I don’t remember the first time I heard “raingurl,” the single that launched Brooklyn-based electronic music artist Yaeji into the limelight. I can’t put my finger on when the song started to worm its way into my friend group, who exactly turned to who first and said: “Wait, you have to listen to this song.”
All I know is that one day towards the end of the summer “raingurl” just appeared, already deeply rooted in road trip playlists and morning walks to class — the soundtrack to pregames and parties and every social event in between. The song’s muted ease holds a quiet fortitude, from the initial “make it rain girl, make it rain” that quickly collapses into a sweeping beat to throughout the rest of the track, as whispered lyrics in both Korean and English dance off each other, gathering into the final culmination of, “Mother Russia in my cup / And my glasses foggin’ up / Oh yeah hey dog hey what’s up / Oh yeah hey dog hey what’s up.” “raingurl” is a track that builds without release; each element of the song is muffled, as if wrapped in gauze, and it wraps you up in a similar way: Even as you try to move the song to strictly background noise, your foot can’t help but tap out the rhythm. Your mouth can’t help but mimic the omnipresent: “Make it rain girl, make it rain.”
It’s a banger that doesn’t announce itself, but instead sweeps you up for the ride without hesitation — a disposition that seems to be paralleled by Yaeji herself, as she appeared to at the forefront of El Club’s stage last Tuesday, round glasses reflecting the club’s strobe lights back out into the audience. Emerging suddenly and barely tall enough to be seen above the waving arms of the first row, Yaeji was, at first, distinctly unimposing. Yet, as she launched into her opener “Feel It Out,” she transformed. Her stage presence grew larger-than-life as all of the glory of the song’s spiraling synths alongside her hypnotic vocals washed the room with colorful energy. As the song bounced from one corner to the other, so did she, and our own bodies couldn’t help but follow. We were caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment and of the song itself. We were entrapped. We were entranced.
More than anything, more than any other show I’ve attended at El Club, we were having fun. Throughout the setlist, as “Feel It Out” bled into the hollow of “Full Of It,” as “Guap”’s deep baritone flattened into “after that”’s off-kilter crawl, even as the wildly popular cover of Drake’s “passionfruit” settled over us like a blanket, we were never allowed to stop moving. And neither did we want to, with each song in the lineup gaining energy from the track that came before, the space around us sparking with raw kineticism.
Yaeji left “raingurl,” predictably, until the very end, letting the final echoes of the song fully die out before expressing her gratitude and joy in seeing all of us fill El Club’s space to its capacity in a quiet voice that belied the utter chaos of only moments before. It is this unassuming quality that makes Yaeji, and her entire discography, so powerful. Instead of forcing themselves upon listeners, the songs simply invite a hand out, welcoming you to dance with them, outwardly express with them.
And as Yaeji climbed back onstage for the encore — her remix of Charli XCX’s “Focus” — I felt the synergy, between Yaeji and us, between us and the song, at its peak. Together, we closed out El Club, the song’s hook — “I just want you to focus on my love / Just focus on my” — becoming all-consuming as we raised our voices to match Yaeji’s: one final, perfect harmony.