A 15-year veteran of the music industry with a long and storied career, Younha is one of those artists it can feel daunting to dig into. Yet as her newest release proves, her skill and talent alone are more than enough to entrance an audience. It’s been nearly six months since Younha came out with Stable Mindset. Therefore, it’s fitting to see her follow-up is called Unstable Mindset. A five-track EP, Unstable Mindset is a mesmerizing showcase for Younha’s remarkable abilities as a musician. This EP is the story not of how a heart breaks, but how it heals.
The mini opens with “Winter Flower”. This track has gained the most attention, despite not being the title track, as it is a collaboration with RM of BTS. Yet, he pales in comparison to Younha, who has managed to strike a balance between epic and fragile. Her long, held notes, vibrating with pain, are grandiose but she always sounds a hair’s breadth away from crumbling. The electric guitar and piano constantly pitch and roll, making Younha sound as if she’s in free fall, which is fitting for a track about a relationship about to collapse. She and RM, whose pleas of “hold on” ground “Winter Flower”, plead with each other to not give up even though things have gotten bad between them. Yet the unrelenting force of the instrumentation makes it clear that their love is likely doomed.
This is confirmed by lead single “Dark Cloud”, a melodic piece. Here, Younha is mourning a relationship that has just ended. She is forced to face the world alone and is still living in the memories of when she did not have to. It is the pain of the empty seat at the table, the solitary place setting. The sense of being pulled into memories is mirrored by the instrumentation, which is tumbling and tumultuous. The strings and piano rise and fall with such power and emotion that “Dark Cloud” feels like being pulled through a river. You have no choice but to ride out the current and hope you get somewhere safe enough to climb out.
“See You” is the required sparse ballad, but it is also not. For one thing, while it opens as a bare-bones piece, it does not stay that way. Electric guitar, synths, and percussion all come in to add color and build to the climax.
For another, the instruments are superfluous to Younha herself. Her delightfully haunting voice is placed right at the front of the mix, allowing her pain to fully permeate the audience. “See You” feels aimless, because it is by design. It is the sensation of desperately missing someone… until you see them again and remember why you ended things.
Fourth track “One Day Of Twenty” is a very pretty track, but it lacks the poignancy of the earlier songs, at least musically. It is a very delicate track, very graceful, but the emotional punch of “See You” and “Dark Cloud”. Even Younha’s vocals are not enough to elevate it; because her voice is not meant for delicate. It is meant for power and that is not this track. “One Day of Twenty” is the utter heartbreak, the belief that you will never love again, and the slow realization that it does not hurt like it once did.
That realization leads into the album closer, “26”. “26” is an inversion of the usual album setup. It is a raucous, energetic ending to Unstable Mindset, one that is filled with utter euphoria as she realizes she is done grieving for this relationship. It will still matter, it may still cause her pain, but the shift has happened to turn it from a piercing ache to a dull throb. The electric guitar in particular is phenomenal, and has some absolute shred that lets Unstable Mindset end in a place of peace and optimism.
Unstable Mindset is a powerful performance for Younha. She is phenomenal, her voice just exuding pain, loss, grief, and doubt from every note. Her slow healing as she allows herself to simply feel the emotions and get over her break-up organically is just heart-breaking. Even more noticeable is her choice to back the EP with electric guitars and synths; which gives the whole project a more raw, honest feeling. Acoustic guitars are supposed to be more emotional, but Younha is electric, and that honesty adds a great deal of power.
From any other artist, Unstable Mindset would be a tour de force, a landmark performance that would go down as a major high point. But from Younha, this is her standard. She just is this remarkable as a musician, and this is as good a point as any to dive into her discography. Unstable Mindset will likely entice you to listen to the whole thing anyway.
(YouTube. Images via MEPLUS.)