Many well-meaning fans pointed me toward Yukika’s Neon last year, knowing how much I love anything that draws influence from the 80’s. And I did enjoy it, even if I think it bops along a bit half-heartedly, without the bite I like to hear in a good pop song. But for me, that’s city pop in a nutshell. I think I like the idea of city pop more than most of the actual music. Its aloof nature tends to favor rather flat vocal performances that miss out of the expressiveness that can make a song especially memorable. With that said, Soul Lady (서울여자) ups the energy for a brisk blast from the past.
Unveiling its big, brassy instrumental right from the start, the track delivers a percolating dance beat with layers of rhythm buttressing a catchy drum machine and airy backing vocals. It shares many of the elements from Yukika’s past work, but Soul Lady feels fuller and definitely more exciting. Even when it slows for a hazy, dreamlike bridge, you know that its punchy chorus is waiting just around the corner. And while I always favor momentum over repetition, Soul Lady’s hooks are sharp enough to stick.
Of all the K-pop acts hearkening back to 80’s sounds this summer, Yukika seems most intent on fully recapturing the aesthetic. I wonder how Soul Lady might sound if it had tethered a few modern touches to its city pop frame? I guess we have Sunmi’s Pporappippam for that, and these two songs make a nice double feature.
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