Following her memorable solo debut last year with Frank, Baek Yerin of 15& is back this summer with another delicate ballad, “Bye Bye My Blue.” For this comeback, Baek Yerin has kept with the piano and understated vocals that made “Across the Universe” so enchanting to listeners. She’s also stripped herself down even more to present one of the most bare-bones melodies we’ve seen from JYPE in a long while.
Baek Yerin’s talents have been praised since she was a trainee at JYPE. With so many musical abilities, it seemed hard for the company to find a place for the young artist that would allow her to excel and build a fan base. As one half of the duo 15&, she was originally presented as a power vocalist through sassy singles like “Sugar” and “Somebody.” While the releases were appreciated, the duo never hit it big like JYPE anticipated. Instead, it was her solo debut with “Across the Universe” in 2015 that garnered the public attention she sorely deserved. Now, in “Bye Bye My Blue,” Baek Yerin continues to present a more sensitive — and perhaps more natural — side to her musicality. A side that demonstrates both a vocal and emotional maturity beyond her eighteen years. I still have no idea what JYPE is doing with 15&, but I am thankful that her solo endeavors better suit her demure musicality and allow us to appreciate her artistry without any gimmicks.
“Bye Bye My Blue” and its MV is all about balance, or perhaps, imbalance. Looking at her “darling” leads Baek Yerin to introspection, penning lyrics that compare her own shortcomings against her crush’s strengths. Baek Yerin feels she gives too little, is too quiet, and is too burdened by the past. Her darling, on the other hand, always gives and always provides the warmth she longs for. Watching him makes her want to be better. Like many a smitten introvert, she wants to be honest about her feelings, but she doesn’t know how to act.
Because I’m afraid to say the things I want to say
So I push you away and make things uncomfortable
Although there’s so much I want to hear
I cannot dare to desire and just wait painfully
When looking at just the lyrics, it’s easy to read the song as self deprecating, but Baek Yerin’s warm delivery turns the somber words into an appreciative melody with undertones of hope. The hesitancy of her confession is felt as Baek Yerin’s voice leads the listener on a soothing journey against soft piano keys and hints of base. Once again, Baek Yerin impresses with vocals that are light in delivery and ornamentation, yet rich with emotion: her voice drops with uncertainty when she’s downing herself, and surges with affection when she sings “my, my, my darling” in the chorus. It feels personal, like we’re listening in on a secret that she’s singing only for herself because she lacks the confidence to share it with the one she desires.
Overall, “Bye Bye My Blue” is a quiet melody, one that passes through the ears easily and ends all too soon. There’s no bridge, no hook, and instead the track relies on the refrains of piano to fill the gaps. Yet, in so few words and notes, “Bye Bye My Blue” manages to communicate the complex sentiments of affection and longing quite well.
That same affection is translated into the MV, where we watch Baek Yerin and her “Daddy Long Legs” pass time together. Much like the track, the MV is simple and pleasing. It’s decorated with small physical representations of the imbalance Baek Yerin sings about, like when her crush drinks his water but she is only able to blow bubbles into her own glass.
Her perceived shortcomings are all visualized so subtly, but the male character is also there to help bring balance to the story: while she blow dries her hair, he holds the mirror and smiles at her; he brings her a blue fish to keep her pink fish company, and he trails behind her as she tries to balance on the yellow line of the road. He’s always there looking out for her, and throughout the short MV we see Baek Yerin become more open in his presence.
Like the track, the MV is simple with no clear narrative, but it accompanies the lyrics quite nicely. Even the moments where the frames freeze and skip adds the hint of tension and apprehension that Baek Yerin sings about. Not to mention, the aesthetics are delightful, from the play of colors to the framing techniques. Every frame of the MV reads like a snapshot which makes the release feel all the more intimate and personal.
I always find it amusing when I read that JYPE is banking all their future success on Twice, when in actuality the company has quite an impressive (and successful) line-up of soloists that stray away from the K-pop mold and offer not only more artistry, but broader listening appeal. Baek Yerin is, of course, one of the champions of this side of JYPE — alongside Baek Ah-yeon, Park Jimin, and perhaps G.Soul. The early success of “Bye Bye My Blue,” is a testament to her popularity.
While it’s no instant classic — and maybe could benefit from a bit more melody — “Bye Bye My Blue” is ideal for the lulls of summertime, for the daydream moments of reprieve that don’t need to be filled with high-energy bars. It’s sweet, maybe a little sad, but ultimately hopeful. There’s nothing wrong with understated when it’s done well, and I think Baek Yerin has a knack for making something so simple enjoyable in its lightness.
MV & Song: 3.2/5
(YouTube. Images via JYPE)