EP review: Taeyeon - This Christmas: Winter is Coming

EP review: Taeyeon - This Christmas: Winter is Coming | Random J Pop

The release of Girls' Generation's Holiday Night was completely swept up in the news that the members' contracts were up for renewal and that not all of the girls would be signing on to continue their careers at SM Entertainment. So what did SM do? They had Taeyeon put out a Christmas album. 'Cos a Hyoyeon release wouldn't do shit, and SM ain't ever letting Sunny put anything out but the SM cafeteria bins on collection day. Honestly. Why is that gitl still there?


A Christmas album may have seemed like an odd choice, but it was actually the perfect choice. It carried on the album title theme of Girls' Generation's last album by being tied to a holiday. And fans couldn't get bent out of shape about SM being insensitive and pushing out new Taeyeon material, because they're Christmas songs, which aren't the same...even though it features original material. I guess. Not that this would stop stans and netizens. Rationale? They don't know her.

Honestly, the whole situation was a mess. But if there's something to be said for Taeyeon's Christmas EP, is that it's pleasant. Nobody asked for it. And it's a shame SM didn't foresee the fallout and have Girls' Generation record a Christmas EP as a farewell and give us Spice Girls' "Goodbye" vibes in a music video, but it is what it is. So here's Taeyeon Swift giving us Folklore instead.

EP review: Taeyeon - This Christmas: Winter is Coming | Random J Pop

When Taeyeon released her debut solo EP I in 2015, it made a statement, which is that she wasn't going to be picking up the mantle of Girls' Generation or TaeTiSeo's sound, but trying for something a little different, which carried through to her debut album My Voice. Taeyeon's vibe seemed to be a little Kelly Clarkson like, but more the album cuts and not the sound of the singles, which Kelly soon got sick to the back teeth of. (Gurl, same). This Christmas: Winter is Coming kind of followed suit. But nothing about this EP was really about Taeyeon's artistry - because the whole thing sounds like a Girls' Generation release, which was of course intentional. It sounds so much like a Girls' Generation release that I'm wondering if there was a version of this EP recorded with all of the members, because we know SM feel absolutely no way about re-doing shit without bitches. Look at how they re-recorded and re-shot "Catch Me If You Can" once they told Jessica that her pink suitcase was waiting for her out front.

EP review: Taeyeon - This Christmas: Winter is Coming | Random J Pop

The EP opens as you'd expect it to based on Taeyeon's previous solo efforts and the Enya looking-ass album cover. A ballad, with nothing but Taeyeon and a piano. "The Magic of Christmas Time" sounds like something you'd hear in a Disney film after a character has been banished, lost somebody or run away because they feel unaccepted. It's a little sad, but rather beautiful, and surprisingly sung entirely in English. This is then followed up by "This Christmas", which has Taeyeon singing in her mother tongue and giving us something a little more cheerful, but we're still in ballad mode. The musicality of this song is far warmer than the former, featuring sweeping string arrangements and light bells - again sounding like something from a Disney film, at that point when a character has that revelatory moment of what everything means and why they need to take their ass back to their kingdom. Then everything changes for "Let It Snow" with the tempo goin' up by a hundred and Taeyeon giving us a lil' big band Frank Seosan-atra style bop. It's a choice. But it's catchy and what you would expect to hear on a Christmas album from an act from a group signed to an entertainment house who has always been by numbers and predictable. And it's still somewhat on theme musically following on from "This Christmas", so okay. Whatever. It's cute. But then "Candy Cane" hits and and it's like Girls' Generation dropped from the ceiling on wires to get festive in this bitch. "Candy Cane" sounds like a Girls' Generation song through and through. It's not difficult to imagine the song being split between the eight-piece, with them giving us cute choreo in santa themed dresses. But it's a great song, which checks every box of all of the cliché's of a Christmas song, and even slips a double-entendre in the title for those who are nasty hoe-hoe-hoes.

The rest of the EP is of ballads. Very 'sitting in front of an open fire' type vibes, as was the case with "This Christmas". These songs are all nice, but nothing you've not heard before, and nothing that Taeyeon will be known for in the long run, because there's nothing really remarkable or standout about any of them, as nice as they are. I occasionally run "I'm All Ears" back every December, because it reminds me of my highlight from the I EP, "Gemini". But then I just play "Gemini", and then that "I'm All Ears" wrapped.

EP review: Taeyeon - This Christmas: Winter is Coming | Random J Pop

It was as clear as the malnutrition within Girls' Generation that Taeyeon had one of the better voices in the group, something that producers would let us know by leaving the final run of the chorus to her to scream over. But the facets of her voice are nicely explored here in ways that they aren't always done on Girls' Generation's releases. The strength of Taeyeon's voice is in her softness, and This Christmas: Winter is Coming plays to this well. The problem is that the songs, whilst very pleasant and 100% festive aren't fixtures and mainstays in the way some of Girls' Generation's songs are, no matter how good Taeyeon sounds singing them, and this is something that I feel is going to plague Taeyeon throughout her solo career. This EP was never going to be the release that gave us that, but the low stakes of this release also would have been the perfect opportunity to have at least tried sowing those seeds.

EP review: Taeyeon - This Christmas: Winter is Coming | Random J Pop

This Christmas is a nice EP. It's festive and features some incredibly catchy songs and great original songs to rival a lot of what's being produced in the US. But I do wish that the tone of the EP as a whole matched that of the album title and the visuals a little more. It would have been really nice to have had a bit more of a melancholic Christmas EP, as I feel this is more in Taeyeon's lane than the likes of "Candy Cane". But the purpose of this EP wasn't to separate Taeyeon from Girls' Generation or grow her as an artist. It was purely about growing her discography as a solo act, and giving Girls' Generation fans something to chew on in the wake of the news that the group was pretty much over. A couple of the songs sounding like Girls' Generation songs was 100% deliberate, to let fans know that the Girls' Generation sound and brand will continue on as long as Taeyeon keeps signing dem contracts - even though it fully won't and hasn't done so far. It makes this EP feel a little dirty in this sense, because this release was purely damage control when it could have also been so much more.

EP review: Taeyeon - This Christmas: Winter is Coming | Random J Pop

Contract drama and pending implosions aside, This Christmas: Winter is Coming is a nice EP. Well produced, well performed and very on theme from start to finish, with not a single bad song. "Let It Snow" and "Candy Cane" aside, it's more consistent than I would have expected outta Girls' Generation. It doesn't showcase anything of Taeyeon other than that she will absolutely be fine as a solo act, but we already knew this. This EP would have had more mileage in it if it were treated as a project to create a Christmas album specific to Taeyeon's sound, or if the damn thing were just a Girls' Generation swan song. But, it is what it is. And what it is is fine.


■ The Magic of Christmas Time
■ Let It Snow
■ Candy Cane
■ Christmas Without You
■ I'm All Ears 🏆 J's fave