Seulgi, legally named Kang Seul-gi, is best known as a member of Red Velvet, one of South Korea’s most popular girl groups from SM Entertainment. The girl group debuted in 2014 with a four-member line-up consisting of Wendy, Irene, Seulgi, and Joy, with new member Yeri joining in 2015.
Red Velvet has mainly worked together since their debut, known for their unique, unconventional and sometimes experimental concepts. Only two other members of Red Velvet have made their solo debuts so far, Seulgi is the third member to do so.
Within the K-Pop industry, it’s not uncommon for members to make solo debuts while still being participating members of their original group. In fact, it’s often expected that, at some point in time, members of K-Pop groups will begin to do activities outside of their group, usually acting or as a solo artist.
The concept photos released for Seulgi’s debut let fans know that the concept for her album would be a horror-based one. Many expected this due to her previous involvement in a subunit of Red Velvet with member Irene. The two artists had a concept based on the vampiric 19th-century novel “Carmilla” for their music video and song, “Monster.”
Some of the key themes in “28 Reasons” are the contrast between good and evil, light and dark. These themes are especially highlighted in the concept photos, the album teaser and even the album cover which displays Seulgi’s reflection in a mirror surrounded by multiple red apples.
Overall, “28 Reasons” is a cohesive and strong debut album for a solo artist that sets Seulgi apart due to its unique concept that suits her perfectly. Each song sets its own stage while offering something unique. There is definitely a song for everyone, as the genres span everything from EDM, dance and disco to R&B and pop. It is easy to see how well-planned this album was. Nothing was thrown into the tracklist or teasers without reason, and it’s noticeable how much purpose went into everything. Not to mention, who doesn’t love a horror concept album that was released just a few weeks prior to Halloween?
“28 Reasons” is the titular track of the mini album that really sets the tone for the rest of your listening experience. The song starts with deep and startling basses before it ushers in the silkiness of its verses. Moody, captivating, seductive and ensnaring are some of the best words to describe the track. It informs the listener that the album they’re about to listen to is, in fact, an exploration of the dark side.
The whistling that can be heard in the background of the chorus serves as a sunny highlight in contrast to the darkness of the electronic beats. All these factors combine as a perfect counterpart to Seulgi’s voice, another element that’s able to perfectly represent both light and dark. The song is able to showcase two stories, depending on which way you see it. One, an intoxicating and detrimental love that consumes you completely, or two, a supernatural, other-worldly being with evil intentions attempting to seduce a human.
During the song’s bridge, you can’t help but feel like you’re being lured in, just another human who has wandered into a trap. This feeling is accomplished by moving from the sweetness of the lyrics to electronic beats to rich synths with accompanying string instruments. However, just as quick as this sweetness came, the entire demeanor changes back to something more malevolent as the deep basses from the beginning of the song return. It’s almost as if the true nature has been revealed, a perfect showcase of good and evil, or maybe just the illusion of good, existing in one.
Dead Man Running
Depending on how strict a K-Pop company is, they may or may not allow their artists (or idols) to take part in the creative process for their albums. Sometimes they are allowed to write and produce, sometimes they are not. Other times, they are limited in how much they can do. Regardless, these decisions are still all up to the company’s discretion.
This song was actually written by Seulgi herself and selected by her company to be included in her album. “Dead Man Running” has an intro that takes a shift away from the deep and dark nature of “28 Reasons” into something a bit more mysterious. The song is definitely one of the most attention-grabbing of the album due to its enigmatic lyrics and production.
The song’s ambiance carefully eases you into its realm by slowly introducing you to the song’s moving parts. The track begins with soft violins accompanied by Seulgi’s quiet voice before more beats are added into the mix and the chorus explodes. The song feels like you are being chased by Seulgi as the titular dead man running. This idea is later expanded on in the bridge’s lyrics as she says repeatedly sings
“You can run, you can run, but you can’t hide.”
This song is intense and climatic, and its lyrics, production and mood all fit the album’s concepts of the good and evil in people perfectly. Not to mention that “Dead Man Running” also provides an incredible showcase of Seulgi’s vocal ability due to its powerful chorus.
