Despite her debut solo album’s name being IM NAYEON, both a play on her full name and an introductory phrase of sorts, Nayeon herself hardly needs an introduction. 

As Twice’s oldest member, center, and lead vocalist, it’s no surprise that Nayeon is the first of the nine-member group to go solo, even though it’s a bit of a surprise as to how long it took for any of the members to finally venture out on official solo projects of their own after seven years together as a group. In IM NAYEON, Nayeon mostly maintain’s Twice’s distinct brand of bright, poppy charm, while putting her own spin on it here and there to boldly declare herself as an individual artist who has something unique to bring to the table. 

Although Twice put out a plethora of different types and genres of music, they’re mostly known for their upbeat and bubblegum sound. As one of their strengths and main differentiators in a bustling, girl crush-filled girl group landscape, that bubblegum sound translates well into Nayeon’s new catalog of solo music. It’s a welcome return to the nostalgic sounds of both Twice’s older discography and K-pop of generations past. 

Pop!,” the lead single off the EP, is perhaps the best representation of that return to the tried and true on IM NAYEON. Straightforward and to the point, “Pop!” leaves the heavy experimentation and electronic-ification of K-pop out of the equation, but in Nayeon’s case, this helps her excel. “Pop!” is also largely backed by actual instruments, including playful and buzzing horns that compliment the track’s lively rhythm and Nayeon’s whimsical vocal ad libs and “pop” sound effects to a tee. Put together, each element of the track, plus its MV, conjure up a pleasant, nostalgic vibe reminiscent of old-school K-pop. 

“Pop!” admittedly doesn’t do a great deal in terms of differentiating Nayeon as a soloist from her group as a whole, but the rest of the tracks on the EP do more justice in carving out her solo identity and highlighting her individual potential. “No Problem,” featuring JYP Entertainment labelmate Felix of Stray Kids, is one of those tracks. Sung fully in English, “No Problem” sticks to the fresh nostalgia of the rest of IM NAYEON, while also heading in a more retro direction. The track features bright synths reminiscent of a disco song and electronic harmonizers over Nayeon’s sweet and addicting vocal melodies as she sings “No there ain’t no problem/For love/With you and I tonight.” Although Felix’s rap verse comes in at an awkward time in the song, almost stopping Nayeon’s melodies in their tracks, “No Problem” remains a solid standout within the rest of the EP. 

“Love Countdown” and “Sunset” are two other strong tracks on the album, again differentiating Nayeon from her greater group while remaining familiar in terms of sound. “Love Countdown,” featuring rapper Wonstein, is an acoustic-based track with another easygoing melody and rhythm, as with “No Problem.” While Wonstein’s rap flows better with the track’s melody, Nayeon’s vocals are still the highlight, as she waffles back and forth between short and long notes, her lower and higher registers, and her rich chest voice and breathy falsetto. “Sunset,” on the other hand, slows things down even further, but doesn’t feel like the obligatory ballad to bookend the album. Yes, ballads are great for showing a strong vocalist’s range, but “Sunset” is more unique in nature in that it leans more towards jazz influences rather than a strictly piano-based ballad. Nayeon’s exquisite, melancholy vocals and harmonies again demonstrate her vocal and emotive range, as well as her ability to adapt to genres outside of what she would normally tackle as a member of Twice. 

There’s also “All Or Nothing,” which includes another one of Nayeon’s best vocal performances on the EP. Rhythmically, the track is more R&B-inspired, again highlighting how well Nayeon’s voice adapts to genres outside of Twice’s ownership over the bubblegum pop genre. Nayeon’s vocals are as sweet and strong as ever as she sings of navigating growing and becoming her own person as she moves through life, adding an additional layer of fullness to the track. 

Other tracks on IM NAYEON are also familiar in nature, but almost too much so to the point where they get lost amongst the rest. “Candyfloss” is another cheery and poppy track, as with “Pop!,” but sounds reminiscent of a previously-released Twice title track. “Happy Birthday To You” errs on the same side of sounding much like another group song, only sung by Nayeon alone, and could pack a little more oomph and layers into it to make it stand out among the rest. 

Although Nayeon sticks to the tried and true throughout much of IM NAYEON, her choice in doing so hardly comes at a cost. As its title track “Pop!” suggests, the EP shows its strengths in its pure poppiness, while also demonstrating Nayeon’s ability to adapt and own melodies outside of her regular realm as a member of Twice. The EP is nostalgic and retro most of the way through, while still feeling bright, new, and fresh, giving Nayeon a promising start for even more solo endeavors to come. 

(YouTube. Lyrics via Genius. Images via JYP Entertainment.)