S.M. Entertainment dismissed Jessica Jung from Girls’ Generation in 2014 due to scheduling conflicts related to the activities of her fashion brand Blanc & Eclare and the group’s schedule. Considering that she was a fan favorite, firing her could’ve been career suicide for Girls’ Generation, or SNSD as they’re known in Korea, but the group lives on. That does not mean that Jessica’s music career is over either. On the contrary, she recently released her solo debut, a gorgeous mini-album called With Love, J.
Whenever people talk about With Love, J, they usually compare it to SNSD member Tiffany’s solo debut I Just Wanna Dance. Personally, I thought I Just Wanna Dance was fantastic, especially the uplifting title track. That said, if I have to pick a favorite I’m choosing With Love, J. The reason is simple. None of the other songs on I Just Wanna Dance quite reached the perfection of the title track, whereas With Love, J is perfect from start to finish.
Every song is a memorable charmer here, starting with the gorgeous opening number “Fly,” which Jessica wrote herself. “You’re a hero / You can fly,” she sings, her voice elevating your soul. It’s the most inspiring song Mariah Carey never wrote, especially reminding me of the Mariah classic “Dream Lover.” “Fly” was produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Karriem Mack and delivers hard beats that split the difference between pop and R&B. Rapper Fabolous delivers a fantastic verse here, which actually fits the song lyrically, unlike so many rap cameos where the rap part has nothing to do with the song it’s in and seems to be there just so whoever is releasing the song can boast that they have the rapper on their album.
On a related note, it amuses me that people keep pointing out that he’s American when they talk about this because, guess what, Jessica herself is an American. She was born and raised in San Francisco, California before S.M. Entertainment discovered her. Granted, she’s now based in South Korea; I just find it funny that people mention Fabolous is American, as if it’s a big deal to have an American rapper on her song, when she’s actually American, too.
The big beats continue on “Big Mini World,” which has bright music that’s perfect for summer. It isn’t without a healthy dose of melancholy, however, part of the second verse translating as “Trapped in a box / Wearing pretty clothes / I’m used to that / Hurting by myself / Became a bad habit / If enough is enough / I wanna find myself again.” The chorus isn’t nearly as somber, however, as she sings about wanting to live in a “Big, big world,” not a “Mini, mini world.” Nothing wrong with having ambitions and it’s a fitting song because Jessica is gradually taking on the world, becoming more and more famous with her fashion work and now her solo material.
According to Yes Asia, Jessica also served in a producer capacity here, something I’d love to know more about. They could mean that she was a producer in the sense that she financed the making of the mini-album or it could mean that she actually created some of the beats and such herself. I wouldn’t be surprised if she served in both capacities, considering that she wrote “Fly” herself. In any case, the magic continues to happen on “Falling Crazy in Love,” a ballad with boisterous beats that will give your sub-woofer a serious workout while her vocals and the light piano hold you spellbound. “I’m falling babe / I’m falling for you,” she sings and you’ll wish you were so lucky.
Another ballad follows. It’s called “Love Me the Same” and it’s a much gentler affair, the beats light but fresh. There’s also some serious bass guitar on this track, which I suspect might’ve even been played on an upright bass. Lyrically, the translation paints it as a very romantic tune, part of one verse being: “I See You Looking / I wanna hug you / What are you doing?” I’m sure this one will appeal to lots of teenage girls who are currently experiencing their first crush.
“Golden Sky” is an R&B ballad with lyrics that are slightly more serious than those of “Love Me the Same.” Here’s part of the chorus (translated): “Today, today, today / I’ll be thanking you / For always being by my side.” So, in “Love Me the Same” the girl wants the guy but in “Golden Sky” she’s had him for a while and is feeling quite grateful at that. The first couple of times I listened to the mini-album this song felt a bit redundant after “Love Me the Same,” being that it’s another soft ballad, but the more you listen to them, the more they each become unique in your mind after that they just seem like two different enough songs that just happen to be ballads, which just happen to be placed side-by-side in the tracklist.
“Dear Diary” closes out With Love, J and isn’t quite down-tempo but isn’t exactly up-tempo either. It has livelier beats than the previous couple of songs, but it certainly isn’t as sonorous as the first few songs on hand. I imagine Jessica wrote this one herself, too, since it’s about writing in her diary. “Dear diary I want to tell / I’ll tell you everything hidden in my heart / Even all the struggles that I couldn’t keep in / I’ll preciously remember and keep them in here.” It would be a little hypocritical for her to sing this one if she doesn’t have a diary, so perhaps 20 years from now we’ll get to read what she’s singing about. By then I imagine she will have released 10 albums, 8 mini-albums and 7 digital singles. One can dream, right? The answer to that is obviously yes and dreaming is a major theme here. If Jessica had one goal with this, I think it was to inspire her listeners to follow their hearts and pursue their dreams.
Translations via: https://popgasa.com/
Interpark INT (Korea)