Skip to main content
  • Genre:


  • Label:


  • Reviewed:

    January 8, 2024

Where the South Korean singer, songwriter, and producer’s deep house is laid-back and breezy, her rapping is quietly, coolly defiant.

South Korean songwriter, singer, and producer 박혜진 Park Hye Jin’s style might be described as “casual confrontation.” Despite the smoothness of her burnished deep house, she is aggressively matter-of-fact about who she is and what she stands for. One of her earliest singles was called “I DON’T CARE,” after all. But her self-released new album, Sail the Seven Seas, suggests that she’s had a rough time of late. Life on the road—years of touring combined with moves from Seoul to Melbourne, London, and Los Angeles—heightened her self-reliance and intensified her loneliness. Despite its summery vibes, Sail the Seven Seas is often stormy going, venturing into choppy emotional waters that occasionally leave her adrift in her feelings.

Park’s best work has surfed between twinkling house melodies and ruthlessly intense drums. Her style is both distinctive and versatile, folding in disparate genre experiments while always highlighting her signature instrument: her voice. Park’s monotone can be inventive: singing, rapping, spitting, and sighing her lyrics to both dreamy and punishing effect. On a song like “Can you,” the interplay between the pulse of her infatuation and the undertow of her contempt felt panoramic, a portrait of a woman in deep romantic conflict.

So far, though, she hasn’t quite been able to hold a song together with her voice alone. Park falls into this trap at several points on Sail the Seven Seas, where scaled-back production leaves her already shaky vocals painfully front and center. The title track’s lyrics are emotionally naked, but the wistful piano is musically inert, failing to transport her wish-in-a-bottle longing anywhere at all. Her voice is better served when it’s employed as a percussive tool. She tears into her verses with gusto on “Bklyn Babe” and “Sex on the Beach,” which feature some of her best rapping to date. But she undercuts that versatility by too often falling back on blunt-force repetition. The annoyance and desperation implied in the hook of “Tryna Get to over You” doesn’t come through in her disaffected chant, and though “N.Y.C.” features some cool sonic detailing, her mantra-like loop (“New York City… New York City…”) falls flat.

After her previous forays into footwork, techno, and trap, Sail the Seven Seas folds chillwave into Park’s repertoire. Synths flare and fade like sunsets on “Foreigner,” while a dusky guitar riff opens up Park’s leapfrogging verses on “Bklyn Babe.” These tropical accents are a vehicle for some fraught emotions. Frustration is a major theme, and throughout the album, Park addresses a litany of slights and insults in funny, plainspoken language. On “Foreigner,” she recounts the indignities of the immigration process in a venomous deadpan: “Let me get a green card, I don’t want to marry you! I don’t need you for a green card! I’m fucking talented!” The stupidity of the hurdles that Park has to put up with calls for a sharp rebuke, and she delivers.

As satisfying as it can be to hear Park light into rude employees, border stooges, clueless suits, and racist assholes, one longs for the artist to find some sense of safety and security so that she’s not constantly on the defensive. Her greatest work reconciles hardness and softness, strength and vulnerability. The penultimate track, “California,” fuses a rollicking drum break with breezy G-funk synths, making full use of her talents as a rapper, and ends with a call-and-response in Korean that she answers for herself: “Who’s the one? I’m the one.” Whether this self-produced, self-released album is meant as a career reset or a way of marking time between bigger projects, Sail the Seven Seas is a reminder that Park doesn’t take directions from anyone.