Generation Avex: Ailee’s ‘U&I’

Each time I do these reviews I wonder if today will be the day that I’ll finally see the bands and singers I actually know on the top of the charts. That never seems to be the case, however. I was excited to see BEAST up there, but their new song Shadow is so boring that the fact that they weren’t on the top spot came as a relief. Who took the number one spot? Singer/actress Ailee. I had never heard of her before, but after listening to U&I, I don’t think I’ll forget her easily.

I have no idea how I haven’t heard of her until now. It’s not like she just debuted—saving the fact that I don’t think she can debut—and with her voice, I think I would have been drawn to her by some force of nature. Yes, the trend that I hoped would catch with Hi Lee’s rise seemed to be catching. Ailee, much like Hi, has a powerful, soulful voice that gives this otherwise generic break-up song some feeling behind it.

Even though the lyrics to U&I are incredibly generic, I think one of the more interesting aspects of this song is that the faceless significant other isn’t exactly vilified. In fact, in an almost exact contrast to the instrumental and vocals, the story laid out in the lyrics is actually depressing. It’s not a song about someone who has been cheated on or abused, it’s a song about a couple who has simply come apart. One of them wants to keep the relationship going, to try and make it work, while the other (the singer) just wants to move on because it’s hurting them both. And while the song is presented in typical empowered woman that don’t need no man style, lines like:

“We can’t turn things back to how it was before

We became worse than strangers, we became burdens to each other”

lead me to believe that this song has more depth to it than the “I’m so over you” song laying on the surface.

On the other hand, right out of the gate she uses the hated “drop the beat” line—this time taking the form of “cut the beat.” I detest these lines. They’re so unnecessary and rather than getting me hyped for a tempo change, they usually signal the point where the song starts to suck. Hearing this signal at the very beginning of the song really worried me, I’m not going to lie.

Ed Hardy doesn't belong at the cabaret, come on.

Ed Hardy doesn’t belong at the cabaret, come on.

Another thing that I like about this song is that the video actually fits. The majority of the video takes place on a burlesque-style stage, which fits with the trumpets and Ailee’s personality. Think K-pop Chicago. It’s a nice change from Hi, but also an expected change. Ailee has the personality and confidence in her art that she isn’t overshadowed by the flashy clothes and set pieces. Something like this is perfect for her, and perfect for the song.

Pooling all these points together, I’m giving U&I a four out of five diamond-encrusted telephones. As much as I love the lyrics and the music, there’s a disjointedness between the instrumental in the verses and the one in the chorus. It’s like they wanted to go for a more hip-hop style song at first, but then decided on making it more jazzy halfway through. It’s a little disorienting. However, what this song does, it does well, and what it does well is show off Ailee’s vocal talents. I can’t wait to listen to more of her songs. In fact, I might just do that right now.