Next up on the album review front is YENA’s solo debut mini-album, creatively titled as x‿x (SMiLEY). It features the title track SMILEY (which features soloist BIBI) and dropped on 18 January 2022. There are four additional side tracks on this album, as well. This release is YENA’s biggest promotion (to date) following the disbandment of IZ*ONE in early 2021.
Overall, another strong album release, this time for a solo debut. It is already led by the amazing title track, SMILEY, which you can read the full review below. And the additional four side tracks definitely showcase more of YENA’s potential as a solo artist going into the future. I can’t wait to see what new tracks YENA will comeback with in the future! Until then, here is my album review for x‿x (SMiLEY).
PS. The second album review that was supposed to come out today will be delayed until tomorrow. 🙂
1. Before Anyone Else – Starting off her first mini-album is a ballad. Usually, the ballads are kept towards the second half or ends of an album, and I can see why that is the case with this song. Personally, Before Anyone Else isn’t my cup of tea, simply because it a fairly slow ballad. I like my fair share of ballads, but this one didn’t have too much going on in it and felt too consistent from start to end. And it also started off the album in a pretty sluggish manner. Despite that, the ballad did what ballads do best – that is showcase the vocals. And Before Anyone Else did just that, with Yena coming off as dreamy and soothing throughout this song. (7/10)
2. SMILEY (feat. BIBI) (Title Track) – Click here to read the full review of SMILEY. (9/10)
3. LxxK 2 U –LxxK 2 U continues the rock sound from the title track, combining it with pop. The chorus was extremely memorable thanks to the melody and the energy that comes off it (head-banging in a way). What really stood out to me in Lxxk 2 U was how the rock element complimented YENA, never overpowering or overstepping the artist. Even during the bridge where we got angsty YENA, the intensity of the autotune and rock increased sufficiently to give off that angsty vibe but keep it within the wheelhouse of YENA herself. Compared to the rest of the song, the bridge was a bit of a curveball, but it managed to work without departing too far from the rest of Lxxk 2 U. (10/10)
4. PRETTY BOYS – PRETTY BOYS almost comes in as my favourite side track on this album (potentially a tie with Lxxk 2 U), but narrowly misses out. I really like the funky vibes from this track and the retro direction that the instrumental took. It is pretty much on point with what else is going in the industry at the moment. The repetitive hooks throughout PRETTY BOYS really made the song catchy for me. Combine that with the energy of the upbeat instrumental, you have a winning formula. However, when it came to her raps in this song, I wished the instrumental concentrated slightly, just to give those raps a bit more zing in this already upbeat track. (9/10)
5. VACAY – The album ends of with a fairly straight forward pop track. There is some good energy that comes from this track that reminds me of Summer, and I think this is a great song to have on repeat during those incoming hot months (for you Northern Hemisphere people). One thing that I haven’t yet commended YENA on for are her high pitch vocals. And while she does extremely well with them throughout the album, VACAY really showed off her tone and control. I also like how she manages to portray that summer energy in her voice as well. (8/10)
Overall Album Rating – 8.6/10