As I have mentioned many times before, the world of K-pop is vast and is much more than simply pop music in Korean. K-pop has Latin, pop, alternative, rock, hip-hop and rap influences. The industry is built to mesh these sounds together and try to create distinct sounds. One artist who most definitely has her own sound, but is often overlooked, is Jessi.
Jessi is a 32-year-old singer-songwriter who first debuted on the K-pop scene in 2005. She was born in New York and lived in New Jersey for 15 years, before moving to South Korea to make it as an idol. Jessi was a former member of the groups Uptown and Lucky J, before joining P Nation records as a soloist. Since then, she has collaborated with many notable global artists including Jay Park, Lee Hyo-ri and Ed Sheeran.
The Korean-American artist dropped her second EP, “Nuna” on July 30, 2020. The album includes six tracks in a mix of Korean and English, ballads and bops — all music that illustrates who Jessi is as an artist.
The album’s title track, “Nunu Nana,” is a mix of hip-hop and pop, a clear bridge connecting Jessi to her artistic roots. As she clearly states, she is “still Jessi from the block,” only now she is showcasing her evolved sound and style. The name of the single itself is a nod to this artistic development, as it refers to a “noona/nuna (누나),” a male’s older female relative or friend in Hangul. Jessi, now in her early 30s, with 17 years of experience under her belt, has the ability to show her rise in the Korean idol world and even on the global scene.
Jessi’s declaration of “that’s why I’m that nuna,” paired with her success flexing, is supposed to make a statement to the listener — and make a statement it does.
Her easily definable husky voice, sharp dance moves and performance delivery will make you get out of your seat screaming along while you “put ’em up in the air.” Jessi manages to make an absolute banger with girlboss energy, reminiscent of her 2019 single “Who Dat B,” without it feeling overwhelming or too in-your-face. Truly notable is her mini collaboration with Lee Hyori, South Korea’s “Nation’s Fairy,” in the music video.
The music video itself is a pop of color with swirling camera angles. Jessi and her all-girl backup dancers completely dominate the video, with Hyori’s cameos filling the almost three minutes and a half minutes with unbelievably good vibes.
Jessi has shown for years that she is an artist who transcends the K-pop industry. From “Gucci” (2017) to “Cold-Blooded” (2021), Jessi has twisted the definition of K-pop and shown that you don’t always need to live by the rules. “Nunu Nana” is just one manifestation of her unique artistic evolution.
You can check out the music video for “Nunu Nana” on YouTube.