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A vinyl of Jessica’s mini-album ‘Beep Beep’, laid on a pink fur surface.  The cover art features a shot of Jessica wearing  a pink dress with ostrich feather sleeves, with her hands raised above her head as the feathers from her sleeves partially obscure her face and she looks down.

Beep Beep is Jessica’s fourth mini-album, and I still don’t have much of an idea of who she is musically. I don’t know what her angle is. I don’t know who she wants to be. And this can be the problem with releasing a bunch of mini-albums over an album. There is less consideration and thought of what you want to say and how you want to present yourself, because ‘It’s just a mini-album’. But mini-albums can be a great way to test the waters of different things without the headache and pressure that comes with making a full length album. And yet Jessica has pretty much given us nothing for four mini-albums straight. I will go easy on Wonderland, because it was a pretty decent mini-album, with songs that Jessica could have built her entire sound around, whilst also sounding like something you could imagine Girls’ Generation doing – which I think is a good thing that Jessica should capitalise on, given that Girls’ Generation are benched. So to step away from this for its follow up My Decade was a little odd. And Beep Beep also doesn’t build on Wonderland, despite the title track giving the impression that it does. But “Beep Beep” is also not indicative of the rest of the songs on the mini-album whatsoever.


Jessica’s music is pretty generic, H&M playlist type stuff, which I honestly don’t think is a bad thing for somebody like her. But there are a couple of patterns with her music. Something which all of Jessica’s EPs have in common is that they’ve got one foot stuck in circa 2008 and another stick in circa 2016. Circa 2008 being the period of Rihanna’s “Umbrella”, Leona Lewis’ “Better in Time” and Beyoncé’s “Halo”; where all the girls were doing songs which sounded like they were somewhere between a power ballad and a regular pop song? And circa 2016 being the period where every song sounded like Kygo’s “Firestone”, Avicii’s “The Night” and Major Lazer’s “Lean On”, with vocalless choruses. Them types of songs you hear in random ‘How to’ videos. These are the constants of Jessica’s sound which feature across all four of her EPs. But the problem is that her attempts at these types of songs are not great and they aren’t the right ones for her anyway. It’s like somebody handed Jessica a bunch of demos based on popular sounds over the past decade, rather than having her sat in a studio with writers, producers and an A&R to help figure out sounds which DO work for her and how to shape an album from them. And I feel we got close to this on Wonderland, just for somebody to turn the car around.

But a new wrinkle for Jessica on Beep Beep is that she touches on a lil’ bit of R&B, which also isn’t a great fit for her, despite it being something which occasionally worked with Girls’ Generation. Girls’ Generation got away with it because you had Taeyeon, Tiffany and Seohyun (and occasionally the lightskinned Afrokorean girl Hyoyeon) had a quality to their voices which suited these types of songs to make them work. And here’s the thing. The R&B tinged songs on Beep Beep aren’t bad. They’re actually really good songs. “Better Late than Never” had me body rolling. And “Best Summer” had me shaking ass. But it’s the music which is doing all of the work. Jessica’s voice isn’t smooth enough. It’s too thin to approach these types of songs in the manner in which she does. And the production is too sparse for the lack of background vocals. Jessica doesn’t have that Janet Jackson know-how of making a light voice work on such songs and how to stack your vocals like crazy to give them breadth. But if these are the sounds Jessica wants to continue to explore and dabble in, then she gon’ need to learn. And this is where we see how the K-pop machine has fucked up how Jessica approaches these songs. Because acts in K-pop are just handed songs to record, with no real homework for them to do in terms of listening to the influences or blueprints of the song they’re having to record. They think just singing the song is enough.

A shot from the album photoshoot for Jessica Jung’s mini-album ‘Beep Beep’. Featuring Jessica in close-up, with her face partially obscured by the pink feathers of her dress.
Jessica – Beep Beep | Coridel Entertainment

A sound from a period in music that I think would suit Jessica is the late 90s. That classic Darkchild sound which got fully pop glossed for Spice Girls’ “Holler”. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on Janet Jackson’s “Doesn’t Really Matter” and “All for You”. Producers who had a really great sensibility when it came to creating R&B pop songs. Max Martin’s Cheiron sound (the likes of Britney Spears’ “Sometimes”, “Lucky” and “Where Are You Know” specifically) would also be a good fit for Jessica. Shit. Even some Babyface could work for Jessica. These sounds are far more malleable and can better support Jessica’s vocals, because all of these producers were used to working with ladies who didn’t have big voices as well as those that did, and making that shit work no matter what. The styles of music with the exception of the album title track render Jessica a non factor on the songs, to the point that they may as well have been instrumentals, because of how little she brings to any of them.

A shot from the album photoshoot for Jessica Jung’s mini-album ‘Beep Beep’. Featuring Jessica leaning against a pink fur wall in a pink dress with ostrich feather sleeves and skirt trim.
Jessica – Beep Beep | Coridel Entertainment

Beep Beep is also entirely in English and I’m in two minds about this. With K-pop now officially being global, we are seeing more and more K-pop acts releasing songs and whole albums in English with no Korean versions. And with Jessica being fluent in English and the Hallyu having finally hit, it makes sense that she would release her music in English. But her voice sounds weaker in English TO ME. I think Jessica going with a hybrid would have been the better option. Lean on Korean to cheat words into lines and to accentuate the melody of certain sections of songs. There’s just a fluidity that Korean has on certain types of songs that I think Jessica should have taken advantage of. It would have given her songs a cool twist; English, with Korean used wherever it feels right. And why the hell not? The reverse is done all of the time. And from a purely business standpoint, most of Jessica’s fans are Korean. So to release a mini-album entirely in English is a bit of a slap in the face to some of those fans. A minor slap. But still a slap. At least Wonderland was released in Korean and English. Once again showing why it is one of Jessica’s stand-out mini-albums.

