[Review] Yubin’s “Perfume” has the style, still searching for the polish

With K-pop’s retro trend continuing to chug along, artists like Yubin stand to benefit most. After all, she’s been tackling city pop before it was popular, with songs like 2018’s Lady. And while she briefly explored her hip-hop side with last year’s Yaya, new single Perfume (향수) brings her back to sharp, icy synth textures.

I absolutely love Perfume’s instrumental. Its driving synth beat is fleshed out with waves of electronics, giving the track a brash – at times overpowering – energy. Hidden in the mix are some really interesting sounds, warped into otherworldly flourishes that make the overstuffed production feel almost claustrophobic. The opening synth riff has a spiraling appeal, like fragments of an electro waterfall. Stick your hand inside and it’s downright tactile.

The song itself is ungainly and awkward, which can be charming. But even though I find myself earnestly cheering it on, Perfume never quite gets itself together. “Fume, fume” is an extremely awkward hook, and Yubin’s delivery – perched somewhere between singing and rap – struggles to find its footing. In a way, this actually compliments the off-kilter arrangement, but I think Perfume could have done with a bit more polish. Some of its transitions are messy, and its ‘throw everything at the wall’ approach threatens to undercut the song’s continuity. Yet even with its flaws, I’m happy to see another K-pop single within this style. It’s refreshing to hear producers experiment with a different sound palette than the ones that have characterized most idol releases over the past few years.

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