I’m a bit ashamed to admit I’d never heard of So!YoON! prior to the announcement of this collaboration with BTS’s RM. I don’t follow the Korean indie scene closely, but she seems to have carved out a nice niche both as a soloist and frontwoman of band Se So Neon. From what I can gather, this pairing is the result of mutual fandom/admiration going back six years or so. That’s a pretty cool reason to join forces for a song, and Smoke Sprite is an interesting use of their talents.
I’m not sure I’ve ever written about a song like this on the blog before. It has a much more alternative sound than the glossy K-pop surrounding it, but that’s kind of refreshing. The choices in mixing and effects give it an otherworldly ambience, especially when Soyoon is singing. And rather than follow a traditional K-pop structure, Smoke Sprite feels like one long cry forged into a song. I actually hear a bit of Prince in it – one of his dramatic, psychedelic guitar ballads made more lo-fi.
Driven by distorted guitar, Smoke Sprite moves from languid verses to an explosive chorus that harnesses sharp emotion to offer peaks of catharsis. RM’s verse feels more grounded in tropes we’re used to from the industry, but his delivery has a melodic heft that blurs the lines between singing and rapping. He’s not actually in the song as often as I expected. Instead, this is very much Soyoon’s showcase – as it should be. More ears than ever will be tuned into her music, and this is an appealing introduction for us newbies.