Kim Taeyeon, known mononymously as Taeyeon, is the leader and main vocalist of the K-Pop group Girls’ Generation. Since their debut in 2007, Girls’ Generation/SNSD (abbreviation of their Korean name, Sonyeo Sidae) has become one of South Korea’s most iconic and influential music groups and has garnered the title of “The Nation’s Girl Group” in their home country. Taeyeon has also made a career as a solo artist. Having her own voice without the other members has helped fans recognize her talent more, and she has a signature sound outside of the group setting. With numerous awards for being the best female artist and solo performer in the country, Taeyeon has become one of the most successful singers in all of K-Pop.
On October 7, 2015, Taeyeon made her official solo debut with the EP I. At a duration of just over 22 minutes, the EP features 5 songs and an instrumental. The EP’s single is called “I” and carries a vibrant, pop-rock sound. The first verse is a feature from South Korean rapper Verbal Jint, and Taeyeon’s vocals power the remainder of the song.
“I” is a song about Taeyeon freeing herself from the hardships and struggles in life by dreaming and connecting herself to music. The lyrics are very powerful, and along with the strong instrumental, “I” is a complete package that combines all aspects of poetry and music to create something beautiful.
Sky that pours light
I stand under it
As if I’m dreaming, fly
My life is a beauty
The chorus is short but makes an impact. The lyrics are translated from Korean, but you can still see the meaning behind it. Taeyeon is saying that the feeling of dreams makes darkness go away and frees your soul. It’s spiritual liberation through dreaming. She feels a sense of relief in her dreams like she can do anything and be anyone. This chorus is used 3 times during the song and is like a recurring message throughout the song’s story.
Yeah, a story I’ve heard often somewhere
Ugly duckling and swan, a butterfly before it flies
People don’t know, they don’t see your wings
A new world you’ve met could be cruel
But strong girl, you know you were born to fly
The tears you’ve cried, all of the pain you’ve felt
It’s to prepare you for the day you’ll fly even higher, butterfly
Everybody’s gonna see it soon
Verbal Jint’s verse takes place after the powerful opening chorus. He is referring to Taeyeon during his verse and talks almost motivationally. The metaphor of opening your wings and flying fits very well with the song and its theme. The line, “The tears you’ve cried, all of the pain you’ve felt. It’s to prepare you for the day you’ll fly even higher, butterfly” adds that motivational tone that Verbal Jint is displaying here. Overall, the rap feature in the first verse is great and helps drive the song’s theme and tone.
Forgottеn dream, I draw it again in my heart
Collect all of the times I withdrew and swallow it, eh
Small memories wake me up one by one
It opens me up, as if it’ll fill the whole world
Past the long, long night
Want to embark on the road for a trip again
Why not? In this world, one word awakens my heart
Taeyeon sings the second verse and does so in a very storytelling way. This verse is about the dream and how much Taeyeon wants it. She always longs for the journey in her head, and it sort of helps her reach nirvana. In the line, “It opens me up, as if it’ll fill the whole world” is very strong in the context. The memories of the dream are the only thing making her life and she tries to live in that dream. The “one word” in the final line is dream.
Yesterday, I was alone, countless gazes
Falling tears, I withstood another day again
Yesterday, that was a close call, all of the words that poured out
It embraced me, who was shaking, again, it embraced me
The pre-chorus briefly speaks about the day-to-day struggles in her life and how the darkness can sometimes overwhelm and oppress her. Throughout the song, she is finding nirvana, but the pre-chorus contradicts that point, visualizing her falling back into the darkness. The storytelling in “I” has a great amount of quality for a three-and-a-half minute song.
Flower petals wilt
I had difficult times, but followed a small light (But followed a small light)
Distant day, let it go far, far away
I fly splendidly
The bridge represents Taeyeon coming to acceptance in her life. Through her struggles, she fought through and let herself fly again. For a song/poem, “I” does a lot and has a whole structure of finding an obstacle, losing the fight, and finally overcoming it.
Sky that pours light
Fly far away
Beauty that belongs only to me
The moment I close my eyes
I rise again
The final chorus and outro go along together. It’s about Taeyeon finally reaching her destination/goal. She freed herself from her unhappiness and struggles in life and metaphorically took a leap of faith and flew her wings. “I” is a very poetic song. Poetry doesn’t always need to rhyme, it just needs to tell a story. Taeyeon’s first solo was her best in my opinion, but she has a very great portfolio of stories about life, love, and all in between. In a music industry where a lot of music is written by big music agencies rather than the artists themselves, it is refreshing to see artists have their own stories about something close to them. Taeyeon has struggled with depression in the past, and music is her way of being free. Overall, Taeyeon is one of the most talented singers/songwriters out there and is super underrated because she lives an ocean away. “I” is one of the best and most poetic songs out there, and Taeyeon deserves more attention.