[Review] Sunmi’s “Tail” feels like a “24 Hours” follow-up

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?

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