Photo Courtesy of SM Entertainment
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The king has finally returned after two years with her second studio album “Purpose,” once again proving that idols don’t have to have a short lived career. Throughout this ten track album, Taeyeon bares her soul through her voice, serenading with ballads and delivering a powerful performance about finding her purpose through singing. Known in the industry as the best female vocalist, Taeyeon fully lives up to that crown in this album.

Prior to being a soloist, Taeyeon was the leader of the legendary girl group Girls’ Generation. After beginning her solo career in 2015 with her EP “I,” she released her first studio album “My Voice” in 2017, later becoming the best selling female solo artist in South Korea. 

With her latest album, it isn’t hard to see why she’s so successful. The album starts off with the track “Here I Am,” setting up the tone for the rest of the album with a very somber piano as Taeyeon harmonizes. As the track transitions into the chorus, Taeyeon belts out, leading to an intense but melancholy beat. Even as other instruments take center stage, the piano from the start remains ever present, looming in the back, giving the track a constant wistful tone. As the track closes out, only two instruments remain: Taeyeon’s voice and the hauntingly beautiful piano.

The lead single from the album “Spark” is very similar to her previous release “Four Seasons.” An upbeat acoustic guitar strums as Taeyeon’s ghostly and dreamy vocals permeates throughout the track. The song is brought together during the chorus with the addition of hand claps and drums, giving it a blues and pop fusion. 

The track “Find Me” is a drummer’s dream. It starts off somewhat deceivingly, with a very depressing, heavy and almost dirty piano before the drums kick in. Once they do, the song is uplifted and maintains a similar vibe to “Spark,” leaning more towards pop than a ballad.

“Love You Like Crazy” gives off a very R&B and soul feel. While still sounding like traditional Taeyeon, she spices it up with various instruments and a much lighter piano compared to previous tracks like “Here I Am.” The break after the second chorus is the highlight of the track with Taeyeon’s soulful vocals shouting “I must be with you forever.”

At the halfway point of the album the track “LOL” begins with a very old-timey piano, sounding like it was ripped from a wild west saloon. As the song builds towards its chorus and hook, the instruments scatter for a hard hitting bassline to take center stage. As Taeyeon sings the line “Come closer to me,” an almost overpowering brass synthesizer takes over the song. Booming brass and horns are no strangers to K-pop, as seen in past tracks like 4MINUTE’s “HATE” and recently with BLACKPINK’s “Kill This Love,” but hearing them from Taeyeon is very surprising. A powerful beat drop in an R&B pop and ballad amalgamation is very interesting and works very well here.

As the album transitions into its latter half, it becomes a lot calmer and leans towards the traditional ballads that Taeyeon is known for. The sixth track of the album “Better Babe” has an addicting chorus to sing along to with Taeyeon echoing the words “better babe” as the powerful plucks of a guitar plays in the back. 

The seventh song of the album “Wine” begins with the duo of a synthesizer and a piano setting up a sorrowful and almost ominous track ahead. As Taeyeon’s vocals kick in, so do the drums. One of the strengths Taeyeon has always had is her ability to tell a story and convey her emotions through her voice, and “Wine” plays to that strength. Instead of opting for more mainstream appeal by creating poppier songs and complicated dance choreographies, Taeyeon relies purely on her ability to generate emotions with nothing but her voice. The song ends beautifully on Taeyeon’s harmonization as the synth and piano that started the song fade away. 

The next track “Do You Love Me?” sounds like something straight out of her Christmas EP “This Christmas: Winter is Coming” from 2017. Soft vocals combined with a smooth jazz piano adds up to a track that feels a bit bittersweet.

The ability of this album to use essentially the same instruments throughout, yet eliciting different emotions each time is nothing short of impressive. The next track “City Love,” while largely sounding similar to “Do You Love Me,” has a more upbeat tone thanks to the addition of an acoustic guitar and a faster tempo.

“Purpose” ends on the song “Gravity” with the all too familiar piano that was omnipresent throughout the album. Finger snaps and Taeyeon’s voice overlapping each other to create a choir make this a sweet farewell. 

Taeyeon is back to reclaim her throne as the king of K-pop. The vocals of this 12 year idol veteran cannot be understated. Managing to strike the perfect balance between pop and ballads, “Purpose” is a very strong contender for album of the year in K-pop. 

You can listen to the album here.

9.5/10

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