Seulgi – ‘28 Reasons’ review: Red Velvet star stuns on intoxicating solo debut

As she steps into the spotlight without her bandmates for the first time, the masterful vocalist unveils exhilarating new elements of her artistry

For eight years, Seulgi has stood among her Red Velvet bandmates, one of five members contributing to the group’s bigger picture. The only glimpses of her individual artistry came through collaborations, her unit project with Irene, and tracks recorded for drama OSTs – until now. On her debut solo mini-album ‘28 Reasons’, she steps into the spotlight.

What is Seulgi really made of? The answer these six songs give: pure brilliance. The moves cohesively through dark and delicious tracks that draw from different facets of R&B and dance-inflected pop, each incorporating opposing forces of light and dark, as hinted in the good vs evil narrative that coursed through the teaser content for this record.

The title track sets the tone exquisitely, Seulgi embodying a character who can switch between mischievous and innocent in a split second. “I kiss your brother / I steal that heart,” she purrs in the opening lines. “You can’t even feel the poison, my pleasure / Mischief and nervous eyes / It’s so much fun to see you like that.” Her vocals effortlessly rush with emotion without ever losing her sense of poise, even when she softly growls the later lines: “I ruin you and save you / Make your dreams come true.”

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That regal elegance is a mainstay throughout the mini-album, putting the artist firmly in control. That power is palpable whether Seulgi is singing about the exhilarating uncertainty of new adventures in a new place on ‘Los Angeles’, which glimmers with the kind of metallic electronics that nod to both the bright lights of city skylines and hints at shadowier goings-on down below, or assuming the role of ruler on the majestically cool R&B of ‘Crown’.

Even on ‘Bad Boy, Sad Girl’, a brighter, sweeter collaboration with rising rapper BE’O, the frustrations in the lyrics – about being unsure of whether your crush is reciprocated – can’t shake her off course. The only feature on the record, the team-up proves a shrewd choice: Seulgi and the Show Me The Money rapper’s voices mesh harmoniously as they tell their separate sides of the story before coming together to confess their feelings.

’28 Reasons’ isn’t just a first for Seulgi as her solo debut – it also features her first songwriting effort in ‘Dead Man Runnin’’. It’s an incredibly strong start, showcasing her potential as a gifted storyteller. Her lyrics detail the aftermath of being seriously hurt by another and vividly depict falling into an unstable psychological state. “Slowly tighten your neck,” she sings, voice dripping with vengeance, reeling you into an atmosphere laden with danger. “An oncoming sense of tension / An earthy voice / There’s a demon smiling inside me / How does it feel?

That the singer’s first steps as a solo artist are pretty spectacular should come as no surprise. Seulgi has long proved herself as an intoxicating and masterful performer in Red Velvet, and now, she’s ready to apply that experience to her own shining moment. On ‘28 Reasons’, she burns brighter than ever.

Details

Seulgi 28 Reasons album art
  • Release date: October 4, 2022
  • Record label: SM Entertainment
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