Twelve years into her career, Tae Yeon finally makes her Japan solo debut, and what's more, it's with an original album! While the album title Voice
seems to hark back to her 2017 Korean album My Voice
, the album's tracks are new, not remakes. Though it's her first Japanese album, Voice
actually has a primarily Western pop sound, and a quick glance at the credits shows American, British and Swedish composers and producers across the board.
The album's title track Voice is co-composed and produced by Matthew Tishler, a frequent SM collaborator whose credits include Tae Yeon's Make Me Love You and Rain. I fell in love with the song basically from the first line of "All the voices in my heart," with Tae Yeon's gentle yet firm voice ringing starkly over soft piano notes. This stripped-down intro transitions directly into the lighter tone and denser chords of the first verse, and the contrast works surprisingly well. Usually I don't prefer such dense beats and arrangements for emotional songs, but the rich sounds come together in appealing manner and reinforce the lyrics' reference to the persistent lingering voices within. I even like the ending echoes of "Hey" in the chorus. Most of all, I love Tae Yeon's vocal performance; her clean, crisp and lilting vocals bring in the sound and emotions of the song. Her singing is strong yet intimate, so the song sounds comfortable to listen to even when the arrangement gets a bit busy.
Similarly, I Found You and Vanilla are showcases of Tae Yeon's crystal clear and versatile vocals. For I Found You, her voice positively soars in the stirring chorus and repeated cries of "I found you" that allow her to break out the power and vocal runs. Meanwhile, the verses of the silky R&B Vanilla see Tae Yeon transforming her vocals to a soft and muted tone that sounds subtle yet sensual.
Horizon is a great cruising song for the summer. The lyrics paint a simple yet vivid image straight away: "Roll down the window on the seaside highway / Fixing my messy hair / Mumbling to myself while holding the wheel." The sweet and ruminative song about falling in love has a light, breezy atmosphere with whimsical touches like snapping sounds and tropical beats. Tae Yeon also brings an animated and girlish touch to her interpretation of the song.
Turnt and Burnt is the one song on the album I could do without. I can imagine the groovy, trendy confection in its current state as an EXO plug, but it's not conceptualized right for Tae Yeon. Extended portions of the song are too high-pitched for a comfortable listen, and the vocals sound stretched and squeezed at different points from over-processing.
Voice ends on a strong note with the pulsating, medium-tempo Signal. The slow-burning beats and fluid arrangement effectively build a moody atmosphere to complement the pensive lyrics of strength in solitude. The song often has the dramatic feel of an 80s ballad, particularly during the long, sultry notes of the chorus and the whispers of "Signal" in the coda.
Tae Yeon's first Japanese mini-album Voice offers not only original songs but also a slightly different sound and style from her Korean releases. Though a few of the songs are a tad overproduced, the album nonetheless gives her powerful and emotive voice the time to shine.