A day after YG’s BLACKPINK released the minimalist acoustic ballad Stay, SM Entertainment counter punches with its own version in the form of Taeyeon’s 11:11. But unlike the former’s flirtation with tempo change and folk elements, 11:11 plays it straight down the middle. Surprisingly, this no-nonsense approach actually pays off.
More than any other artist in their roster, SM has been pushing Taeyeon as a solo star. It’s a position I haven’t always been as excited about as others, so it’s odd that a song so simplistic in nature goes farther than almost any other release in convincing me of her viability and necessity in the k-pop world. Maybe it’s the fact that much of my musical nostalgia is rooted in the 90’s, when this type of navel gazing acoustic pop was all the rage in America. Because of this, 11:11‘s melody feels instantly familiar, though at the same time I can’t point to any segment that screams copycat. Instead, its lilting sound invites the listener in little by little, proving far more compelling than a song of this style might seem to be on the surface.
There’s not much to discuss on the production front. The entire song is built around acoustic guitar, with some light percussion and piano here and there. The real triumph is the arrangement of the backing vocals, which hit just at the right moments. The post-chorus refrain is especially effective in this way, layering Taeyeon’s vocals over a simple (but perfect) wordless hook, which ties a falsetto call to a response delivered in a lower, more grounded tone. It has a dreamy quality to it, which gives it the musical and emotional heft that many tracks in this genre struggle to attain.