[Review] TWICE’s Nayeon makes a promising solo debut with “POP!”

When one thinks for a bit, it’s rather absurd that a group of TWICE‘s popularity hasn’t had a real solo debut in the almost seven years they’ve been active. Presumably part of that is JYP Entertainment‘s paranoia about another miss A situation, but it’s resulted in the TWICE members having a late start at establishing their individual musical colors.

Nevertheless, Nayeon is the first member to step forward and she largely delivers the kind of bright, bubblegum-y energy in “POP!” that sets a solid foundation for her going forward.

Part of me is just relieved that Nayeon shies away from a trendy output and instead almost takes it back a bit to the early third generation with a bold brass backing and an upbeat energy that has a constant drive behind it. Thankfully, they weren’t tempted to add unnecessary trap breaks and scotch snaps where they didn’t make sense, and Nayeon was allowed to effectively individualize her version of a bubblegum summer hit.

The upbeat and playful slant that underwrites this effort is appealing on its face, and I was extremely glad that they did not just settle for the “pop pop pop” hook repetition as the entire chorus and instead actually allowed her to sing between them, resulting in the track’s best moments during those melodic outbursts.

Of course, it’s not perfect as the repetition of the title is a bit overdone, especially in the post-chorus because it lacks anything interesting instrumentally going on behind it during those periods. Inevitably this will be compared with songs like HyunA‘s “Bubble Pop!“, even if the moods they present aren’t really that similar, and there’s definitely a bit of difference to the flow of things.

By comparison, there’s that little missing ‘oomph’ and momentum in its signature moments that costs it a shot at greatness, though obviously it’s not insult to fall short of one of K-pop’s enduring summer hits, and the fact that it’s even a question is a positive sign.

All things considered, it’s difficult to see this debut as anything but encouraging from Nayeon, especially on the strength of the whole package that includes colorful sets and styling that reinforces everything “POP!” is trying to do musically. While I have questions about its ultimate replayability, the injection of energy and the lively performance is welcome, and if it’s any indication of where Nayeon wants to take her sound going forward it’s hard not to be optimistic about her future.

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