In her solo debut with Bon Voyage, YooA stuck to a dreamy sound that didn’t diverge too far from the softer image of Oh My Girl. Two years later, she has made a return with Selfish, which sees her branching out both musically and lyrically to form a more distinct and musical identity. She explores different ways in which selfishness can manifest in relationships, and how, depending on the context, that selfishness can range from being manipulative to being understandable or the right quality to have.
Being selfish is one of those odd traits: there are many things that are worse than selfishness, but also few that are more unlikeable. When someone is unable to process that those around them are not merely extras in their movie, just being around them is a chore. But selfishness is, at the core, taking an acceptable trait too far. Prioritizing your own wants and needs is perfectly fine, until and unless you stop thinking other people should do the same. There is a fine line between self-centeredness and self-care, and it can be hard to see.
This is showcased extremely well on the two opening tracks. “Selfish” shows YooA as someone on the hook. She likes a guy, she’s told him, and now, she’s stuck waiting as he refuses to give an answer. He won’t say he likes her, he won’t say doesn’t; he won’t even commit to not knowing. Fed up, YooA just wants a response. It does not have to be the one she wants, just a definitive statement so she can break out of this state of stasis.
The production only amplifies this. The instrumentation of “Selfish” is bare bones drum and bass. It is reminiscent of a marching band, aided by the use of cheerleader chants–an interesting choice as cheerleaders are often stereotyped as selfish. YooA uses her lower range for a smooth and rich performance that contrasts the aggressive instrumentals. The end result is something blunt and clear: keeping people on the hook because you like the attention is a selfish thing to do.
Which makes “Lay Low” all the more interesting. It is effectively the same story as “Selfish”–someone has somebody on the hook, and they would like off of it, one way or the other. Yet now, YooA is the guilty party. Afraid of commitment but in love with the flirting and drama, she simply nopes out when things get too real. She deflects, claiming to be too naive or a hot and cold personality, but at the end of the day, the truth is she won’t start anything so she can’t get hurt by it ending. That this hurts other people doesn’t even register. Yet, while it is wrong, it’s also understandable. The bass-heavy production and warped vocals, combined with her own frantic delivery make it clear that YooA is not acting out of malice, but panic. She never meant for things to get to this point, and now she wants out any way she can. It’s a bad choice, but a supremely human one.
Things move on to “Blood Moon”, a dark and seductive one-night stand. It straddles the line between seedy and fun, relying on a funky bassline and deceptively sweet vocals from YooA to sell the tale of an impulsive but very desired night of passion. “Blood Moon” also benefits from some much-needed self-awareness. YooA openly admits she’s greedy and is primarily concerned with getting her own rocks off. But this is a one-night stand. There’s no commitment or emotional involvement. As long as both parties are clear, there is nothing wrong with a little mutual selfishness. Sticky, intense, and sworn by the inconstant moon, “Blood Moon” is a reminder that the occasional walk on the wild side can be good for the soul.
The EP winds down with “Melody”. It is the synthiest, most built-out production on the EP, but still carries the booming bass that has been the foundation. The synths have a vaguely tropical sound, which picks up on the heavy use of oceanic imagery throughout the track. Like the first two songs, “Melody” serves as a foil to “Blood Moon”. Where “Blood Moon” was a seedy but ultimately stable hookup, “Melody” is a deceptively sinister obsession. YooA coos to her crush, trying to win him to her side, attempting to “playfully” steal his heart for her own edification.
Yet, the minor key and saccharine vocals give the track and unnerving edge, bringing to mind that sirens didn’t love sailors–they killed them. YooA shows a borderline toxic disregard for her crush’s feelings. She is utterly consumed by her own thoughts and desires, with the idea that this person could be anything, but what she wants not even occurring. It is an unsettling track, but what really sets it over the edge is how, with a few tweaks, “Melody” would be an ordinary love song, obsession and all.
Selfish is a fascinating look at how people view relationships. It’s about how someone can be put through the emotional wringer, and then unthinkingly do the same to someone else. How a hookup with a stranger can be a healthier choice than pining for someone until they become a thing to covet, so long as you are both honest. But most of all, it cuts to the heart of something a lot of people think, even if it isn’t articulated: that something is only selfish if it is done by someone else.
(Images via WM Entertainment, YouTube)