While G(i)-dle has often been associated with Soyeon’s firebrand songwriting, it’s not much of a secret that Minnie and Yuqi’s softer, more introspective songwriting has given the group’s discography much of its emotional depth. Thus, Yuqi’s first full EP, Yuq1, would be a chance for her songwriting, as well as her vocals, to fully shine. Alas, in her efforts to prove herself, Yuqi has fallen into the trap that many find themselves in when striking out on their own– it’s not only strengths that can get exposed, but weaknesses. And unfortunately, Yuq1 is putting Yuqi’s weaknesses on full display.

Every creative in the world has weaknesses or crutches they lean on, for the simple fact that no one is good at everything. Martin Scorsese isn’t much of a cinematographer and Taylor Swift is more than a little melodramatic. However, most creatives know their weaknesses and compensate for them–Scorcese is so good with actors that parking the camera and letting them work does the job just fine, while Swift is able to add enough sincerity that everything still rings true. Yuqi tends towards stripped-down compositions and repetitive lyrics, but with enough heart to connect to the audience and the contributions of two other songwriters, her style doesn’t wear out its welcome. But Yuq1 is lacking both of those.

Title track and opening song “Freak” sets the tone for the EP, for better and worse. It definitely establishes Yuqi’s quiet but very real position of authority that rides across the mini. She absolutely embodies the idea that true power whispers, staying calm and level-headed in the face of those who would see her weakened. Unfortunately, it also establishes the lacking songwriting and mixing. The guitar is repetitive and while the deceptively laid-back energy fits the vibe, the amount of looping feels like this should be a demo rather than a title track.

The lyrics also feel like they needed another pass. Yuqi sings of her admiration for another woman, the titular freak. She’s sexy, wild, and ignites a distinctly sapphic longing in Yuqi… until the bridge hits and the freak was Yuqi all along! Which is fine in theory, but a perspective flip like that needs to a) make sense when applied retroactively and b) be fully committed to after the reveal, and “Freak” does neither. The distanced admiration doesn’t make sense as a self-projection, and there’s a lot of “she” post-bridge. Quite frankly, reading this as Yuqi’s oh moment for her sapphic inclinations is about the only way for “Freak” to make any sense.

Following “Freak” are “My Way” and “Drink It Up”, featuring ph-1. Both take a turn for the softer and quietly poignant, with Yuqi asserting her independence in the face of judgment. The former has her asserting her right to live unconventionally, even if she gets hurt in the process, while the latter has her hooking up as solace for loneliness. Still, she has the power, ironically shown by putting the choice in her partner’s hands: stay for some fun, or go. No skin off her back either way. It embodies Yuqi’s distant nonchalance, that other people just don’t make an impact on her.

Yet, musically, both songs fall flat. Or perhaps it would be more correct to say they stay level. “My Way” is more electronically ramshackle, with a quiet piano line to add some subtle gravitas, while “Drink It Up” is lusher, and finally provides a song with fully built-out instrumentals. But both start and stay at about a five emotionally. There’s neither building to a height of freedom nor falling to a pit of emotional despair. Combine that with the looping instrumentals and repetitive lyrics, and both start to grate before they even end. 

Thankfully, “Red Rover” manages to bounce back, and spectacularly. This is Yuqi’s moment of “then let me be evil”, done via camp. Continuing with the lusher production that flatters Yuqi’s voice perfectly, it channels 70s funk and disco for a fun romp through debauchery and shamelessness. Coming off a bad relationship, she resolved to never let herself be made 2nd place in her own life, only faced with the reality that this is what is expected of women in relationships. Faced with the choice to be a victim or villain, Yuqi chose villain, and delights in it.  

Bouncy and full of flourishes, this is Yuqi indulging and absolving herself simultaneously. The world she creates is incredibly tempting, especially with herself as the main draw. But if you enter it and then get hurt, well, she warned you that she was a selfish user. What did you expect? The only flaw “Red Rover” has is that it’s too damn short.

Sadly, that high is immediately followed by “On Clap”, the worst track on Yuq1. It’s an incredibly basic brag track that consists entirely of bass and chanting. Sparse production and repetitive lyrics can be issues when they’re not used properly, but that is literally all there is on “On Clap”. Even the bragging is incredibly generic. It could be performed by anyone, including the guest Lexie Liu, because there is nothing of Yuqi here. Even her performance has shifted, going from cool and confident to downright bored, and I don’t blame her. 

Next is “Everytime”, the other highlight from Yuq1.  A tender ballad with an appearance from Minnie, it marks the power of a good friendship to provide resilience against a world that often requires struggle to live on your own terms. It still allows Yuqi’s strong presence to shine, but the sweeter instrumentals add a layer of vulnerability. Gooey, organic; this is a time where the sparse instrumentation really works, not least because it doesn’t feel like an incessant loop. 

Yuq1 closes with “Could It Be”, a serviceable but forgettable track. It returns to the prior issues of falling flat emotionally. It’s supposed to be Yuqi questioning a new relationship, if something casual could be something more serious, more magical. Yet, she just sounds vaguely curious, like she noticed a new restaurant opened. The production doesn’t help either. Rather than romantic and twinkly, the beat plods along with the same mild interest as Yuqi herself.

As said previously, every creative has weak spots. I’m a smartass who loves overly complicated sentence structures. Yuqi prefers stripped-down compositions and lyrics, which allows her point to be made clearly, but can wear on the audience when that’s all there is. And that’s about all there is on Yuq1. Separately, there’s a lot to like about each track, but stacked up, the repetitiveness of lyrics and music starts to grate. She is very talented as a performer, composer, and lyricist, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two standout tracks are one on which she has no writing credits, and one that had her working with a longtime collaborator. Yuqi needs to step out of her comfort zone, if only because it’s only comfortable for her.

(images via Cube Entertainment)