Song Review: Sunmi – Tail

After painting the year retro in 2020, Sunmi has re-emerged with her first single of 2021. She stubbornly refuses to grace us with a mini or full album, but the drips and drabs we’ve gotten have generally been of high quality. New single Tail (꼬리) continues her work with producer Frants, though it hearkens back to an earlier stage in her career.

There are some retro elements here – mainly in the synth textures – but Tail feels much more like a sequel to 2013’s 24 Hours. It has the same sultry, tense atmosphere that has always been a great match for Sunmi’s evocative vocals. The insistent kick forges a high-tempo backbone, though the track overall carries a much more languid feel. It’s an ominous groove, as electronic loops pulse over atmospheric pads.

Sunmi performs in an almost confessional manner, her lyrics spilled over the track in a loose structure that feels like stream-of-consciousness. This is true of both the verses and chorus, though the chanted hook forges her vocals into a catchy refrain that accentuates Tail’s rhythmic pounce. It’s not the style of songwriting that hits right away, but subsequent listens get under your skin. Coupled with a daring visual, Tail is very much ‘Sunmi the provocateur.’ Every sinuous accent works toward that goal. I’ll always prefer ‘Sunmi the 80’s synthpop queen,’ but there’s no denying the song’s appeal. The only thing left to wonder is how long the track will burn in public consciousness. Alongside its iconic choreography, 24 Hours went on to become an enduring hit. Will Tail do the same?

 Hooks 8
 Production 8
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9

22 thoughts on “Song Review: Sunmi – Tail

  1. .
    The song is OK! Catchy too.

    To improve on it, the song needs a more charismatic vocal, someone to dig into the lines more and play with it more. The performance goes through all the expected gyrations, complete with plenty of pleather. The vocal does not match that. Imagine one of the Mamamoo’s or Jessi singing the same lines. Let’s just take the post-chorus for example, starting at 1:04, the minor third followed by a slow half note trill. That could be really sexy stuff. It’s the rhythm of a strip tease, actually, so imagine a more theatrical singer really digging into those trills, drawing them out, pushing and pulling on the beat, for example Hwasa.

    I can’t believe I have actually googled strip tease music at 8 o’clock in the morning, but I have, and so here it is

    Or this example, an old Sondheim song – this one is rather naughty. (They throw in a few lines from Gypsy at the end, so extra marks for that.)

    Liked by 3 people

    • In our critiques, I sometimes wonder if we’re being fair to the artists. In many reviews, including those I’ve made, there is a tendency to suggest a “what if…?” element. “What if x change to the arrangement was made?” We all want the high we get from listening to a perfect song. When we then listen to a piece that checks off a majority of the personal boxes necessary to create that, we come up with ways the unchecked boxes could’ve been ticked off if only “this” had happened.

      One of the most common “what if…” uses is “What if x sang this?” Just as before, if we are trying to look for the perfect high, then we need the best ingredients if we hope to distill a flawless decoction. So.. ..a song drops, we listen, we process, we produce a “fix”, we propound. Are we being fair to the original artist? Is it fair to judge each painting by comparing it to a Botticelli or a Titian? Do we then compare works from either of those masters to a Rembrandt? What if there was a set of parents in a neighborhood that everyone agreed were the perfect parents. How would it feel if someone then told you that your children would be better off if those perfect parents were raising them?

      Throughout my history with music, I’ve developed a short list of female singers that impact me in almost ineffable ways. It would be very easy for me to supplant any of these aural angels into a song from another artist, but is that fair? As I started with, I’m guilty of doing that. Of diminishing a performance by an artist because they weren’t “x”. I think I need to stop doing that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hear you, I think there is some truth to that – “armchair music producer”. However at the same time in the history of popular song the best songs get made and remade by vocalists and instrumentalists all the time. Inevitably, some interpretations are better or worse, some great, some blah, some knock it out of the park, some play it soft and cool, some are just “interesting”. In this song, I think that Sunmi has been miscast or at least misdirected. She is playing it too cool in my opinion, not cool and sultry, or cool and ironic, she is just cool. It is disguised by the fact that she hits every mark really well, and there are plenty of visual cues traditionally thought to be sexy to make up for the missing couple percent in the performance. Red lights, red pleather, garters, body suit, nails, high heel thigh high boots, untied bow tie, they are all there. Dips and swoops in the choreo, check. It hits all the usual sexy tropes, and adds to none of them.

        So here is a “what if?”: What if this was a Eurhythmics / Annie Lennox song? It would be a very different sexy song.


