I’m digging this sudden surge of second-gen artists making long-awaiting solo comebacks. In Nicole’s case, the situation is even more exciting because it may precede an actual Kara reunion. Though Kara were enormous during their heyday, their legacy isn’t as familiar to this newer generation of K-pop fans. In addition to her group’s epic discography, Nicole released a very strong 2016 Japanese album – much of it produced by longtime partners Sweetune. Seriously, check out Lunar. You’ll thank me later.
There’s no Sweetune in sight for new single YOU.F.O, and that’s a shame. Obviously, every artist deserves the chance to stretch their wings and try new things. But, this is not the “bigger and better” comeback I had hoped for. Instead, YOU.F.O is pleasant, generic dance pop. You could certainly do much worse, but artists as foundational as Nicole deserve more.
YOU.F.O has the vaguely retro sound we’re used to, bopping along an insistent beat and filtered electronics. It’s an incredibly listenable song with an uplifting energy that’s hard to resist. Nicole’s vocal floats over the top with ease and she casts off a few memorable hooks. But, the song passes by without landing any major punches. It’s very ‘middle of the road’ — neither great nor awful. It’ll fit nicely on a summertime playlist alongside tracks like Twice’s Celebrate and I’m happy to hear Nicole make music that’s in conversation with these newer acts. By playing things relatively safe, YOU.F.O reignites interest in her back catalog while hopefully setting the stage for that epic (Sweetune produced?) Kara reunion many of us have been begging for.