Wow. January needed this. It seems that the past several days have brought nothing but a series of lukewarm comebacks—not much to hate, but not much to love. Luckily, K-pop has Sunmi, who has dropped her new digital single, “Heroine,” to help us remember what it’s like to get really excited about a new title track. The former member of Wonder Girls and longtime star officially elevated her name to legend status with the 2017 hit “Gashina,” one of the best and biggest songs of last year. The follow-up, “Heroine,” does not disappoint. Like “Gashina,” it’s based around a dance hook, but its distinct sound makes it feel new and revitalized.
“Heroine” has one of those wonderfully constructed melodies that aims at staying power rather than immediate gratification. Instead of repeating the same chord progression on even beats with each measure, it draws the progression out in a staggered rhythm over two measures. The first measure is bright and triumphant, but instead of resolving the hopeful, expectant chord it landed on, the second measure drives the melody into slightly more melancholic territory. Variations on that second, less warm element of the melody make the distinctive composition even more exciting. Texturally, the song supports the changing colors of the composition: A chorus behind Sunmi’s voice makes the ambitious melody of the prechorus feel even bigger, and echoing stadium synths with an almost Europop flair give the EDM hook an atmospheric sense of drama, well-suited to the key lyric “The show must go on.”
I usually don’t jump to huge conclusions about a song before giving it a few days to sink in, but “Heroine” has got to be the best song of the year so far. Is it another “Gashina”? No. Does it have the same sinister magic as “Gashina”? No. Of course it doesn’t. If it did, everyone would be complaining that it sounds the same and that Sunmi didn’t evolve. “Heroine” has its own kind of magic, a very different kind, something less beguiling and more anthemic. That’s not to say it’s missing the slight touch of strangeness that Sunmi has made her trademark. Her unique delivery is very present in “Heroine,” and gives birth to brilliant moments such as the stark change in dynamic between the low, breathy vocals in the verse and the striking prechorus. Sunmi continues to be at the top of her game for “Heroine,” and the new concept shows just how versatile her starpower is.
HEROINE: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Bop, bop, and more bop.
Take a look at Sunmi’s “Heroine” MV below: