20160318_seoulbeats_jessi[2]“We’re not a team; this is a competition.”

This infamous phrase probably made Jessi‘s career. But don’t get me wrong; the YMC Entertainment artiste is talented — there’s no doubt about that — and her latest single “Excessive Love” is the perfect testament to that.

While she first made her debut way back in 2005 under the name Jessica H.O., her criticism of BoA forced a 5-year hiatus onto her musical forays. She was lucky enough, though, to enjoy a new lease of life in her career with her 2014 debut as part of Lucky J. And of course, her 2015 participation in the first season of Mnet‘s Unpretty Rapstar only served to further compound her rising popularity.

But Jessi’s association with Unpretty Rapstar, as well as her rap featuring in JYP‘s 2015 hit single “Who’s Your Mama”, has resulted in most people only knowing her for her rapping abilities. Her previous digital single “Ssenunni” had also been a rap track, cementing her status as a rapper. So even though she has had several other songs, this latest digital release probably comes as a bit of a surprise for many listeners who are unfamiliar with her previous vocal works.

A song about being unable to let go of a lover, “Excessive Love” starts off with only the bass beat and Jessi’s rap fillers, somewhat giving off the impression that this is going to be a rap track. But then the piano enters and Jessi actually starts singing instead. This comes as a surprise firstly because the listener is expecting a rap, and secondly, because Jessi’s voice is uncharacteristically girly, gentle, and vulnerable, even. It is an extremely nice change from her usual strong, charged style.

As we venture into the pre-chorus, the melody is especially catchy with Jessi sliding skilfully between her chest voice and falsetto.

How could you say that this is the end?

Are you trying to show me just how manly you are?

My heart still yearns and I can’t sleep at night

I guess I did too many things that you hated

20160318_seoulbeats_jessi[3]The pre-chorus was particularly enjoyable because there’s just so much pain that is made evident through the music, the lyrics and Jessi’s voice. Musically, the melody reflects the lyrical content; where there are questions, the melody is made to move upwards and then in the last two lines it resolves downwards, seemingly reflecting acceptance, as per the lyrics. Paired with climbing emotions, the song then melds seamlessly into the chorus where Jessi’s signature husky voice makes its appearance.

Even as I started out in love, it ended in tears

Like a war, like the ocean, the memories are overwhelming

The past has become an illusion, and only sorrow remains as reality

And I hate myself for being unable to let go

After another verse and chorus, we get to the bridge which is some kind of a segue, restating Jessi’s standpoint plaintively — she does not want to move on. Reaching the peak of the song, listeners are treated to Jessi’s belting, her voice managing to be simultaneously powerful and heartbreaking; the song then closes with a recapitulation of the chorus.

20160318_seoulbeats_jessiSo it is safe to say that the song sufficiently impressed; the same cannot be said for the music video, unfortunately. Overall, the video is not particularly memorable; the most memorable bit was perhaps the burning roses, a stark flaming red against a monochrome backdrop.

There is also some kind of congruency between the scenes and the lyrics: during the bridge, where Jessi sings about remaining in the tunnel despite knowing the exit, she does so while physically in a tunnel. Also throughout the video, there are glimpses of burning objects — roses, a teddy bear, a telephone — all of which could be seen as items associated with the relationship that Jessi is burning in order to try and let go of her lover.

But other than that, the music video simply features Jessi in various settings — a bathtub, an abandoned warehouse, somewhere with barren trees — singing, and being generally hurt and sad. While these are all in theme with the idea of pain and the inability to let a lover go, there is nothing in the video that stands out in particular.

Nevertheless, this single is no doubt a solid release. It not only highlights Jessi’s versatility, but also further spotlights her vocals which really do deserve as much attention as her rapping abilities. Another thing I love about this single is also its lyrical poignancy: the actual words “excessive love” only make one appearance in the first line of the second verse. In an age where lyrical acumen is often overlooked, “Excessive Love” certainly deserves credit for its sense.

(jpopasia, YouTube; Images via YMC Entertainment)