Song Review: Yi Saebom – Tonight

Honestly, K-pop could keep serving me these retro 80’s anthems for months and I’d be happy. When a trend is this fun, even the smaller-name indie releases can be total standouts. Such is the case with Tonight (오늘 밤), from The Voice of Korea contestant Yi Saebom. The song embraces nostalgia in the best way possible, delivering a synth-and-guitar dance track that fits right alongside recent releases from The Midnight Romance and Boyhood.

You’re likely to either love or hate Tonight, and that’s completely dependent on your feelings toward this era of music. My musical taste is rooted in the 80’s. Bombastic synth riffs and huge pop choruses feel like home to me, so I was bound to adore Tonight from the very first listen. Yi Saebom’s vocal texture is more of an acquired taste, and I wish the song’s arrangement had softened it a bit with more layering. But, there’s no denying that she gives a powerful performance – straightforward and impassioned. A song like Tonight requires that kind of go-for-broke intensity.

This track was composed by production team Artronic Waves, who were also responsible for boy group Rainz’ brilliant 2018 b-side Open Ur Heart. I’m hoping that K-pop’s new retro trend brings more demand for producers like this. They know their way around a killer pop hook, and Tonight’s chorus barrels forward with that classic, anthemic heft. It’ll have you Flashdancing in your room — and if you don’t know what that means, go look it up.

 Hooks 9
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9

Be sure to add your own rating by participating in the poll below!


15 thoughts on “Song Review: Yi Saebom – Tonight

  1. The song is pretty good though I’m not sure if I’m a big fan of her voice.

    Off-topic: I’ll take the chance to ask this here since it’s very slightly related to the retro sound.
    How are you feeling about the BTS english single on the 21st of this month? From the lettering to the it coming out in vinil and casette forms, it seems poised to be a retro inspired track. I don’t wanna have my hopes up but since I actually do like the BTS boys I can’t help but looking forward to it. I just hope it doesn’t disappoint as much as the latest stuff has.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m happy that it seems to be going for a retro sound, as BTS are popular enough to cement this as a K-pop trend. I’m not thrilled that it’s in English, to be honest. Seems unnecessary and pandering.

      Liked by 1 person

    • For the music itself, I am always about the wait and listen.

      I wasn’t surprised about the vinyl because that is the hip thing to do these days, vinyl having an interesting resurgence. The annual Record Store Day in April in the US is mostly contemporary releases on vinyl, with some reissues of old nostalgic stuff on colored vinyl.

      It was the cassette tape format that is interesting. I think the tape really is pandering to the groupies who collect one of everything, because who has a tape player around any more? (Well, I do, a dual tape deck no less, and both work, but we are weird and also have three working vinyl record players too.) (And a working VHS too.) The tape format to me sounds like a blatant money grab. They may as well throw in an 8-track format release too because those (working) players are even rarer. Heck, why not a wax cylinder too, and a really thick and fragile 78 while we are at it. Laserdisc anyone?


      • Who doesn’t have a tape player? No seriously, is that rare nowadays… I have a tape player,my brother has one and we have another at my parents house. It used to be a cool thing to possess.
        On a totally serious note I really feel everyone needs to have atleast one cassette player in their life, its thrilling. I remember fighting with my brother to choose the cassette… We had a cassette player which had a rectangular glass in middle with flowers and it used light up on turning the player on.
        Those days ✿ … This comment doesn’t make sense,I just feel old don’t mind me.

        Coming to the actual reply, I’m not sure if the song would be retro , given the name Dynamite. But then again I think it would be radio friendly so there’s a high possibility.
        On the other hand I have stopped anticipating too much from any group as I feel I’m more happy if I don’t keep my hopes up. That way I would be like “Oh its Good” rather than “Oh Its okaaay”. I’ve already used this method in the past two months, and the results have been good.

        I think we all understand the purpose behind the release, but I still don’t think the scenario will change much. The so-called industry use names to make profits but when it actually comes to acknowledging kpop in the ways that matter, there’s still a long way to go… Not just kpop, but other areas & criterias too that many artists have raised voice against…. Still would be sincerely happy if BTS can achieve greater heights, so best wishes.


        • Did you make mixtapes too! And tape music off the radio, have the tape all cued up ready to hit the record button. Or copy a friend’s tape to tape, or 45 to tape?
          Back in our day we had to work hard for our music. We couldn’t just google it up. Good times!

