Taeyeon publicly stated that 2020 was going to be a year for her to focus on her mental health, so kicking it off with the release of Dear Me (내게 들려주고 싶은 말) seems fitting. The song leads a repackage of her October album, and is a hopeful wish for her own personal strength. It’s a powerful conceit, essentially a letter addressing herself.
Dear Me is co-produced by SM Entertainment mainstay Yoo Young-Jin (alongside K-pop newcomer William Wenaus), and arrives only a month after his Coming Home with NCT U. It’s been awhile since we’ve heard back-to-back Young-Jin ballads, and I wouldn’t mind this trend continuing. He has a gift for the format, casting a simple melody over a clean, evocative arrangement. Dear Me is not overly complex, nor should it be. A song like this needs a sense of rawness to resonate, and Taeyeon delivers an unguarded performance while still managing to imbue the track with a pop sheen.
For whatever reason, Taeyeon’s solo work has always recalled the late 90’s for me. Maybe it’s the timelessness of the melodies, or the warm, uncluttered production. Or maybe it’s her voice, which never opts for tricks or flourishes when it doesn’t have to. There’s a directness to her style, like she’s communicating specifically to the listener without putting on airs. That approach is a good match for Dear Me. Structurally and melodically, I wouldn’t call it a career highlight, but it feels like the right song for this time. Whatever the year might hold for her as an artist and a person, I hope the sentiment here can resonate long past the time Dear Me has left the charts.
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