Taeyeon made her solo Japanese debut last year with the pretty — but extremely safe — Stay. That song jettisoned the funky backbone of Korean single Something New for straightforward, feel-good balladry. Judging from new single Voice, this middle-of-the-road pop style seems to be her go-to J-pop sound. There’s nothing wrong with a little adult contemporary, but it does age her a bit.
Voice is kept aloft by Taeyeon’s always-incredible vocals. She’s able to wring a level of raw emotion from even the most treacly of material. The song opens with her voice, and she commands attention from the very first note. Her performance gives the track needed power, as layers of Taeyeons combine to forge a battle cry chorus that hits hard.
Unfortunately, the song itself feels very generic. It’s the kind of self-empowerment fare you’d expect to hear soundtracking a reality show like American Idol or X-Factor, unleashed just as a contestant unexpectedly makes it through to the next round. You can practically see the slow-motion editing and fist-pumping, confetti-drop spectacle. If the production wasn’t so perfectly polished, Voice might feel a little less insipid. Taeyeon is at her best when she pushes her artistry in unexpected directions. As pleasant as this song is, it feels created by committee — smoothed of all its edges and intent on maximum mainstream appeal. This results in a solid pop track with very little unique personality.