To my mind, 2015’s Reboot was not only Wonder Girls’ best album, but one of the best k-pop albums of all time. It’s such a pity that the group never had a chance to follow up on its 80’s sound before disbanding. But this — unexpectedly — is where Yubin comes in. With debut solo single Lady (숙녀/淑女), she’s crafted a retro “city pop” disco hit that would’ve fit perfectly within Reboot’s hallowed track list.
Though the title limits her talent considerably, Yubin was known most strongly as Wonder Girls’ rapper. It’s surprising, then, that Lady features no rap at all. Instead, she gives her rich voice a chic makeover, delivering the song with an aloof sophistication. In this way, she instantly reminded me of dance legend Uhm Jung Hwa. There’s no cutesy girlishness here. This is a performer bursting with a different kind of confidence.
Lady echoes that sentiment, pulsing with an understated groove. It’s a playground of drum fills and chirpy synth loops, framing a chorus that loops itself around in somersaults with a push and pull melody that seems to delight in its own playful provocations. There isn’t a slam dunk hook to be found anywhere, which lessens the song’s impact when compared to something as deliciously addictive as I Feel You, but Yubin has nailed the city pop aesthetic. From the lush backing vocals to the electric guitar fueled climax, Lady throws off a kind of energy we haven’t heard from k-pop in quite awhile. Hopefully, she’ll be given the opportunity to build on this sound in the future.