye smile queens, Taeyeon was always given the simple label of the one who could sing. While, of course, bits and pieces of Taeyeon’s personality and interests shone through, this ambiguous label allowed her to remain mysterious and completely malleable as an artist. Combine her blank-canvas marketing with her vocal dynamics, and SM has created the perfect superstar that can fit into any mold.

I’m never surprised by the fact that Taeyeon is given such a wide breadth of musical material, but I am always impressed with how effortlessly she manages to pull off each genre. “Rain” with its lounge-y, soulful, undertones is no exception. I know that “I” was her baby — and a declaration of the kind of music she’s always wanted to release, but as far as singles go, “Rain” resonates a bit stronger as a personal favorite.

Song: 3.4/5

MV: 2.7/5

(YouTube. Images via SM Entertainment. Lyrics via PopGasa)