It’s no question that pop music feeds off nostalgia, this year alone we’ve seen albums and pop hits built around disco and funk roots. We’ve even seen records feed off pop music past by mimicking early 2000s pop music. “Say So” made everyone want to boogie and The Weeknd’s been nodding to the ’80s for the better half of his career. Across the world, K-Pop has been doing the same for years. Retro concepts are among the most loved in Korea, and soloist Yukika introduces her twist on it with her debut album Soul Lady.
Yukika made her Korean debut in February 2019 with “NEON,” but it’s far from her first work as she’s already built a career in Japan as a model and actress. With a melodic riff-based around Mariya Takeuchi’s cult city pop classic “Plastic Love,” In the music video directed by DIGIPEDI (see:LOONA), Yukika serves the perfect retro fantasy as she performs on a stage set in 1989. Bright and blurry cityscapes of sparkling neon lights accurately describe the sound of city pop, a genre that originated in Tokyo in the late 70s, blending pop with elements of Western disco, funk, rock, and more.
A year later, Yukika has finally delivered her full-length release SOUL LADY. The album begins with “From HND to GMP,” referencing the flight from Tokyo to Seoul and gets ready to tell a story as the track closes to the whir of a plane takeoff. “I Feel Love” is a funk dream and trumpets flourish as she sings about, well, falling in love. In her words, she wanted to portray her cheer of moving to Korea, leading into the title track. Yukika sings about her move from Japan, a play on words of her becoming a Seoul lady as low strumming chords lead into a pulsing beat.
“Yesterday” is another Japanese take on a K-Pop song, drawing inspiration from 90’s J-Pop artists like Utada Hikaru and Namie Amuro for its R&B sound. “A Day For Love” marks her another R&B-inspired track. Halfway into the body of work, we’re met with “Pit A Pet,” arguably the highest energy song on the album, blending bubblegum pop and house, carefully balancing cutesy filtered ad-libs over the fat bass. Much of the credits on this work can be given to production powerhouse MonoTree, well-known for their work with classic K-Pop acts, as well as her in-house producers ESTiMATE.
yukika’s company is embarrassing everyone else like WOW pic.twitter.com/JQCX5mfQ83
— Slaypril (@vividalso) July 24, 2020
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“I Need A Friend” continues the concept of the album, serving as a phone call skit between Yukika and a lover, leading into “Shade,” which she’s described as the darkest song on the album, where she breaks up with her lover and sings of her heartbreak.
Yukika is die-hard committed to her aesthetic and it makes a world of difference. She knows her sound and her audience, and it’s shown with the track “All Flights Are Delayed,” a lush lo-fi instrumental interlude that’s perfect to relax to. Yukika dropped an hourlong lo-fi version of the song if you needed an extended cut to relax to. “Neon 1989,” a reprise of her debut but with production even dreamier, closes out this K-pop time capsule.
Yukika has been able to pull off this retro concept so effortlessly. She’s entered the busy K-Pop scene with a splash, staying true to her influences while remaining super fresh. Listen to Soul Lady by Yukika below.