Soloist Kim Juna gained popularity on girl group survival series Produce 101, and she’s the latest “eliminated” contestant to debut this year. So far, the track record for these debuts has been pretty spotty, both commercially and quality-wise, but Juna attempts to take on a different, more westernized sound with Summer Dream.
While girl group members usually conform to a specific vocal style, Korea’s solo female singers are freer to establish a more unique sound. Juna’s voice has a big, brassy tone, even if it feels slightly affected. This gives Summer Dream a style that doesn’t quite fit in with k-pop as a whole, and I imagine this might actually serve her well with Korean audiences. For us western listeners, Summer Dream is hardly new. Its acoustic-laced power balladry wouldn’t sound out of place performed by many American artists. For a Korean comparison, the track seems to be attempting to follow in the footsteps of Taeyeon’s massive I from last year. Thankfully, it retains enough rootsy individuality to stand on its own.
My favorite aspect of the song is actually the live drums, which give it a rock-tinged appeal that feels pretty fresh in a genre filled with programmed electronics and loops. The melody combines the wistful and the anthemic to positive effect, even though none of it is particularly surprising. It’s a pleasant track that’s well-suited to this transition time between Summer and Autumn, and it effectively establishes Kim Juna’s core sound. Other than that, there’s not a whole lot about Summer Dream that is pulling me back for repeated listens.