Review

Song Review: Somi – Birthday

It’s been a long road leading up to Jeon Somi’s solo debut. As the center for I.O.I, she enjoyed instant fame and shouldered endless speculation over where her career would go after the project group split up. After signing with YG’s Black Label (an unfortunate move, given recent YG-related scandals), she’s been paired with producer Teddy for the very YG-esque Birthday. Given everyone involved, nothing about the song surprises me. Most of it is adequate teen-bop fare, but its better instincts are sabotaged by a lifeless drop masquerading as a chorus.

Honestly, I came into Birthday expecting the worst. I don’t dislike Somi as a performer, but nothing about her screams “solo artist.” The song’s opening verse helped smooth out some of these worries. Apart from an unfortunate “shake it like a polaroid” metaphor (complete with vocal fry delivery!), the track bounds forward like 2NE1 at their sunniest, mixed with a heaping dose of Meghan Trainor. That second part isn’t a compliment, by the way. Regardless, Somi sounds fine, and we even get some nice guitar for the pleasant pre-chorus.

But then, the dreaded Teddy beat-drop syndrome takes hold. He’s been stuck in this lazy production loop for a while now. Sometimes it works wonders, but most of the time it doesn’t work at all. The instrumental fractures as we hit Birthday‘s hook, completely killing the energy as the song lurches into warped, half-time nonsense. Instead of a chorus, Somi gives us a catchphrase – and an annoying one at that. I’m not sure it was a smart idea to frame a debut track around the words “oops, you’re not invited.” I guess it was supposed to showcase sass, but it comes off as hopelessly juvenile and more than a little entitled. Debuts are meant to endear an artist to the public. Somi already has a leg-up in this regard, being well-known to the K-pop industry. But, Birthday sacrifices much of that goodwill. It’s a downright antagonistic track, candy-coated but unlovable. That’s a shame, because Somi is a magnetic performer when paired with the right song. She’s still young, so I guess we’ll chalk this one up to growing pains.

 Hooks 5
 Production 7
 Longevity 6
 Bias 7
 RATING 6.25

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20 thoughts on “Song Review: Somi – Birthday

  1. It sounds like a song I would hear on radio in the US, complete with that timbre that female soloists affect to sound more indie except they all sound like that so it isn’t indie anymore. Teddy does Hips don’t Lie.

    I like the “oops you’re not invited line”. Its very Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and all that.

    I am torn. Objectively it is just OK. But the unnie in me wants to cheer on everything Somi does. But tbh your rating is about right. And I bought the single anyway.

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    • (…. Hips dont lie was Shakira, wasn’t it. I meant the Megan Trainor I know you lie, your lips are moving song. lol, big difference.)

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      • It’s a bit of a difference! For me, Hips Don’t Lie is vastly superior to All About That Bass. But then again, I would take Shakira over Meghan Trainor any day.

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    • The first sentence of this comment is basically my opinion in a nutshell, and I hate (absolutely HATE) that wannabe-indie timbre that everyone seems to copy in Western pop. It almost makes a song unlistenable to me. Unfortunately, BLACKPINK occasionally goes down this road as well.

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  2. With as charming as Somi is, it’s too bad I really don’t see myself listening to Birthday again (I’ll probably still end up watching a live stage to see the choreo). Im glad she finally got to debut though and she’s definitely got time now. Someone told me they preferred the b-side from the RP and I got to agree. It’s more down tempo and something about the chorus rhythm kept reminding me about BP’s don’t know what to do, still pretty pop radio but more listenable for me at least.

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  3. “Somi” rhymes with “Woe Me”; just saying. Too glib?

    Hmm.. It’s as if they had a meeting with Somi (which means her dad was in tow), Teddy, the label higher ups, backup dancers, cleaning staff, the guy delivering lunch, and the spirit of someones ajumma that the shaman renting out the space on the lower floor lost control of. At this meeting, everyone offered ideas of what you could add to make a smash hit. Unable to pick a specific direction, they decided to employ all of the ideas. That’s this song.

    I really want to like this. The problem is that I have functioning ears. If not for that, then this would be incredible!

    I think many people want to see her succeed because she always seems to be the kid that gets left behind while the rest of the family gets to go to the fair. I don’t know why that is. JYP “should’ve” been able to pigeonhole her into a group, but didn’t. Perhaps he knows something about her that we don’t. Maybe she’s temperamental, or doesn’t want to make the same effort or accept the same amount of sacrifice that others do. Maybe she’s just doesn’t have enough raw talent. Again, I don’t know.

