Knee Jerk Reaction: “I’m Not Cool” by HyunA

The moment has arrived! After what seems like ages, HyunA has finally made her triumphant return to the K-pop scene. On the surface, “I’m Not Cool” is a fun moombahton dance song clearly meant for the club. But on a deeper level, it also shows a queen of K-pop completely in her element: sassy, unapologetic, and definitely here to stay.

I love straight up dance jams, and I’ve always thought HyunA makes some of the best. So musically, “I’m Not Cool” is right up my alley. Everything appeals to me – the thumping beat, the instrumentals, the addictive and anthemic hook, the club vibes, etc. My favorite song of hers is “Red,” closely followed by “Lip and Hip” – “I’m Not Cool” has a lot in common with those two, so it’s no wonder that it would appeal to me. I love how HyunA is normally so daring in her dancing, so I was a little surprised that the choreography wasn’t as sexy as I was expecting. But her music video is definitely the kind of provocative I’m looking for from her. I’m so here for how she confidently struts and slinks through the shots in the most eclectic outfits.

As much as I’m into the melody and energy of “I’m Not Cool,” my favorite part of is the lyrics. HyunA has had some tongue in cheek lyrics before, but this song goes a step beyond. She has a lot of qualities that are very easy for others to envy: she’s beautiful, she’s popular, she’s not afraid to express herself (and her sexuality), and she’s one half of the only K-pop couple who freely shows their relationship to the general public. Any one of those things comes with a ton of haters. In “I’m Not Cool,” she directly voices those criticisms – the lyrics include many insults she must have heard over the years, acknowledging she knows people think she’s “greedy,” “not pretty,” and “cliché.”

Famous singers using music to address their haters is fairly common in countries such as the U.S. – like when Taylor Swift channeled all that backlash from her feud with Kim and Kanye into her smash success Reputation. (I actually was reminded of “Look What You Made Me Do” when I saw “I’m Not Cool” since both have some snake imagery going on, though the movements of a snake are also impressively embodied in HyunA’s choreography and even in the sound of her song.) However, firing back at criticism through song is pretty rare in K-pop. Most artists rely on financial support from fandoms rather than the general public, so they can’t always risk offending or alienating large numbers of people. So, only people with a certain amount of experience and notoriety can pull something like this off without it coming back to bite them – somebody exactly like HyunA. Having seen all the hate that she’s gotten in the past couple years, I’m so beyond thrilled that she’s taking this opportunity to speak out against it.

While HyunA’s clearly not afraid to call out anybody, she also handles it with a maturity and class that I envy. If I were in her position, I would totally be petty and write my song as a metaphorical giant middle finger. Instead, hers is more carefree; it’s like a shrug or simply brushing something off. The bridge of “I’m Not Cool” is the best example of this: “Yeh eh eh, to me I’m pretty / So what, I’m pretty / Who’s pretty to you? / Yeh eh eh, to me I’m pretty / I adore myself / You should adore yourself too.” (These are the English subtitles on the music video.) She also breezily drops in a reference to DAWN, and I can’t get over her level of confidence. “I’m Not Cool” definitely shows that HyunA feels the best way to handle haters is to stay unbothered and live life how she wants. That’s what she’s been doing the past few years, and she makes it clear that’s how she’ll continue to operate.


(NOTE: My options for each category are “Love,” “Like,” “Neutral,” “Not My Style,” or “Dislike.” But I rarely dislike anything, so I’ll mostly be using the other four.)

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I enjoy “I’m Not Cool,” but I don’t know how much I’ll listen to it over time. Personally, this is the kind of song I get excited for a week or two before I get distracted by something else. But regardless of my own interest level, I think this was a necessary song for HyunA to make and release. For the past couple of years, it really felt like she was more famous for her high-profile relationship and not the career she had worked so hard to build. “I’m Not Cool” is a powerful reminder of who she is and what she’s capable of, so I hope it will make people take notice of her music again.

(“Knee Jerk Reaction” is a column I created to talk about comebacks or debuts when I don’t have a lot of time to write in-depth reviews. A knee jerk reaction is like an automatic response, so it’s a post about my initial thoughts on the song, the music video, and the performance if it’s available. Compared to my reviews, everything is more stream of consciousness and less analytical. And everything is 100% my own opinion!)

SOURCES: Cover Image and music video belong to P Nation.

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