[#4] Younha - "Painful Sadness"

From: "Subsonic"
Released: December 2013
Territory: South Korea
Previous Best of Entries: 2012: [#3] "Run" / 2013: [#1] "The Real Reason We Broke Up"
Other notable song(s) from 2014: "Subsonic", "없어 (Feat. 이루펀트)", "Home"

I'm very, very thankful that "Subsonic" missed my 2013 countdown cut-off -- I would've had an existential crisis if I had even more songs to choose from than I already did. That didn't make this choice any harder though -- "Home" is a beautiful, classic ballad, "없어" is the single-worthy, well, single, and "Subsonic" is the extremely style-dependent title track.

But I think "Painful Sadness" is the middle ground of the entire album -- it's a little bit of all the great things "Subsonic" has to offer.

The melody is emotional, at once sad and quaint, bittersweet ballad-material. This is furthered by Younha's warm yet feminine vocals, so the vocal parts soar when they have to and "cozy up" (for lack of a better term) when they should. But alongside the familiar, cozy melody is an instrumental that's both grounded and stylish. The use of gutsy electric guitars, the subdued synths in both low and high ranges, the drum machine -- it's all very Coldplay. The transitions are paradoxical -- snappy, yet ridiculously smooth. You know it's happening, but the way it happens and the instruments that signal the transitions (the choice of drum kit, the dynamic progressions) literally glide. It's not just the chorus or a specific part of the song that soars -- "Painful Sadness" as a whole is the process of soaring.

This is what I was saying about Younha when she was #1 on last year's countdown, and this is what she has once again proven -- that there can be depth to pop songs. And "Painful Sadness," to me, is an encapsulation of Younha's stylistic progress. (All grounded on outstanding technicals, of course.)


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