[Review] YUKIKA uses city pop to cure “Insomnia”

YUKIKA made her Korean debut just before the city pop revival took hold. This puts her in an enviable position. She comes across as a cool trendsetter, yet can also reap the benefits of that trend becoming more widespread. Her 2020 album was consistently strong, with the beguiling “Yesterday positioning itself as a modern classic of the genre. Her new mini album continues the city pop vibe, yet loses the magic touch of the Monotree production team.

This style of music can be twisted in a few ways, as fellow soloists Sunmi and IU have already proven. “Insomnia” chooses to play things straight down the middle, and suffers from a feeling of “been there, done that.” I’m sure city pop fans will be over the moon, but I kept waiting for the song to jolt me awake. Instead, its subdued, atmospheric production is relentlessly smooth. It’s quite pretty, and would make a great soundtrack to chill out to. But as you probably know by now, I don’t really do “chill.” I’m not some hyped-up caffeine machine either, but when it comes to pop music I crave dynamic sounds and big moments.

Still, YUKIKA makes a great conduit for this style of sound. “Insomnia” rounds a few delightful melodic turns, and its twinkling synths are just icy enough to evoke an emotional tug. Had the song found a pre-chorus as transcendent as the one on “Yesterday,” I think this could have been a real standout. It doesn’t need to be some bombastic club anthem, but I wish they kicked the energy up just a bit.

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