Jamie has, over the last decade, had an interesting career. She started out on the idol route in duo 15& before becoming best known as one of the longest-serving hosts on After School Club. She went on to perform a number of features and release a slew of singles, most of which were not tied to a larger project. At first glance, Jamie seems like someone who’s been throwing music at the wall, desperately trying to find something that sticks. Yet, when she sits down and crafts something wholesale, it’s usually dripping with artistic vision and insight. Case in point: One Bad Night.
One Bad Night is an EP that does exactly what it says on the label. This is the exact sound of “the night has taken a sharp left turn and is devolving rapidly”. Moreover, One Bad Night takes on multiple meanings of what a bad night can be, from physical harm to emotional self-destruction. It paints a portrait of a night out that is so honest and so real, it is uncomfortable to listen to in its viscerality.
The opening three tracks–“Girls”, “3D Woman” and “In My Bag”– embody what one would expect to hear from a female artist talking about a bad night. Dark, spacy synths, with a sour warping and a harsh, brittle quality, these three tracks are unpleasant on ear. Which means the goal has been achieved flawlessly. These tracks are the moment where you have had one too many drinks, or are on a bad high, and not only is intoxication no longer fun, it’s no longer safe. It is the sound of existential terror as you realize you are too out of it to take care of yourself, and there isn’t anyone you trust to either.
The unfortunate reality of the danger young women can find themselves in on a night out isn’t left to the subtext. All three tracks deal with being a woman in the modern world, and the issues we face from men. “Girls” makes it clear: girls want to have fun, boys want to get some, and drunk girls are easy prey. It places men in the position of deliberate predators: Jamie is only concerned with her girls, taking selfies, dancing and letting loose. Then a guy shows up and “Now he got me drinking and he hot so/ Pour another till it’s full”. And yet, Jamie doesn’t even clock the behavior as manipulative, because it is such a common experience.
“3D Woman” lays into the way men tend to act as if women are only what they see. Jamie pushes back by claiming her identity as a whole, fleshed-out person. She contains multitudes, from a professional and poised woman to a raging club girl to a girl next door, with her inner life focused almost entirely on herself. “In My Bag” appears to follow through on her confidence and self-importance with a brag track: money, ego, and what have you. Yet it’s undercut by the fact that Jamie sounds utterly hammered. Paired with the crawling, skittering beat, the end result is that rather than cool and admirable, she sounds pathetic. It paints the image of someone who should have stopped three drinks back, belligerently screaming as you desperately try to pour them into a car and get them home before something tragic or felonious happens.
“Bedtime Story” and “Honesty (0822)” shift away from the physical danger of the prior tracks for emotional hazards. Gone are the sour, discordant synths, replaced instead with warm, gooey, organic instrumentation that lets Jamie’s expressive voice shine. “Bedtime Story” moves from a simple sex jam to something voyeuristic on the openness of Jamie’s and guest star Gemini’s deliveries. It definitely invokes the idea of this being a moment that the audience really has no business being privy to. It is so raw, and carries the spaced out rush of intoxication so deep, that it makes the listener uncomfortable, filling them with a sense of foreboding.
The other shoe drops on the album closer, “Honesty (0822)”. Jamie, buzzing from the afterglow and the booze, decided to tell her hookup how she really felt about him, wanting a serious relationship… which promptly sends him running for the hills. Melancholy and regretful, Jamie mourns what could have been, musing that if she had not tried to rush things, they could have worked out.
Most noticeably, she does so in Korean. The opening tracks were all in English, setting her image as someone cool and international. “Bedtime Story” uses some Korean, but it’s mostly from Gemini, with Jamie still heavily favoring the lingua franca. In “Honesty (0822)”, though, she breaks down and reverts entirely to her mother tongue, symbolizing her decision to be honest with herself about her poor choices, rather than hiding behind a persona.
One Bad Night is brilliant, and unsettling in its brilliance. There’s no lesson, no moral. It is just a bad night that could happen to anyone. And that mundanity is what makes it so uncomfortable. Who among us has never drank too much, done stupid things, gotten too rowdy, or said something they regret under influence? One Bad Night is painfully real, a reminder that the most evocative art can be the hardest to listen to.
(YouTube, Images via Warner Music Korea)