Bad Boy, Sad Girl (Feat. BE’O)
“Bad Boy, Sad Girl” is quite a sonic shift from the previous two tracks, but definitely not an unwelcome one. The song features BE’O, an up-and-coming South Korean rapper whose smooth voice compliments Seulgi’s well. The sound is very relaxed, cool and soothing to the ear. It feels like a cool summer breeze floating across your skin. The lyrics detail the back and forth between a couple as Seulgi’s verse describes how she feels he’s not that interested in her, that he’s too distant.
The song’s title comes from the fact that his behavior makes her feel he is a “bad boy,” which in turn makes her a “sad girl.” In BE’O’s verse, he insists that he does care about her and that he is more interested than she thinks. He lists her likes, dislikes and all the things he knows about her in order to assure her.
Seulgi’s vocals flow with the ease of wind, BE’O’s voice is melodic, and his verse spills forth like the current of a river. The song is overall very light and breezy, more comforting rather than an exploration of the dark like the album’s opening tracks. With the entrance of “Bad Boy, Sad Girl,” the album’s sound begins to take a shift, wandering to the brighter side.
Anywhere But Home
“Anywhere But Home” as a whole is a dream-like, heavenly-sounding song. From the layered vocals to the dazzling chimes that add just the right amount of magic, you are immediately transported as you listen. The song utilizes disco, dance and R&B influences that combine together to make an unforgettable experience. The song is very danceable and carefree, perfectly fit for you to forget all your troubles.
The intro of the song is a slowed-down version of the instrumental as the song’s title is repeated. This pulls you into the song’s embrace until the moody intro dissipates into what feels like entering the clearing of a forest, face to face with the light, as you’re met with the song’s brightness. “Anywhere But Home” is about escaping from the pressures of your life, the things that haunt you and just riding away from all of it. Seulgi’s voice is sweet and light as she describes how she wants to run away and asks the listener to do the same. It’s impossible to listen to this song and not be transported far away from everything.
One of the most show-stopping tracks of the album would have to be “Los Angeles.” Part of what has always made Seulgi’s voice so unique is its bright, sweet, and soft tone. “Los Angeles” is curious and enigmatic, almost like a stranger you know nothing about that you’re drawn to solve like a puzzle. It’s a slow build as the song welcomes you into its comfort and smooth-sounding chorus.
The wordplay of “I’m lost in Los Angeles” flows like silk, but the beat drop after the chorus is what captures the listener. A single “Ah!” is what we hear one last time as the beat changes into a completely different tone than before. Instead of the soft instrumentals that dominated the song before, an electronic dance break now begins, and its entrance almost feels like the revelation of a secret. This specific part makes you feel like you’re in a club, or maybe even at a fashion show, due to how addicting and confident it is. This EDM break happens after every chorus, and as it approaches you to come to anticipate its striking appearance more and more. In fact, once it makes its first appearance, it seems that every verse after it becomes bolder and stronger. It displays a kind of growth and change, almost like its own metamorphosis.
And finally the song that closes the album is none other than “Crown.” The emotions that carry the song and its melody can be described as slow, steady, and strong—it’s sure of itself. A song of this kind of confidence is the perfect track to follow “Los Angeles.” The song is essentially Seulgi laying her claim as a solo artist, and it’s not an unfounded one. While the song can be taken as Seulgi explaining why she is a solo artist to pay attention to, it can also be interpreted as a part of the “28 Reasons” storyline. This song also deals with themes of the night, dreams and magic, which is why it can still fit into the album’s concept of the mystery behind the coexistence of light and dark.
“Crown” is a solid closer for an album due to its confidence and finality. The album provided an amazing adventure through each track as they each explored the dichotomies of good and evil, “Crown” just exists as a culmination of this journey. It leaves quite the impression on you as the “28 Reasons” listening experience comes to a close, and you begin to wonder what else lies in store for Seulgi as a solo artist. It sets great expectations for her, and I am excited to see what other works she will release in the future.