Singer, songwriter, and music producer Song Heejin has a fairly extensive history in the music industry of South Korea. She was a participant in music survival TV shows such as Superstar K5 (2013) and The Unit (2017) and released one mini-album while she was under the K-pop girl-group GOOD DAY, All Day Good Day (2017). After the end of GOOD DAY, she joined the music production collective Solcire Music. Song Heejin has been more lowkey about her music ever since. She still releases music as a recording artist; it’s just not as flashy as what she used to do with GOOD DAY. In parallel, she’s also building a name for herself as a songwriter and producer for K-pop groups.
Now, Song Heejin uses every color of her pasts experiences in the Korean music industry to paint the sonic landscape of her first studio album, Soda, released independently under Solcire Music. The nine-track long-play shares the freshness of its title, but it’s far from being artificial like soda. Song’s voice and pop songwriting skills shine in Soda. The album also showcases Solcire’s dynamics as an assertive shot with an even brighter future ahead than what they’ve done so far. Song’s husband, Kevin G. Cho, is also a part of Solcire. He’s a producer, mixing and mastering engineer on Soda, co-writes every song along with her and has worked in big projects such as the massively successful debut album of girl group TWICE, 2017’s Twicetagram.
Soda opens with its homonym song, a disco-synthpop track whose lyrics speak of temptation through the metaphor of an addicting, “too sweet” beverage. The summery vibes are apparent but not over-the-top. “Soda” is mixed and mastered so elegantly that listening to it feels more like being surrounded by its rhythm rather than being assaulted by sun heat. Song’s smooth vocals are just as suitable for the atmosphere that the song builds. No element shines more than another in “Soda”, although some act more as a secret ingredient, such as the background funky guitars.
The rest of the album presents different styles, varying from R&B to pop ballads. Song Heejin’s experience with K-pop groups (she has co-written WJSN’s “Unnatural”, T01’s “Surf“) makes itself evident through the melodies and vocal section divisions throughout Soda. Songs like the fluffy and vibrant “Dancing in the Moonlight” could’ve easily been recorded by K-pop girl groups such as APRIL or Fromis9. The synthpop “Question Mark” recalls the sassy-brassy style of vocal powerhouses MAMAMOO and the now inexistent SPICA. Yet, there’s a perk to them being a part of a one-woman show in Soda: Song Heejin explores different possibilities of her voice and shows she’s more than capable of handling it all.
Other highlights of the album are “Dirt”, an R&B song with a slight doo-wop cadence, and the stripped-down “Fly Like Butterflies”, where Song Heejin is accompanied by a guitar and delivers a stunning vocal performance. The quirky “Tylenol” is the most interesting thing together with “Soda”. This bass-boosted sound follows an experimental approach, mixing salsa music with elements of dubstep.
The album is closed by its weakest track, “Enough As you Are”. It is a lovely song but less exciting compared with the previous tracks. The good side is that, because it is the last track, when you get there, you’re already sold.
Soda is a strong debut album that sets a high bar for Song Heejin’s future works. She has enough brain and soul to fill up many spaces, be it music for other K-pop artists or herself.