Song Review: Sunmi – Borderline

I first heard Sunmi’s Borderline back in March 2019 on her Warning tour, where she introduced it as a personal, self-penned track performed entirely in English. Back then, I assumed it would be placed on an impending album. But seventeen months later, we’re still only getting a new single here and there. But, she’s been kind enough to release a special music video for the song, though the audio isn’t available digitally. Maybe that album is still around the corner?

At any rate, Borderline is an ultra-atmospheric, vaguely retro-sounding mid-tempo. Not everyone could get away with a track like this, but Sunmi’s always-compelling voice makes Borderline work. This is despite a languid melody that never quite builds to a moment of catharsis. From verse to chorus, the entire song feels in a haze, reflecting Borderline’s subject matter and mood. It plays more like a confessional than a pop track, and that may be why she decided to release it in the manner she did.

Borderline enlists 80’s-adjacent synths as a smoky backdrop, complimenting the rest of her post-2017 discography. Their muted texture forms a claustrophobic ambiance, which was no doubt intentional. However, I think the song would have been even more effective if it had played with contrast. Give me some sharp, highly-polished synths and bring the tempo up a notch. Then, lay those confessional lyrics over the top to give the song a “crying on the dancefloor” appeal. That clash between song and instrumental might have been even more affecting, while playing up the lyrical content of performer vs. person. Still, this is clearly a more intimate track than much of Sunmi’s work, so I understand the nuanced approach she took with it.

 Hooks 7
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 7


5 thoughts on “Song Review: Sunmi – Borderline

  1. ———–

    It’s been years takin’ Xanax
    And I got so much better
    Why people keep sayin’
    “What’s wrong with her?”
    Digging myself deeper and deeper
    I see what I rejected to see in the past
    Well, okay, better be covered
    I gotta be lookin’ vivid and classy


    Very brave of her to release something so painfully personal. The song isn’t unlike most of last HA:TFELT album, and I mean that as a great compliment!

    I also think this is one of these tracks that gains power in the context of an album. Fingers crossed! There’s literally no possibility that a SUNMI album won’t be great.


  2. Another one, how hard life is. Interpretive dance. The bias list regulars will know how I feel about this one already.

    Its not that I don’t fundamentally appreciate how hard life is songs, but its the pronoun. When did pop music make the grand shift from the 2nd or 3rd person pronoun to the 1st person pronoun?

    Corey Hart “so if you’re lost along your road, you can never surrender”
    U2 “Who’s going to ride your wild horses?”
    Mr Mister “Take these broken wings and learn to fly again”. You take these wings, not me the singer.
    The Hollies “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”

    I’m not saying 1st person didn’t exist back when, but for every I me mine, it was balanced with a your your he she. If I am doing something I am doing it for you, or for him, not for me. Rant rant rant.

    Rant over.

    Liked by 1 person

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