Ever since leaving k-pop mega-group Girls’ Generation in 2014, fans have been waiting for Jessica Jung to release solo material. Fly follows a string of successful solo releases from current members Taeyeon and Tiffany, but despite Jessica’s obvious star quality, the song itself doesn’t do much to cement her as an interesting artist in her own right.
Above all else, Fly is the kind of self-empowerment anthem so ubiquitous in American instagrammy teen pop these days. I’m sure that this positive sentiment inspires some, but to me it’s the aural equivalent of a “hang in there” cat poster. This is part of the reason I felt like the only person on the planet not won over by Taeyeon’s well-loved hit I from last year. But at least I could understand the appeal of I‘s soaring melody. In comparison, Fly‘s chorus is a let-down — treacly and cloying when it should be powerful and anthemic. The midtempo production is lodged somewhere between ballad and dance, unable to find an interesting middle ground between the two.
The song’s saving grace is Jessica’s performance. With her characteristic, uniquely k-pop tone, the verses are injected with an idiosyncratic playfulness. Nevermind the fact that the melody settles for keeping time rather than letting her do anything interesting with it, or that American rapper Fabolous (an odd, obscure choice) feels phoned in during his cheesy interlude. Jessica’s light, breathy tone begs for a quirkier song — something that doesn’t seek to replicate lowest-common-denominator Western pop but instead allows for more musical experimentation and unique artistry. As it stands, there’s not one single element in Fly that we haven’t heard hundreds of times before.