Yena got her solo career off to a rousing start with the peppy pop-rock of January’s Smiley. That song proved impossible to resist, buoyed by an optimistic energy and sugary chorus. For follow-up album Smartphone, she wisely maintains the formula, carving a satisfying niche that sets her apart from other post-Produce soloists.
Smartphone tweaks the formula ever so slightly, heightening the guitars while simultaneously elevating the quirky energy. As a song, it doesn’t work for me the way that Smiley did, but that’s certainly not due to Yena herself. She brings a ton of energy to the track. Her vocal weaves between the shifts in production, unleashing a performance that feels like several distinct characters. Unfortunately, I don’t think the song backs her up in the way it needs to.
First off, Smartphone is nowhere near as catchy as Smiley. Music of this genre almost requires incessant catchiness to succeed. Its chorus is an odd mélange of pop/rock hooks and sing-talk asides that feel more in keeping with this new generation of K-pop. Similarly, Smartphone’s instrumental throws a ton of elements into the blender without leaning heavily into one specific theme. The production feels fearful that, without constantly swerving here and there, listeners will lose interest. On its own, Yena’s charisma is more than enough to anchor a potent, straightforward pop track. Smartphone is fluffy fun, but would do well to embrace its most dynamic elements and focus on the obvious star power at its core.