Review

Song Review: J.Y. Park x Sunmi – When We Disco

As retro influences begin to work their way back into K-pop, who better to take advantage than J.Y. Park? After all, he built his career on retro sounds – even embracing disco on 1997’s classic She Was Pretty. New single When We Disco pairs him with former protégé (and fellow retro-lover) Sunmi, delivering an unabashed love letter to the past. It’s more pastiche than pioneer, but that’s not a bad thing at all.

Above all else, When We Disco is fun. And in an industry filled with moody, badass concepts that’s become an underrated quality. It’s clear that the song isn’t taking itself too seriously, and that’s evident from the very first moment as the overwrought introduction gives way to a synth-heavy italo-disco beat. The production feels suitably processed – sparse and a little tinny but nailing the vibe of its era. Disco or not, I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to hear a K-pop track with consistent percussion that doesn’t force itself into unnecessary tempo shifts and jarring breakdowns.

J.Y. Park and Sunmi are the perfect duo to harness Disco’s silly energy. They lean into the self-aware parody of it all, yet have enough respect for the source material to make Disco feel like an actual pop song. And while the melody largely rests on rehashed flourishes from its chosen genre, the two offer impassioned, emotional performances that really bring it to life. The swell of the chorus hits with the kind of nostalgia that tracks like this thrive upon. It’s all a bit Eurovision at times, but camp is an underappreciated art form. When it works, it can be an utter joy.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9
 RATING 8.75

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16 thoughts on “Song Review: J.Y. Park x Sunmi – When We Disco

  1. I watch enough clips of such variety shows as Immortal Songs to know how this goes. This is the typical casting of weekly performers: The young group covering something from 1st Gen. Old nostalgic performer doing a contemporary OST that leaves everyone in tears. Obligatory trot cover or three. Newish band playing their own song because they won’t go on the Music Bank-style shows. The aging starlet doing a tango.

    Then there is always one of these. Someone covering an old pop hit from some 30 years ago. They let the performance run for about 10 or 15 seconds before people realize what song it is. Then. Audience reactions. Back stage reactions. More audience reactions. Performance on slow mo replay. Reactions on slow mo replay. Everyone trying to out wow each other. Word bubbles of wow over the wows. Grainy video of the original performance on a variety show from days gone by.

    This song is that song from 30 years ago. Except it is actually from 3 hours ago.

    Well at least JYP still has got it. It, and his own agency to keep doing these. It, That, and plenty of industry clout to get the hottest current starlet. It, That, Her, and a fanatical devotion to fun. Yes, he is having way more fun than any of us. More fun than all those audience slow mo wows put together. Good for JYP. We should all be so lucky.

    Rating is a bit high – for me its high 7’s.

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  2. I thought I’d like the chorus more considering we’ve heard it several times in the teasers but there’s still just something missing to tie those lyrics so they can flow better. I liked the verses much better in the end. The mv is cute, seems fun 🙂 It would be a 6.5 for me I think.

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  3. It’s good but it definitely feels like there’s something missing in the chorus. I’d also rate it high 7s/an 8 if I’m really in the mood.

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  4. I agree with everyone else in the comments that this song is missing something. I feel like it’s not as full of interesting instrumental and synth as most songs from the era are. I feel like having more sounds than just that twinkling synth and that high wooowooo in the chorus would make the chorus seem more exciting and less empty, some brass maybe? A trumpet or saxophone or two? I think if this song took a similar route as Yukika’s music does(I’ve literally been listening to the Soul Lady album on repeat since it came out) it would definitely sound less flat and repetitive. With all that said I absolutely love this song mostly because of the retro influence so I rate it similarly with high 8/9 but it seems like the kind of song I’ll get tired of after a couple listens because of how predictable it is. Ask me in a month or two and I think I’ll rate it as a solid 7.5 once the novelty wears off

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    • I really do think this sparseness was intentional. Now, whether or not that appeals to listeners is totally subjective. But for me, the song seems to be targeting the kind of post-disco “Italo-disco” dance music that came out of Europe during the early-80’s. It has a sharp iciness to it.

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      • I agree! I think it’s a really refreshing touch considering k-pop producers usually put layers and layers and layers in the majority of the songs.

        Not like I have a problem with this (that approach has given us so many masterpieces) but, in my opinion, the more minimal production works very well here and makes the song stand out.

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  5. Living in Italy and having experienced the Golden Age of Italo-Disco back in the 80s I can’t do anything but agree with any single word of this review and its rating. It could easily have been a Radiorama song, with a glimpse of humor in addiction that Italo-Disco wasn’t used to have.

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  6. Had a good laugh at the intro – JYP’s voice is near indistinguishable from Sunmi’s. I don’t particularly like this song, but JYP can do no wrong in my book, it’s still a fun song!

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