Solo careers are a tricky proposition. While a group can easily get by on the novelty of its member’s individual strengths and interactions, there has to purpose to a solo artist. What makes them different and unique enough to stand on their own? What need does their solo work fulfill that their group couldn’t replicate?
I was no fan of Jessica’s first foray into her post-Girls’ Generation career, and Wonderland continues in the same problematic direction. This time around, her music latches onto the trendiest aspects of 2016 k-pop, but delivers them in a far less compelling package. The moment Wonderland kicks off, with its repetitive tropical house riff, the song has basically written itself. It’s clear what template is being used — an over-reliance on that simple instrumental hook, paired with a weak, underdeveloped chorus. This only works if your instrumental is strong enough to compensate for a lack of melodic diversity (ie: BTS or BLACKPINK). But in the case of Wonderland, that central riff feels lifeless and way, way too familiar.
In fact, the entire song recalls Taeyeon’s Why from this summer, which is interesting given that Jessica is (presumably) trying to establish her sound apart from Girls’ Generation and its members. Of course, Why was a big hit, as is the tropical house craze in general. But so far with Jessica, we’ve seen an artist that’s really just releasing derivative versions of what’s popular. Wonderland does nothing to tell us why we should care about Jessica the solo artist. Apart from her notoriety and star power, what is her music bringing that we can’t get from anyone else?