    I wish her the best, but I can’t accept the worst; the worst being, this release.

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  4. Yeah I had a feeling you wouldn’t like it… I wasn’t really expecting much and I still didn’t like it, but I’m glad Somi has finally had the chance to debut. Out of curiosity, do you plan to post any buried treasure regarding ATEEZ’s new album? I was expecting Utopia to be your pick

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  5. Do you think YG will ever learn that Teddy’s ideas are getting stale? I’d love to see new producers bringing more sounds to the table. On another note, I think the numbers in your table are wrong. The final rating should be 6.25, not 7.5

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    • I don’t know if they know or think Teddy’s recent work is a problem. I mean, BlackPink and Sunmi and all the rest seem to be selling well enough. Plus YG has other much bigger problems.

      Actually, thinking back, I think Teddy got a huge boost because of G-Dragon’s influence on the songs that came out of that collaboration. (Teddy+GD) > Teddy sololololo.

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  6. Was I the only one that liked it? I think this song is incredibly fun and sassy. I usually HATE drop choruses, but this one sounds like something Diplo would do (it reminds me of what he did for the GD & TOP’s Knockout). The sassy lyrics and vocal fry may sound juvenile and entitled to you, but I think it’s this kind of spunky emotion her audience (tween girls probably) will latch on to.

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  7. As happens too often these days, fantastic mixing and technical production and shockingly bad songwriting from YGE. Last year I said “Solo” was the worst Teddy had been since “The Baddest Female,” but it looks like he one-upped himself! This is a truly atrocious attempt at turning Somi into a #swagqueen, which is not only a miscast – at least CL had the experience and charisma to make the generally cringe sloganeering of “The Baddest Female” work in a live setting (I’ve seen her! it was 10/10) – but also just a songwriting shame that no party involved deserved to be put through. It’s like Teddy went, “what’s everything I’ve done in the past 5 years? Beat drop? Weird scale modes that don’t work? Trap percussion? Excessive catchphrases? Extended bridge instead of final chorus? I have half a day let’s do this.”

    Someone please save Somi from her dad/YG, because this feels like a desperate attempt to get YG’s stocks back out of the gutter and drive media attention away from the litany of scandals plaguing the company right now. #Get_Somi_A_Chorus_Because_She_Clearly_Has_Talent_To_Spare_2k19.

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    • Somi built her popularity on a “awkward girl-next-door” image. However, that same image didn’t seem to work (for me anyway) in I.O.I’s “Dream Girls” and “Very Very Very” videos. The only time I saw her pull off a concept that I thought she could run with was “Whatta Man (Good Man)”. Now, I know it was controversial at the time, due to her age, but it was convincing.

      I don’t think she can carry concepts like “Cute”, “Hip-Hop”, or “Swag”. If I had any input if what direction she should go, I’d suggest “Girl Crush” leaning towards sultry or smoldering, but not slutty or brazen. For example, I could see Somi being in any one of the following videos:

      Purfles – A Bad Thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vN4F02aA6rU
      Brave Girls – Do You Know: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOgohfxl-yA
      Fiestar – Mirror: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKMT44GBaUI

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  8. To be honest, Somi never really endeared herself to me in the first place, I was pretty neutral on her… but I did think she wasn’t really someone I could see as a solo artist… so combined with such a lacklustre song (I think it may have actually given me a headache)… and TEDDY (don’t get me started on that one urgh) this song actually managed to perform beneath my expectations. I thought we might get something pretty generic, like we have been recently from ex WANNA ONE members but that would have been better than this. I wish her all the best in the future, but this was not a good debut.

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  9. Okay. It’s been three months now since I first tried to listen to this song (I made it to the chorus before I tapped out). Remember being grossly disappointed, even with low expectations. The relay dance video for the song showed up in my YouTube feed today, so I gave it a shot. Figured that I didn’t remember anything particularly awful in the verse that I had heard. Plus, my K-Pop summer has been pretty lackluster, so I challenged myself to sit through the whole thing. If I can listen to EXO-SC, I can listen to Somi. So I did.

    I’m totally into it. Head bopping, replaying, lip-syncing, the whole shebang.

    I’m just as shocked as you are.

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