There is a long tradition of female soloists in K-pop, and Sunmi is definitely one of the most prominent from the second generation of idols. The former Wonder Girls member started her solo career almost unexpectedly back in 2013 and captivated the public’s attention with her stage control and unique performances. Five years later she has several hits under her belt and Siren is no exception.
Originally intended as a title track for the Wonder Girls, “Siren” didn’t make the cut because the arrangement of the chorus for the band formation of the group was not as effective as the original version (for those who might wonder, “Why So Lonely” ended up being picked). Since Sunmi composed “Siren” with producer FRANTS and wrote the lyrics herself, she got to keep the track and make it the promotional single of her latest album Warning.
“Siren” is a retrò dance song, a style Sunmi is very familiar with from her Wonder Girls days. The song’s chorus is outstanding and easy to remember and sing along. While in the verses Sunmi has a more aloof and detached vibe in her singing, she belts the choruses in a more aggressive way. The beat drops in the bridge where she talks/raps in English.
When thinking about Sunmi, one can’t help but picturing her signature artsy music videos. In “Siren” she plays with the imagery of mythical sirens, creatures who used to lure sailors with their beauty only to eventually drown them, to portrait the duality of her love. While her cute and innocent appearance might be attractive, she will eventually end up revealing her true detached nature by hurting whoever falls in love with her. This is well portrayed in the music video where her two “personalities” face each other.
Siren’s music video shares several similarities with that of “Gashina”. First of all, both videos start off mute with Sunmi looking at herself in the mirror and sneezing in the former, while she slurps a milkshake in the latter. There isn’t a definite storyline in any of these videos, but they are both an abstract portrayal of her inner feelings, which happen to be polar opposites. In “Gashina” Sunmi was wounded by someone who left her and hurt her feelings, in “Siren” she is the one hurting the feelings of the other party with her cold and detached attitude.
Sunmi’s performances have always been very sensual in a subtle way. Rather than focusing on exposing her body, she charms her audience with her glances and her movements. The choreography of “Siren” is powerful and goes well with the song, especially in the chorus where Sunmi expresses getting annoyed and upset (“Get away, out of my face!”) not just with her voice, but with her whole body.
Styling plays an important part in the music video. While the innocent version of Sunmi wears an oversized teal sweater that makes her look somehow more childish and cute, her alter ego wears way flashier and bolder outfits. There is even a mermaid version of Sunmi (sirens are often associated with mermaids) in a sea-like environment, sitting on a washing machine. Mermaid-Sunmi is styled in a slightly different way than her human self: her hair is wavy and she doesn’t wear Sunmi’s signature red lipstick.
Having debuted over 10 years ago, Sunmi successfully managed to reinvent herself and mature into a believable soloist, creating her unique characteristic style. Despite being slightly reminiscent of her mega-hit “Gashina”, “Siren” is a very solid song paired with an artsy and intriguing music video. She might have played it safe with a music genre very familiar to her and going for an aesthetic similar to her past music videos, but the result is effective regardless.
(YouTube, Images via MakeUs Entertainment)