Ah, Jeon Soyeon. If any single candidate could be nominated to stand as the face of 4th generation K-pop (which I think it’s fair to place her era in), this woman would be high on the list.
A magnetic force in (G)I-dle, previously launched as a soloist by Cube Entertainment after gaining fame on Produce 101 and Unpretty Rapstar, Soyeon is a dominant presence on the K-pop scene. Given these solo beginnings in Jelly, and epic collaborations in tracks like “Dessert”, Soyeon is no stranger to individual concepts and expression. And in “Windy”, this shows.
It should come as no surprise that an idol who is famous for her rapping skills and stage presence has come out with a mini album this playful. In just five tracks, Soyeon shows some impressively fast flow, mountains of attitude, and a satisfying amount of creativity to bring an edge to what could have been a typical ‘summery pop’ release. There isn’t exactly a huge amount of depth, but, for a first mini album, this too tracks with the trajectory of an idol just beginning to spread her own wings.
The tone of the album is pretty solidly pitched in a swaggering, summery mode. From the guitar-edged energy of “Beam Beam”, the dial is set, and the energy levels rarely dip from this point. Slightly reminiscent of the 90s lo-fi hip hop (G)I-dle explored in “Uh Oh”, this song sticks to a simple layering of beat, voice and guitar.
It’s the latter of these that gives the track a wonderfully fuzzy edge: Soyeon is letting us know that her style of summer is not about cutesiness or polish. Echoed by a video featuring Soyeon as a bored, rebellious fast food worker, this song is a cockier, slier take on summer fun than other idols might attempt. “Weather” may take the energy down a notch, but a spotty, perky rhythm keeps the atmosphere feeling light and exciting.
In the latter in the half of the album, Soyeon leans further away from any notion of a bright-eyed, perky beach girl by unleashing the full power of her hip-hop prowess. Both “Psycho” and “Is this bad b**** number?” are Soyeon in full rapper mode- assertive, confident, and completely compelling. “Psycho”, with its laconic, deep piano and staggering, stomp of a rhythm, begins feeling laid back and uncaring, a mood Soyeon plays with both through changes of rhythm and her lyrics.
Lines like the following exhibit a clear bravado that Soyeon immediately puts into action through speeding up her flow. “Psycho”’s play with pace is as impressive as it is exciting, and this is only continued in “Is this bad b**** number”.
“Whether it’s money or love in front of me, make her kneel and I’m excited about it”
The final track of the mini album, “bad b****” is a masterful collaboration with Lee Young-ji and Bibi, and here the power of the song’s title figure is magnified to the power of three. Both collaborators give calmly savage raps of their own: special mention has to go to Bibi’s languidly delivered
“What do you mean bad
I’m sad and I’m mad
You think I play with balls
I do everything with tongues”
The wonderfully knowing nature of this wordplay symbolises the song’s overall arched eyebrow and wide smirk, which Soyeon herself delivers in spades through her own rap section.
Again, the most striking element is the rapid switching of tones and play with flow that she exhibits, revving up to extremely fast lyrics at times, slowing down to sarcastic drawls at others. This never feels anything less than easy and assured across this track and the entire album, lending a sense of authenticity to Soyeon’s swagger that many idols fail to achieve.
This ease of expression, so key to Soyeon’s overall charm as a star, is also the central ingredient making this album pop so well. The main instrument of this expression is her voice, shown here to be one of the most expressive in K-pop. From soaring in the chorus of “Beam Beam”, to rapid-firing staccato in the fastest rapping sections of “Psycho” and “bad b****”, and the gloriously drawn-out notes of “Weather”, Soyeon’s is a voice that can truly convey as much character in tone as it does in words.
Perhaps the most distinct example of this comes in “bad b****”, where she contrasts the speed of previous lines by performing an exaggerated whine for the next lyric:
“she’s so Windy
Oh my god. I will Lit a fire and wipe it off”
The exaggeration of her voice emphasises the contrast in speed in a witty way, and highlights the sarcasm in the lines as she mocks those who might look down on her.
Many of the production choices mirror this expressiveness from Soyeon with their own sense of playfulness. As mentioned above, the guitars of “Beam Beam” add a texture to the central chorus that moves it away from a more generic, EDM-styled summer track.
The laid-back claps and plucked distortion beginning “Weather” are similarly different in style, as is the layering echo of ‘ohs’ that underlie the chorus. It’s a play with rhythm that we don’t hear as much as we could in K-pop. Even “Quit”, the least exciting of the album’s tracks, has some interesting instrumental hooks in its chorus.
But the sharpest, if most on-the-nose, musical quirk, is in “bad b****”. Here, phone dialling tones back up the central melody of the title, and are peppered across the song as a sly reference to the conceit of calling a bad bitch. These, along with occasional bell effects, could come across as obvious or cloying, but their use here is well-placed enough to instead add a sense of fun.
If there could be said to be one thing missing from the album, it might be a sense of depth to the songs in terms of meaning. We know Soyeon is an accomplished songwriter with the ability to make complex and impactful music, with “Lion” or “Oh My God” being just two examples.
While the persona that comes through here is clear, strong, and immensely entertaining, there is little that goes beyond set up. “Psycho” may seem like the best attempt at this, though lines like “Stupid talk. Fake mask. If you saw me easily you’d be very wrong” don’t manage to dig any further into ideas of fake vs real personas with any real power.
This isn’t a big problem in an album that has not attempted to position itself as deep—even the album title “Windy” suggests instead something temporal, strong yet fleeting. Soyeon’s persona is so well-realised and fun that it ends up barely mattering, though there is a slight question left as the album finishes as to what we could have had if she pushed her ideas even further.
Through her first—albeit mini—album, Soyeon has breezily demonstrated exactly why she is one of the most successful idols working today. Full of creative musical hooks, exciting rhythmic play, and rapping that reminds you confidently that she is one of K-pop’s best, “Windy” has given us the best of the Soyeon persona. The bravado and swagger throughout is earned, and if it can be paired with ever more complex topics and ideas in the future, Soyeon will cement her place as on of the greats of her generation.