Ailee, “Mind Your Own Business”, and settling for good but not great

Ailee‘s “Mind Your Own Business” is representative of her career to date, for better or worse. A supremely talented vocalist, Ailee belts and molds the song into a quality, theatrically impressive single … and yet, it somehow feels like a letdown in the end.

Let’s start with the overwhelming positive, which lies in the concept and how everything is visually on point.

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I loved the sets, how the music video was shot, and the styling was so on point that they even managed to make a prison jumpsuit cute.

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Who knew Ailee’s smug face could be so damn hot?

Unfortunately, that is where the lavish praise ends and where my whining begins.

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“Mind Your Own Business” was a disappointment to me, and very little of it has to do with Ailee herself.

The most striking thing about the song is that Ailee manages to make the track somewhat interesting and impressive. Her theatrical vocal tendencies are subject to criticism at times, and I understand why, but those displays of talent were basically the only thing keeping my attention here. It’s telling that the most impactful parts of the song came during the verse improvisations, the bridge, and during her vocals runs towards the end. Why? Because the song itself, including the hook, was completely basic. Maybe I’ll end up taking that back with further listening, but for now it sure sounded to me like if it wasn’t for Ailee belting this track and willing it to the finish line, it would be a complete flop of a song if performed instead by some average nugu K-pop girl group.

This obviously isn’t Ailee’s fault, but why the hell do her lead singles always seem to fall short of doing anything interesting?

It’s as if her agency is obsessed with having her talent recognized, so they give her some mediocre track, take her off the leash, and tell her to ‘go fetch’ and use her vocals to make their unimaginative dreck into a workable pop hit. The fact that she almost nearly does just that with a lot of her songs proves to me that she deserves to be lauded for her talent, but in a lot of ways, that talent is a gimmick in itself. It’s a crutch to lean on, and her singles end up disappointing because talent, especially in pop music, is effectively meaningless unless said talent is used effectively. For example, Ailee takes a gigantic shit on a group like Crayon Pop vocally, but I’d rather listen to “Dancing Queen” 100 times in a row over “Mind Your Own Business” twice, because one is catchy and fun and the other is a chore. Impressive and solid, but a chore to get through.

And newsflash to her company, Ailee is way past the stage of needing to have her talent recognized by the public. She’s universally dick-ridden for her vocal prowess in Korea and in K-pop, which was definitively proven a while ago. Seriously, Ailee had a nude picture scandal break, and about a week later she accepted multiple awards at 2013 MAMA, performed at the show, and received a standing ovation from both the audience and her peers. In Korea. This is the same industry where the mere rumor of Ivy getting blackmailed over a sex tape led to her taking a years long hiatus.

That’s all to say that Ailee’s talent has made her basically bulletproof. Thus, I feel like she can take risks and try to make mega-hits instead of keeping the status quo of safe but impressive releases. Her career is at the stage now where she can release anything and a good portion of the listeners will convince themselves that it’s great anyway because of her reputation, so why not throw caution into the wind just a bit and try to come up with the next national hit instead of going safer and safer in some dumb attempt to make sure she stays stagnant yet acceptably popular?

Again, the problem isn’t with Ailee but with the material she’s given. If Beyonce or Mariah Carey or whoever were given basic as fuck songs, people would recognize their talent, but they wouldn’t be nearly as popular in the pop world as they are now (and lots of talented artists fail because they have no hits). And right now, I feel like Ailee is occupying that space where she’s recognized by all as a vocal talent, so everybody appreciates her and loves her on singing variety shows and the like, but she’s not quite in that superstar stratosphere because her actual music is full of tracks that would be relatively boring if done by anybody else.

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Ailee taking the risk-free route and being satisfied with her lead pop singles being solid is more what performance/charisma reliant soloists like HyunA (or like Amuro Namie in Japan) should be shooting for, not Ailee. And yet, unfortunately, safety seems to be the one continuing trend with Ailee’s releases.

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