          But since you replied, I have been thinking this afternoon that I hope for BTS’s sake that “Dynamite” isn’t retro. Moreso for the Army’s sake, because they are so preoccupied with getting respect for their boys, and also trying to get the general public to agree that their boys are better than several generations of boy bands in the US. BTS, always record setting, record breaking. Army comments are always what who 1D, NSync, BSB, NKoTB, la la la, I can’t hear you. But if this thing comes in as 80’s sound, the general US public is going to compare BTS to several generations of boy bands =even more=. Radio DJ’s on morning shows are never known to have any tact whatsoever, that radio play they so desire. (“On” was on the Billboard Hot 100 for all of two weeks in February, because of lack of airplay. Number 1 due to colossal youtube views for week one, down to something in the mid 70’s or 80’s the next week, and then On was Off. It had hardly any radio play.) So for the Army’s sake, I hope it will not be retro. There will be meltdowns.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Honestly, if I had any interest in pacifying U.S. Army, I’d just delete this whole site right now. Even the slightest bit of criticism or dissent is a sin to them. I simply want a good song, retro or not. And if it ain’t good, I’ll be calling it out.

            Also… (raises hand) yes to mixtapes. Except, at that age my tapes mostly consisted of stupid cartoon songs from Animaniacs and Tiny Toons, which shows you where my musical maturity was at that era…

            Liked by 1 person

  2. This one is so indy, it did not show up on my youtube feed or on the kpopmap August listings.

    As someone who is old enough to have lived through the 80’s the first time through, I have yet to find one of the retro singles that improves on the 80’s. I feel like one of those whiners in the 90’s who always compared grunge rock to like the Allman brothers (of the 70’s) or something, because you know, they just don’t make music like they used to.

    So its always about what is missing for me. I mean, it should be about the song in and of itself, but these are so much a pastiche that I can’t grade it by itself. Yes its me. Oh, btw, JYP has a retro one coming out this week, although to be fair he never left the 20th century.

    This one is closer than most. It has the synths right, perhaps one layer too many which should drop out more during the verse. But the chords on one keyboard (0:41) with the boopy boopy boops on a background layer (0:56) have the perfect timbre. They clearly used an old synth and drum machines for that sound.

    Its got the Eddie Van Halen style guitar solo too, check.

    Its the vocal style. It should be more cutting, more booming. Every time she goes higher on a vocal melody, she should be a third or fifth higher = eg at 0:43 and certainly at 0:55, and where those lines repeat in the song. The chorus does a C# to C at 1:15; those notes should be F to D#, or have a backup singer sing that high harmony with the lead singer.

    It also needs a way better hook or snappier drum line. I agree the beat is all flashdancing in your room. Giorgio Morodor. What a Feeling! Lets just put the link here, revisit days gone by, so that other readers can know better what the heck we are talking about:

    Liked by 1 person

    • For me, it’s not so much about re-creating all the small details as it is about harnessing the energy. It’s a spirit I’ve missed in pop music for some time.

      And yes, I’m very much looking forward to the JYP and Sunmi team-up. The teasers are already sounding fun!


      • I think I have been trying to capture the electricity in the air in 80’s songs in words, and typing while thinking. As there are probably now many many more of these coming, at some point I will distill down my thoughts to the essence. In the mean time, logorrhea, please pardon my wordiness.

        It’s an atmosphere though that I am waiting to hear again. The completeness yet elemental spareness that comes from one drum, guitar, bass, two keys, two voices, and a kick ass sax solo.
        Take for example this goody which I have been playing half the afternoon:


    • This is a really interesting comment because I was just thinking that a lot of these 80s style kpop songs are missing that ice cold, commanding vocal delivery (with lots of reverb!) in the best 80s songs like in Don’t You Want Me. The thing that threw me off with this track as well as with songs like I Feel You was the weirdly modern vocal performance over a very 80s instrumental.


      • It’s so funny you mention this, because I think I’m the exact opposite. I love a modern performance over an 80’s instrumental. I don’t really want a new song to sound like it was ripped directly from that era. I’d rather it draw influence from those sounds and energy while revitalizing them for the current pop landscape.


        • Oh definitely I agree that kpop songs that can use retro sounds in new and interesting ways are the best. I just feel that there are some kpop songs that are definitely going for the direct 80s song recreation and miss the mark slightly.
          I think for me it’s also about putting retro influences together into one song that are surprising and new. Like Mama by EXO – the fusing of gregorian chant, screamo (?), vaguely heavy metal guitars, and 90s R&B vocal delivery + distorted vocal filters in places is such a galaxy brain producing move that takes from all kinds of wild musical eras.


  3. Ok, small disclosure.

    Despite being gen z, I grew up with the 80s.So this is soooooooooooo nostalgic to me. Solid 9. I just wish they added a few modern (read: early 2010s and late 2000s) flourishes.

    Also, my condolences you have to explain what flashdance is………………..


  4. I liked it quite a bit, but what really got me to click that play button was your mention of Rainz’s excellent song Open Your Heart. I feel like I’m going insane every time I hear that song, simply because it’s a shame that everyone with ears hasn’t heard it yet. Truly worthy and a stunner to listen to just for the instrumental alone. With this, I can understand the comments about her voice and I could use more variation with what the instrumental is doing, but I really do appreciate what they were offering here, especially in 2020, no less!


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