The only consolation for Wonder Girls’ disbandment is that it’s allowed Sunmi to further pursue a solo career that’s becoming more riveting with each release. Last year’s Gashina was a slow-burn success for me, but January’s Heroine took only one listen to cement its place among 2018’s best singles. Siren (사이렌) follows in its footsteps, standing as the most instantly impressive single K-pop has given us in months.
Siren’s glossy pop sound feels like a natural next step for Sunmi, building on the more melodic pieces of Heroine while calling back to the 80’s influences of Wonder Girls’ 2015 album Reboot. The song reunites her with composer Frants, who crafted some of that album’s strongest tracks. Its propulsive electro beat is cut from the same cloth, pulsing with an addictive energy that provides an excellent frame for Sunmi’s charismatic performance.
After a repeated vocal loop, Siren’s opening verse offers a subdued melody that quickly grows into an absolute stunner of a pre-chorus. It feels ripped straight from some long-lost 80’s track by Heart or The Pretenders — both of which are thrillingly offbeat influences for a modern K-pop track. Siren’s chorus is equally galvanizing, trading the instrumental breakdown of Heroine for a well-developed melody that tugs in all the right places. This is the kind of full-throated songwriting that K-pop has been missing, and Sunmi’s beguiling, powerful vocals are the perfect vessel to do it justice. Siren‘s only misstep is its non-starter of a bridge, which attempts a half-hearted EDM breakdown at the expense of the song’s energy. Luckily, that surging dance beat quickly sweeps back in with renewed vigor for Siren‘s final, climactic chorus.