Sunmi isn’t just one of the top soloists in South Korea – she’s essentially forged her own genre.
Since the split of her long-running, history-making girl group, Wonder Girls, following the release of their incredible final album Reboot in 2015, Sunmi’s delivered smash hit after hit in her own signature style: from the scorned and defiant “Gashina” to the Cheryl Cole Tweedy Fernandez Versini Almost Payne Now Just Cheryl controversy-causing “Heroine,” to her ominous and alluring “Siren,” to “Noir,” her hypnotic ode to the emptiness of social media validation, to the Latin-tinged, horn-y “Lalalay.”
Everything she does is distinctly Sunmi, and incredibly well done – and “Pporappippam,” or “Purple Night,” is no exception.
“I was actually working on a different song, but because these days people feel down and heavy-hearted, I wanted to make something that could help them feel refreshed rather than something deep. So this song is about being in love. It even made me feel fluttery while I was making it. This song is meant to make you cool down after a hot, sweaty afternoon, like when the wind blows and it cools you down in the evening,” she explained during her online showcase on Monday (June 29).
“Pporappippam” was co-crafted with FRANTS, which checks out, given that he helped create the nostalgic excellence that is “Candle,” “Oppa” and “One Black Night” on Wonder Girls’ Reboot, as well as the majority of Sunmi’s Warning, including “Siren.”
The song is city pop-inspired, a retro style dating back to the ’70s in Japan, which would later hit South Korea in the ’80s, characterized by “an urban atmosphere with a rhythmic, funky base that is usually expressed with minutely chopped rhythms of guitars or synthesizers.” The sound’s experienced a renaissance in South Korea in recent years, including acts like Wonder Girls and Sunmi. Basically, if it feels like a dreamy night ride through the city (as the chorus of “Pporappippam” certainly does), chances are that it’s city pop. (Check out this great megamix of South Korean city pop.)
The song also has its own Sunmi charm: the declarative pre-chorus is immediately reminiscent of past releases, like “Heroine” and “Gashina,” before diving into an utterly dreamy chorus.
“As I want to keep my own color, I added the flute sound to the intro and hook. Although those factors seem not to be suitable, they completely fit my style, it’s the Sunmi-trademarked bright city pop genre,” she explained during her conference.
True to the song’s sound, the accompanying video for “Pporappippam” has the elements of grainy camcorder/VHS footage, depicting various scenes of both friendly and romantic love straight out of a drama, vintage cars, fireworks, sparklers, cityscapes, balloons, giant chandelier things and, of course, some stellar choreography – 🤘 and ample fingerography! 🤘 – plus some stone-faced humor to boot. It’s reliably stylish – and so Sunmi.
“I didn’t drink, but I’m tipsy / I feel a bit dizzy / When if not now? / It’s frustrating / Won’t you hug me and kiss me?” she swoons on the love-drunk anthem. As she herself acknowledges, this is also her most starry-eyed offering to date.
“For me, this is the first true love song. From ‘Lalalay,’ ‘Noir’ to ‘Siren,’ my music largely carried cynicism or ridicule of love,” she explained.
“I wanted to make a perfect song for summer. After thinking about the concept I hadn’t tried before, I realized that I never performed any song that carries a light and pure atmosphere. Coming to youthful vibes, there is only ‘Gashina.’ Therefore, I want to deliver an even more youthful atmosphere. If you listen to the entire melody of this song, you will feel happy and flutter,” she went on to explain.
The thing about Sunmi is that she has yet to miss the mark, making her undeniably one of the best solo acts in South Korean pop – which, understandably, only adds pressure to her with each release.
“I don’t think results can turn out well if you don’t have pressure. I always think that one has to have pressure. If you think about it, I think being asked about whether I have pressure is a sign that I’ve doing well so far,” she reflected.
“I always feel nervous to do something new, because you just don’t know what’s going to happen. I can’t succeed every single time, and there has to be ups and downs. So I think of this as a marathon. I don’t let myself get too excited or too depressed. I want to hold on and hold on and hold on more, because I think that’s how I will succeed. I want to maintain my pace for a long time and be remembered.”
At this rate, she’s heading straight for icon status.
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