As successful as Taeyeon has been in Korea, I’m surprised that it took SM this long to launch her as a soloist in Japan. The agency has been killing it with their Japanese releases lately by maintaining their artists’ signature sounds with a few j-pop twists. Taeyeon could have easily promoted Stay in Korea, and in some ways it feels like a natural follow-up to her 2015 debut I.
The song represents a comfort zone for Taeyeon’s voice and music, taking a warm, softly anthemic melody and wrapping it in big, surround-sound pop production. Stay won’t win any points for originality or edge, but it’s a good reminder of Taeyeon’s strengths as a performer and a solid re-introduction for the Japanese market.
Opening with the swirl of guitar and gentle percussion, Stay savors the climb to its inevitable belt-it-out chorus. Like its cinematic music video, the instrumental’s ascending energy conjures feelings of wide expanses explored and insurmountable summits conquered. It gives off a boundless rush of hopeful sentiment that’s hard to resist, and smooths over Stay’s more generic leanings. There’s nothing new or experimental about the song’s uplifting melody, which borrows from decades of chest-beating, motivational pop music. It feels familiar enough to soundtrack a thousand commercials (or even a political campaign), and may just tire quickly because of this. But even if Stay ends up being overshadowed by Taeyeon’s more idiosyncratic work, her emphatic vocals guarantee that it’ll compel in the moment.