The music on Beep Beep isn’t particularly great. Nobody is remembering these songs a couple of years from now. But there is enough on this EP to ignite something in the short term, which I guess is fine for K-pop given how fast it moves. Amber Liu of f(x) features on a song, which is going to have netizens talking and have execs at SM Entertainment huddled around a Polycom. “Beep Beep” serves up lots of pink in the music video (very on trend and timely) and a sound that everybody now traces back to Doja Cat’s “Say So”. But all of the things the mini-album is saying and doing has so little to do with Jessica musically. Sure, there is some sort of pattern in regards to sounds she appears to have a penchant for, but the music itself still isn’t really saying anything and telling me who Jessica is. There’s nothing on Beep Beep that has me curious about what she might do next. But when it all comes down to it, there just aren’t any really good songs on this thing.

A shot from the album photoshoot for Jessica Jung’s mini-album ‘Beep Beep’. Featuring Jessica in close-up, with her face partially obscured by the pink feathers of her dress.
Jessica – Beep Beep | Coridel Entertainment

Jessica having not found her sound is less of a reflection on her and more a reflection of the K-pop machine. K-pop is in the business of making idols, but not truly developing them as artists. They come out with a sound, it hits and they get all-kills, but seldom does that sound and their artistry ever evolve. Just look at Blackpink. A sound is rinsed and repeated until it doesn’t work, which is when we then see a pivot; which more often than not, doesn’t work. And when members of the group are trotted out to go solo, zero effort is made to give them a solo identity. Jessica was still a part of Girls’ Generation during “Mr. Mr.” and “Catch Me if You Can”, when SM Entertainment had NO idea what to do with Girls’ Generation’s sound or image whatsoever. And Jessica hadn’t gone solo or been a part of a subunit, despite being a member you’d think would have. So she’s having to try and find her sound and method of working separate from Girls’ Generation, which means effectively starting from scratch, all while the DNA of Girls’ Generation and how SM did things still remains in what she does. It’s a tough situation. But I think the key for Jessica is having the right team of writers and producers around her. If I were her, I’d either approach writers and producers who had worked on Girls’ Generation material for their Korean and Japanese releases (provided that SM haven’t tied them up in ridiculous contracts and threatened to send them to the Squid Games if they so much as answer a call from Jessica). Or just outright work with American songwriters and producers. Get Julia Michaels and Benny Blanco on the phone. I bet they would set her up real nice.

Jessica doesn’t seem to be in a position where she feels she has to prove anything. The quality of her music doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, because she is still riding the popularity of being an ex-member of Girls’ Generation. And she’s done a pretty damn good job of maintaining popularity purely as a celebrity figure separate from her music. It’s very clear that she has an understanding of the brand of Jessica, and the music is just a small part of that. But Jessica isn’t selling herself to me as a pop star. Jessica’s position in Girls Generation was always interesting to me, because whilst she wasn’t the leader of the group, she’d often get spotlit by being positioned in the centre during routines and got prominent sections of songs as though she was. And bitch, GOOD FOR YOU. But even with how much Jessica lived for a solo moment, I could tell that she was not solo pop star material, in addition to barely looking like she wanted to be in the group in the first place and fighting it out with Tiffany as the weakest dancer. But she was the one member who had a sense of her identity separate from Girls’ Generation, which is probably what contributed to the whole mess of her leaving / being kicked out. Maybe she felt she was better than the group. And if that was the case, I ain’t mad at that. Especially considering that SM Entertainment did not and still do not have Girls’ Generation’s best interests at heart, either as a group or as individuals.

But it would be nice to see Jessica put out music which shows she is committed to at least trying to make good music. Even if it’s just to promote Blanc & Eclare. Jessica has the intuitiveness when it comes to her brand, but this isn’t extending or translating to her music. It would also just be nice to see another example of there being life after a group with one of the big three for a woman in her thirties. With the way some of these companies keep running their small rosters into the ground, they could do with extra names on the books. YG coulda kept a bad bitch like CL post 2NE1 had they not screwed her around. And SM coulda worked SOMETHING out with Jessica. But, nope. JYP seems to be the only one who was smart when it came to Sunmi’s departure from the Wonder Girls.

A shot from the album photoshoot for Jessica Jung’s mini-album ‘Beep Beep’. Featuring Jessica in a pink dress with ostrich feather sleeves.
Jessica – Beep Beep | Coridel Entertainment

The way I see it for Jessica, she has two options. She can either pull a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and treat her music as a soundtrack to her non musical endeavours. But do it so well that people take the music seriously, with the option to transition into spending more time as a fully-fledged pop star. Or, if she wants to model herself on another act, I say she looks at somebody like Kylie Minogue. A fashion girl and a business woman who is malleable when it comes to their music, yet still manages to establish a sound and an aesthetic which is their own and sets a form of standard. There just needs to be intent with what Jessica does. Because at the moment it feels like she’s just releasing music out of a contractual obligation to Coridel.

▪ Better Late than Never
▪ Best Summer

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Mini-album review: Jessica – Beep Beep