The return of ex-Wonder Girls member Yenny under her solo alias HA:TFELT is immensely exciting. Last time she promoted on her own it was in the form of 2014’s stirring Ain’t Nobody, which melded interpretive dance with a bombastic, dubstep instrumental to incredible effect. She’s one of those rare k-pop acts who march to the beat of their own drummer, and that’s always a welcome quality in pop music. With her 2017 return, she’s released two title tracks of similar genres, softening her sound to a more downbeat blend of r&b and coffeehouse. Of the pair, I Wander (새 신발) packs just a sliver more punch.
It’s difficult for me to review a track like this. My taste will always veer towards more upbeat pop, and because of that it doesn’t feel right to comment strictly on the sound and arrangement of the song. Even if I Wander isn’t the type of release I would normally seek out, its artistic merit is evident. As usual, you get the sense that no one beyond HA:TFELT herself dictated the song’s direction or concept. It’s a wholly personal effort, existing just outside the mainstream by design. But even as it remains somewhat elusive in sound and performance, the track has a surprisingly magnetic quality.
I Wander is centered around a simple, chant-like refrain that feels simultaneously melancholic and inviting. In this way, the song is the polar opposite of Ain’t Nobody, which thrashed around with little regard for ingratiating itself with the listener. Wander‘s instrumental hinges on a bluesy guitar hook that swings from tentative plucks to emotional accents, giving the track a sense of bite that keeps it from feeling overly dreary. Guest vocalist Gaeko makes a confident cameo towards the climax, lending I Wander a story-like drama that perfectly compliments HA:TFELT’s more plaintive delivery.