Yaeji’s music is hard to contextualise within the larger realm of dance music. It has the same nostalgic, raw vibe of a lo-fi house track by DJ Boring but her vocal delivery is much more indebted to hip hop. The closest comparison is Tirzah, who similarly makes music with a lot of groove and a smooth, almost dead pan vocal delivery but her biggest track, ‘Make It Up’ made waves way back in 2015 whereas Yaeji’s music seems firmly routed in the now, effortlessly trendy without conforming to anything.
She uses soft, lush synthesisers and plinky percussive accents along with the standard banging kicks and raw snares of her brand of house. That said, lead single ‘drink i’m sippin on’ is more of a hip hop track with a more rhythmic drum pattern rather than the four to the floor kicks that form the basis for most of her other tracks. Her delivery is understated and rhythmic, with more of a loose rap flow despite her singing deftly switching between Korean and English as her expression requires. The lyrics touch on the pace of city life and the fact there’s so much going on that hardly anything gets remembered, but there’s an element of positivity in the chorus hook, which despite not knowing what it meant until watching her Genius video, was stuck in my head for weeks.
The EP itself begins with ‘feelings change’, a beatless track which feels like it should be a 30 second intro but it goes on for almost three minutes, not doing enough to justify its length. Despite the disappointing opening, second track ‘raingurl’ is a certified slapper, immediately grabbing the listener with a groovy, heavy bassline. Yaeji’s deadpan voice is perfectly suited to building the energy in this track, making subtle alterations to her delivery and vocal effects in the verse and chorus. The hook is particularly good, lilting up and down subtly with every line: “When the sweaty walls are banging / I don’t fuck with family planning / Make it rain girl, make it rain” the last line introducing the jacking drums of the songs drop.
Following that comes the aforementioned ‘drink i’m sippin’ on’ which leads into ‘after that’, a late night wind down dancefloor track with just the right amount of groove and energy, and a cover of Drake’s ‘Passionfruit’, which samples what was already a very pleasant song and reworks it into a more lo-fi, skippy version of itself. Yaeji’s voice is effected with a syrupy autotune and the production gives that trademark air of nostalgia an fleetingness that typifies Yaeji’s work.
EP2 deserves to blow Yaeji up. The lyrical intricacies of ‘drink i’m sippin’ on’ and anthem status of ‘raingurl’ alone merit the millions of plays she’s already racked up and however many more she’ll be getting after this release. While they are the definite highlights, the other tracks are still strong enough and they show that Yaeji has a confident, fully developed sound even this early in her career.
Words by Jack Hollis