Full disclosure: when Ailee’s on, she’s really on, but I have always preferred her more uptempo, aggressively soulful tracks to the ballads. Songs like Don’t Touch Me, or the almighty U&I, crackle with a certain k-pop energy that is hers and hers alone. So when it became clear that her newest comeback would be a ballad, I listened with a certain level of trepidation.
It turns out that If You is pretty much everything I expected it to be, which ultimately means that it’s a track many will love, and I will appreciate for a moment before moving on to something with more punch to it. That’s just a matter of personal taste, and because of this, it’s really hard to assign a score that feels particularly accurate or credible. At their core, Ailee songs are all about vocal performance, and any composition that allows her the room to show off her effortlessly soulful vocals has to be considered a success. If You passes this bar easily, setting up a warm bed of instrumentation that perfectly compliments her tone. It has a ballad feel to it, but is ornamented in a way that makes it sound more like a church hymn. This hearkens back to Ailee’s western roots, as the whole track has a definite old-school American feel.
The dramatic side of me wishes that she could have been joined by a full gospel choir here, which would have given the track even more emotional heft and dynamism. I can respect the choice to follow a more solemn tone, but the lack of vocal or production fireworks makes If You feel more like an excellent album track than an actual single. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but it makes me even more anxious for her next big pop moment.