        • As a performer, in general, I don’t know how much you follow Sunmi. She’s been on several shows where she talks about being diagnosed with personality disorders. She’s mentioned her episodic history of bipolar, disparate personality, and detached reality events. She struggles with identity issues and likes to flirt with the “split personality” concept in her videos. “Tail” is an excellent example of that. I think if you re-watch it with that in mind, you will notice the mix of blatant and nuanced reflections on that.

          As far as her skill as a singer, she is aware of her limitations. I don’t know if you read a comment I made in another post on HyunA where I mentioned that I was really drawn to her grounded and humble self-assessment of her talents. HyunA knows she’s not a top-tier singer or a rapper. She’s an entertainer with “it” girl charms and she takes full advantage of that. I think Sunmi has that same awareness and attitude. She wants to entertain and with regards to myself, she excels at it.

          I think the point I was trying to make in my reply to you was that it may not be fair judging all songs/singers on a mathematical scale or any scale involving precision. Some are not there because they’re trying to be the best singer/rapper/et al. Some just want to entertain. The bottom line, as Maximus queried, is “Are you not entertained?”.

          P.S. I ended my reply to you stating that I need to stop comparing one artist with another. You ended your reply to me with a suggestion that I do exactly that. So my reply is.. ..non sequitur?
          P.S.S. I hope I’m not coming across as adversarial. I’m just putting some of my thoughts out there.

          Liked by 3 people

          • You hit the nail on the head with this!

            Previously, I felt like this was Sunmi and Frant’s attempt to make a hit with shock value akin to Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” and make references to Sunmi’s body of work. I love the post-chorus refrains with their repeated spoken word breaks, it comes off natural considering my awareness of her mental health struggles. In some strange way, “Tail” feels surprisingly honest despite being a highly-stylised track, production and lyrics-wise.

            Also can’t get enough of the song!


  2. The queen is back! Really liking the song and it gets even better with every listen. From the visuals + choreo it reminds me a bit of GAIN’s masterpiece “Paradise Lost”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I wish this was a mini album! She has two yet she’s been around for about 7 years doing solo work. Unlike blackpink though, I have yet to be dissapointed by a Sunmi track and somehow she’s not an act that’s getting such high recognition ( but there’s probably many more acts I could say this about). This track reminds me of Glue by nine muses because of how subtle hooks are. Glue still feels so fresh to me so I’m sure Tail will also have long lasting appeal.


  4. I actually think that Sunmi is one of the best singers in k-pop. She doesn’t have the most powerful voice, but she excels at embodying each and every concept she chooses to pick, reminds me a bit of Madonna in that regard.

    Tail is great. With AOA, Miss A, Gain… all presumably out of the game I don’t think there are many k-artists doing this kind of sexy bangers and she delivered. (And that video screamed “gay rights” at the top of its lungs!)

    God knows the road to her first album is being loooong, but I have no doubts she’ll make it worthy.

    By the way, now that she has 10 official singles I’ve been trying to rank them and… I’m struggling! Right now I’m sitting on a Siren-pporappippam-Full Moon top 3.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. While she’s doing this sexy concept she’s also mocking it at the same time. Basically saying: I’m good at this, you’ll get what you want, but it’s all a lie (the video even starts with a lie detector).


  6. I like it but I think it would work better as a group song, the different voices would make it so stronger. I could see Mamamoo, StayC, Everglow, Aoa (with Choa) rocking this

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s a good song, but I don’t like it quite as much as I do her previous releases, (she set the bar impossibly high for herself, though). It does give me “24 Hours” vibes, but the instrumental for “24 Hours” felt a lot more memorable and like a lot more of a punch? Like, the minute you listened to it, you knew you were in for something special. “Tail” feels a little more understated.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have the feeling that Sunmi is one of those artists who has had such a great record of extremely good singles that any not-so-great song that she puts out won’t have the same impact as the others.

    To be fair, Tail is a great song, but my expectations were a bit too high. However, it’s awesome to have Sunmi around in music shows for a few weeks since she’s so infrequent with her comebacks.


  9. I love this song! It’s neat, too, that the music video and concept instantly conjure up some iconic imagery. I’ve always found Sunmi to be a master of evoking a specific sound and visual feel with each comeback.

    What did you think of What the Flower?


  10. Very charismatic woman (not unlike Hyuna and Yubin). Like the song, dislike the choreography. Nevertheless I understand the concept behind such moves.


  11. I am so deeply in love with this woman. I don’t consider her a K-pop artist. She’s just.. ..Sunmi. That said, WOW!

    I think Ellie Arroway summed it up best, “No – no words. No words to describe it. Poetry! They should’ve sent a poet. So beautiful. So beautiful… I had no idea.”


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