Over the past year-and-a-half, a number of Girls’ Generation members have branched out with solo music. Taeyeon is arguably the most successful, but a close second is ex-member Jessica, who famously left the group in a cloud of mystery two years ago.
The 27-year-old made her solo debut in May with the treacly, inspirational track ‘Fly’. It did well enough, which is why it’s a surprise to see the singer-turned-designer go full dance-pop for her second album Wonderland. Clearly influenced by fairy tales and Frozen (not to mention Taeyeon’s excellent dance-pop album Why), Jessica takes her iconic ‘ice princess’ image and goes full Disney princess with Wonderland’s collection of child-friendly bubblegum pop.
Dance tunes don’t usually sell during Korea’s winter months, but I'm glad that Jessica ignored that little issue and finally decided to turn up the tempo. Her lead single ‘Wonderland,’ produced by Norwegian composer Martin K (who has worked with BoA and Jessie J), is a tonne of frothy fun that plays like the little sister track to Taeyeon’s more sophisticated hit ‘Why.'
‘Dancing On The Moon,’ another Martin K production, and ‘Celebrate’ offer more sunny dance beats and twinkly synths. It doesn’t take long to figure out that Jessica’s version of wonderland is some fantastical utopia with cotton candy clouds, wild unicorns, and Blanc & Eclare gift bags as far as the eye can see. Not that I’m complaining.
The dance beats get a breather on ‘World of Dreams,’ a sort of magical, romantic lullaby. Despite the change in sound, Jessica doesn’t break character, channeling a virtuous Snow White singing sweetly as a chirping bird flutters onto her finger (seriously, there’s actually a chirping bird in this song).
Jessica also slows things down on Wonderland’s closing track, ‘Tonight.’ It’s a gorgeous ballad with a gentle build that wouldn’t sound out of place as one of those super innocent B-sides that always turn up on Girls’ Generation albums.
Wonderland may be a little too saccharine for some, but it’s definitely authentic. Jessica sounds right in her element with the album’s sugary optimism. Lyrics like “I want you to shine, let’s have a good time!” and “Let’s take a chance baby, we could be dancing on the moon,” are certainly cheesy, but they’re also sweet and endearing. Whoever said that being an ice princess means you have to be cold?