After an explosion of popularity in the mid 2010s, powerhouse vocalist Ailee has settled into once-a-year comebacks that highlight her strengths as both a balladeer and a dance artist. Even so, the newer material often lacks the spark that made past hits like “U&I” and “Don’t Touch Me” so addictive.
“Make Up Your Mind” is a perfectly polished modern pop song. Yet, it doesn’t resonate with me at all. And looking past the surface, I think my opinion hinges on structural issues with the songwriting itself. “Make Up Your Mind” suffers from a lack of melodic and structural diversity, which is not unusual within today’s Top 40 pop music.
When it comes to non-musical writing, I tend to crave sentence fluency — meaning the sentences have a satisfying variety of lengths and structures. This gives a piece of writing natural flow, preventing it from sounding monotonous and stilted when read aloud. And though music adds a new dimension to words, I think many of the building blocks are the same. I’ve noticed that a lot of pop songs in recent years opt for shorter, more repetitive phrasing in both their verses and chorus. This approach seems to take influence from the popular triplet flow, used generously in modern hip-hop. But I’d argue that its prominence started even earlier, driven by work from producers like OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder.
Repetitive structure usually results in a repetitive performance. Ailee is gifted enough to elevate any material, and she occasionally goes off script during “Make Up Your Mind”, gliding into head voice or finishing a phrase with a satisfying flourish. But, too many lines point toward the same end point, giving the final product a plodding, predictable feel. This is compounded by an EDM drop that, while sonically interesting, only accentuates the lockstep repetition of the song’s melodies. So while I can’t fault the talent and skill that went into “Make Up Your Mind”, it’s not an approach I find particularly compelling.