Yumi Nu is a singular talent. The 2022 SI Swimsuit cover model and musician pours everything she is into her work, be it a fashion shoot or a song. The budding pop star with an R&B and indie edge is able to seamlessly move from genre to genre. Her music is a world of its own, blending every ounce of her experience grappling between cultures and feeling like she didn’t belong while growing up (the 25-year-old New Jersey native is of Japanese and Dutch descent). Enter her world with this track-by-track walkthrough of her iconoclastic and vulnerable EP, Hajime, which was released late last month.
The EP opens with the single Bouquet, which Nu released back in 2021. Reversed vocals drenched in reverb swell into a Sade-like backbeat. Nu’s slightly autotuned voice emotes, humming an enigmatic melody before dropping us into the song. Nu sings in verse, He likes to make me wait / goes hard with his bouquets / and when he goes away / you know that I'll be staying inside. The lyrics confirm a passionate love: Nu asserts I know I’m the best you’ve ever had at the end of the chorus. She is passionate and confident in the record’s intro track.
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A wavy guitar bouncing with vibrato arpeggiates behind Nu’s SZA-like phrasing on the second track. The filtered backbeat turns into a Frank Ocean feel when the fingerstyle bass comes in. The commanding lyrics soar: Say you have the cure but you don’t know a thing about me. Nu is fierce and free with no filter. The song keeps things rolling, surprising us with her unique pop sensibilities in the chorus. This second song introduces Nu as a wildly talented melody writer.
I lost myself when I made you my home. We’ve all had the experience of losing ourselves in someone else. The chorus of Sandcastles aches with the longing of love directed in unforgiving places. The production is big and gives 070 Shake vibes. You set the bar when you tell me my price, Nu sings, further resonating the emotion of giving someone else your whole heart while feeling it slip out of your own chest. It’s a song about the crumbling sense of measuring your worth off of someone else’s love and the painful recognition that the relationship’s foundation was built with sand. The music is surprisingly strong given the tenderness of the lyrics. Nu’s persistence comes through in the performance of the song.
Nu blends Sade with Drake in this mid-tempo banger. The melody is catchy without being annoying and the lyrics find Nu making sense of a relationship lost. I grew out of playing games when I couldn’t hide. We start to realize that the songs of Hajime stay true to the word’s definition in Japanese (it means beginning). This is only the beginning of Nu’s journey as an artist and woman in love.
A viscous, distorted bass punches us in the throat as Nu’s kaleidoscopic lyrics catapult us into another dimension. In the chorus she sings, I wanna feel something special, which feels like an important and vulnerable moment swirling in a song potent with trippy visions. We follow Nu in the center of an existential crisis stemming from the budding loss of her relationship. Worked on my mental / Stuck in this house, repair me / I wanna feel something special / I don't know when and I don't know where. The music takes on its own meaning as it feels that it is actively helping Nu (and the listener) break out of the monotonous loop of life.
Pots and Pans
Dreamy guitars and hypnotic snaps find Nu in an empty apartment lying on a floor without a bed frame, having nowhere to escape in her newly single life. Reflecting on the relationship, Nu comes face to face with the pain of loss at the end of love. But in her grief she realizes that the pain of hurting someone else is just as crushing. You might not understand that / I fell for you in a younger time / Thought it would just fuck me up / To know what's safe and leave our love / But you know what f— me up?/ Living with your broken heart
By the end of the EP, it’s apparent Nu is a multi-dimensional artist finding her voice. The lyrics point to a songwriter who was once uncertain about her worth, her place in the world and her identity, but who is increasingly defiant, dynamic, and truly and wholly beautiful.