It’s almost time for Taeyeon to take over the charts with her sophomore mini Why. For a special pre-release to build anticipation, she’s teamed up with Dean for the sweet duet, “Starlight.” Perhaps unknown to some, Dean has been both a producer and lyricist behind a handful of SM tracks. Now that he’s officially debuted as an artist, it makes sense that SM would invite him to step into the spotlight — especially with their recent push for cross-agency collaborations.
“Starlight” gives us a tiny taste of a slightly more electro sound that we can expect from Why, while also showing off a musical and on-screen chemistry I didn’t originally anticipate, yet I appreciate all the same. If the teasers are any indication, Taeyeon’s gone full California girl for this comeback, and this special pre-release collaboration if perfect for both setting the tone of her upcoming release and capturing the dreamy tones of summer.
“Starlight” is sweet — almost sickeningly so — and is all about a lonely heart that finds happiness in the warmth and love of someone they meet by chance. Through this person, they are drawn from their grey shell and suddenly the world is new, more lovely, more bright. Being with this person reveals a new side to themselves that they didn’t know existed, and they appreciate their lover for making such happiness possible. The track is essentially an extended thank you, decorated with simple metaphors concerning light and darkness to convey the opening up of a once cold heart.
I was used to being alone, my days were gray
But I remember the day you lightly came to me, knocking on my door
You shined on me like a light
Woke me up from darkness
Opened the closed door of my heart
Of course, all the metaphors in the lyrics are brought to life through Taeyeon and Dean’s delivery. Taeyeon is more than capable of belting out notes, but it’s always the more gentle side to her voice that I appreciate. In “Starlight” she keeps things light and sweet, with minimal ad-libs or high notes, and her voice is laced with affection. Dean offers a nice balance with his lower register. Where Taeyeon is gentle and perhaps guarded, Dean is more powerful — especially in the choir-style bridge breakdown. Together, their voices compliment one another quite nicely, and the melody feels balanced.
The backing track toes the line between a band and a more electronic genres. Which is appropriate, taking from Taeyeon’s last album I, which featured a more rock-influenced sound, and Dean’s R&B style. Much like the way their voices came together, so did their respective genres. More than anything though, “Starlight” shows off an impressive musical chemistry between Taeyeon and Dean that I’d like to see more of in the future.
The musical chemistry also translates into on-screen chemistry in “Starlight’s” MV. Like the upcoming MV for “Why,” “Starlight” was also filmed in California. The sun, warm pastels, and beach scenery all set the perfect stage for summer romance, and that’s exactly what Taeyeon and Dean deliver.
As if they are fated to meet, a rebellious and tsundere Taeyeon bumps into Dean after launching an unwarranted ketchup and mustard attack on a back alley hot dog vendor. They are drawn together initially by their corresponding jewelry, and then by their shared love of music.
Throughout the MV, we watch Taeyeon’s cold character transform into a woman bursting with warmth and affection in Dean’s presence. Much like the lyrics convey, she opens her self up to Dean and in so doing discovers a happier side to herself. Taeyeon then lives the dream in fluffy montages with Dean serenading her on the beach and pillow fighting with her in his apartment. Taeyeon’s curious and allusive gaze carries the MV, and the way that she looks at Dean (and vise-versa) makes everything extra sweet and intimate.
I’m so tempted to jump on the Taeyeon/Dean ship bandwagon now.
Behind the cuteness, though, there’s something more that isn’t fully fleshed out; a hint of uncertainty or distrust that leads to the final frames in which Dean stands alone, holding the memories of Taeyeon in the form of the ring and necklace. After all this lovely-dovey warmth, the ending kind of irks me. Are we meant to read Dean standing alone holding the jewelry (followed by a scene of Taeyeon walking away) as a sign of their romance’s end? The longing expression on Dean’s face has me thinking so; however, wouldn’t that go against everything the song and MV have been narrating? Maybe it’s meant to be open ended, or maybe I’m reading it entirely wrong, but the tone of the final shots doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the MV.
Awkward ending aside, “Starlight” is the perfect kind of dreamy jam to kick off SM’s string of summer releases. Given that it featured two of my favorite solo artists, it was almost guaranteed I would enjoy the collaboration, but “Starlight” exceeded my expectations. It’s mainly the chemistry between Taeyeon and Dean that I have to thank for that. Most importantly, “Starlight” has me even more excited for Taeyeon’s new album — which I’m pretty sure was SM’s exact goal with this pre-release.
MV Rating: 3.5/5
(YouTube. Images via SM Entertainment. Translations via Pop!Gasa.)