It’s been over two years since Taeyeon’s last full-length album, and in that time her discography has grown in drips and drabs — a holiday album here, a Japanese mini album there. Judging from her concerts, she’s been sitting on a lot of her new material for awhile, making the release of Purpose highly anticipated. Unfortunately, the album arrives when SM Entertainment, and Taeyeon herself, are still in mourning over the loss of f(x)’s Sulli. Like Super Junior’s comeback two weeks ago, this casts the music in a slightly different light — especially given Taeyeon’s penchant for personal, emotionally-driven ballads.
Spark (불티) offers a bit of powerful fun — the perfect energy for this particular moment. It feels like Taeyeon’s version of Rolling In The Deep, built upon a very Adele-like instrumental and big, soulful vocals. Spark isn’t nearly as striking as that song, but it’s nice to hear her tackle something more upbeat for a title track.
Spark opens with bluesy guitar and tambourine, soon to be joined by stomping percussion that sets the groove in motion. The entire instrumental is surprisingly rhythmic, relying on its driving momentum more than any other element. This gives Taeyeon an opportunity to attack the melody, and she tears into the chorus (and ensuing vocal runs) with the kind of effortless polish you’d expect.
Though this feels like a new genre for her, I wish the song would have gone even harder. It’s crisp and catchy, but it could stand to be a little dirty as well. Blues influences work best when there’s a palpable sense of sweat and toil fueling the performance. Ever the professional, Taeyeon’s best moments occur when she plays to her strengths. With this in mind, the vocal arrangement during the chorus is a thing of beauty, enveloping her strong lead with layers of backing vocals that carry through to the handclap-heavy post-chorus hook.
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