SAN FRANCISCO — Although popular K-pop group Girls’ Generation never officially disbanded, it’s been on hiatus since 2017, when several members went on to pursue solo careers. One member best-poised to succeed in America is homegrown Tiffany Young, who not only grew up in Southern California but was born in San Francisco. The singer, who’s best known by her first name, has been sporadically releasing singles for the past couple of years, as well as two EPs that have more or less broken her from the K-pop machine—she even left the influential management company SM Entertainment—and into a diva-esque role—a la a Korean-American Dua Lipa.
Friday, at the start of just her second solo tour, Tiffany showed her range, from belting powerhouse growls to sweeter alt-pop theatrics. She was Lady Gaga and Carly Rae Jepsen all in one. The only thing missing was most of the music that made her successful in the first place. For example, the performance of “I Just Wanna Dance,” an English-Korean hybrid jam, had snippets of Girls’ Generation song “Run Devil Run” as well as two other covers of Korean songs, but it included the chorus from Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music.” Elsewhere in the set, a cover of Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women” was sandwiched between Tiffany’s “Yellow Light” and “Teach You;” and the artist surprised fans early in the show with a danceable take on Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.”
Tiffany didn’t talk too much during the first part of the show other than thanking fans for coming out on several occasions. After a drummer and multi-instrumentalist took the stage and began an intro jam, Tiffany and two backup dancers took the stage and kicked into her newest single, “Run For Your Life,” which had been released earlier that day. It clearly wasn’t a K-pop-inspired song, but neither was it a run-of-the-mill Top 40 song. The song had a Euro-club beat with sinister-sounding vocals like what you might hear from Lady Gaga.
She wouldn’t return to that dark and glossy sound until she closed out the show with another rendition of the same song. In between, Tiffany hopped around the pop spectrum. “Over My Skin” was a funky and soulful tune in the vein of Bruno Mars and Adam Levine. “Heartbreak Hotel” was an uptempo power ballad. The singer hopped from English to Korean so seamlessly that it wasn’t obvious at first. Club banger “TALK” kept the momentum going.
Tiffany also knew how to connect with her fans—which she should, given her 10 years in the K-pop world. As the story goes, a 15-year-old Young was discovered by an SM Entertainment talent scout in California and moved to South Korea for training three weeks later. It was two years before she made her debut with Girls’ Generation, which would go on to score a hit with “Gee!” before Psy put K-pop on the map with “Gangnam Style.” At the Regency Ballroom, Tiffany sang directly to individual fans, smiled for pictures and at one point got on her belly so she could reach with her microphone across the security barricade so one excited fan could sing.
“This past year and a half was my journey back home; my journey back here,” she said at one point.
It was not until she got to “Runaway,” two-thirds of the way through the show, that she and her band slowed down the pace. The traditional ballad from 2019 EP Lips on Lips provided a welcome respite form the bass-heavy bangers that preceded it. More new songs followed, starting with “The Flower.” Tiffany spoke about the song first, saying it was her wish for her fans who needed something to hold onto in life.
“When you feel like you can’t see anything, picture a flower,” she said. “Picture the thorns and the dirt and how much things it needs to grow.”
The EP’s title track was an island-tinged jam on which Tiffany radiated joy with her voice, before a shortened cover of Shawn Mendes’ “In My Blood” bled into “Born Again,” a song that represents the artist’s triumph over her life’s challenges to find her voice. Following a short break, she returned to perform “Magnetic Moon,” another club-ready bop. After her microphone cut out midway through the song, leaving just the backing track, she stopped the performance and restarted the song to the delight of the fans, who chanted her name at various points during the evening.
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.