Issue #15: The Internet and I.O.I

*extremely DJ Khaled voice* Another one.

Hey girlies,

The newsletter is a day late again this week but for a good reason this time! My ex-work wife/current friend/Reply All producer Jessica Yung did me a true solide and recommended HB/LB in the much more widely-read Reply All newsletter (which also comes out on Thursdays). So, welcome to I hope at least one Reply All listener! I’m Simone Polanen and this is HIGHBROW/LOWBROW, a newsletter about things I like.

If you didn’t already know, Reply All is a very popular and very good podcast (that I, disclaimer, worked on for a hot second) about the internet. They tell sometimes funny, sometimes touching, sometimes infuriating, always well-reported stories about online subcultures, scammers, heroes, and villains. They also have a great weekly email newsletter where the producers of the show recommend truly cool things that you will never find at HB/LB (e.g. books or similar media that require even just one brain cell). You can sign up for it here — just scroll all the way to the bottom and pop in your email.

Okay, let’s get on with it, shall we?


I believe it was Aristotle who once said, “No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness and an April 23rd birthday.” And undeniably, the world has been shaped by the genius of many Aries-Taurus cuspers. Think William Shakespeare (plays), Shirley Temple (cute), Dev Patel (hot/movies), Gigi Hadid (hot/photos), George Lopez (funny, allegedly), Simone Polanen (groundbreaking innovator in the email newsletter space/hot). But today, we shall focus our lens on another member of the illustrious A23* club: Syd tha Kyd.

Musician. Vocalist. Producer. Exuder of raw sexual energy. Absolute snack. Person who makes me reconsider where I may fall on the Kinsey scale. These are the words we all use to describe the creative genius that is Syd. She is probably best known for her work with her band The Internet, though you may also recognize her from her solo work or her brief appearance in Drake’s Nice For What video.

In addition to being all the things I just listed above, she is also a MUSIC VIDEO DIRECTOR (my dream job). Last year, she dropped a video for The Internet’s flirty, sexy bop Come Over. It’s cute, it’s colorful, it’s funny, it’s sensuelle, it features a surprise cameo from Quinta Brunson (who you may know from various prominent projects such as being a gif).

The vocals are smooth, the bass is funky, the tension is sexual, and the people are very nice to look at (guitarist Steve Lacy’s jaw is a national monument). Simple yet effective, Come Over is a video I revisit often. Watching it is a great way to spend 5 minutes. I recommend you make the time for it!


This week’s LOWBROW recommendation is sort of a continuation of last week’s. If you missed that one, or need a little refresher, you can read it here. It’s not totally necessary, but it could provide some helpful context.

Yeah, we’re doing more Kpop this week. If that’s going to be a problem for you, you are subscribed to the wrong newsletter, sweetie!

I am here to tell you about I.O.I, the greatest Kpop girl group that barely was. I.O.I, which stands for Ideal of Idol, was an eleven-person girl group formed out of the reality TV show Produce 101. One-hundred-and-one girls competed for eleven slots in a girl group that would last for only a year. But in that one year, the girls (and I say girls because they ranged from ages 15-21) made a HUGE impact on the Kpop scene.

Their breakout hit was the song 너무너무너무 (Very Very Very), which is PURE pop-y sugar. It’s high-octane, hyper-color, highly catchy, and cutesy cute cute CUTE. Watching it feels like when you have one sip of cold brew and suddenly all things feel achievable.

After their disbandment, the girls all returned to their respective entertainment agencies. Ten out of the eleven continue to make music. The one who doesn’t is Kim Sohye who, honestly, was a hot mess on the show. She now acts in film, TV, and what I can only guess are ads for ASMR.

I will now take you through the current projects of the former I.O.I members, from the great to the just okay:


Chungha: She was the dancer and THAT bitch of I.O.I. She went on to debut as a solo artist. I am currently addicted to her very good song, 벌써 12시 (Gotta Go).

Lim Nayoung and Zhou Jieqiong: Known for being thin and hot, Nayoung and Jieqiong (whose Korean name is Kyulkyung) went on to debut as part of the group Pristin. Pristin released one absolutely stellar bop called WEE WOO, and then made nothing for two years and then rudely DISBANDED. They are no more :(

Yoo Yeonjung: Yeonjeong was the vocal core of I.O.I. Need someone to belt an impossibly high note? Call Yeonjeong. She is now in a group called Cosmic Girls. They have a very cute and dreamy song called 비밀이야 (Secret).


Choi Yoojung and Kim Doyeon: Yoojung was the cute and charming one. Doyeon was the hot and charming one. They are now in a group called Weki Meki. Their big hit is called Crush. The song is quite catchy, the video is just okay.

Kang Mina and Kim Sejeong: I really loved these two in I.O.I. They were spunky and confident and had such amazing stage presence. They are now in a group called gugudan (구구단) where, sadly, I feel like they’ve been told to tone down their personalities. Their song 나 같은 애' (A Girl Like Me) is just okay.

Jung Chaeyeon: Gorgeous. That’s it. That’s her thing. If I looked like her, I would not behave well (and likely get away with it). But she’s also a sweetie, which, for a hot person, is a very brave act. She’s in a group called DIA (다이아). Their song WOOWA (우와) is just okay.

Jeon Somi: Somi was voted #1 out of all 101 girls that competed to be in I.O.I. She had the killer combo of looks, skill, charm, and exoticness (White American being the exotic half of heritage). After I.O.I disbanded, she seemed to be the most primed for stardom. But oddly, her agency kept her under wraps for years. She eventually joined a new agency and officially debuted YESTERDAY as a solo artist. Sadly, after all that, her new song BIRTHDAY is just okay.

I really think I.O.I had the potential to be one of the world’s greatest mega-girl groups, joining the likes of Girls’ Generation and TWICE. But alas, they were designed to be temporary. As Aristotle also said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”


Thank you all for being so kind as to spend your time reading the words strung together by my broken brain. I hope you got something out of it.

See you here next week <3




*April 23rd, obviously…