JYP Entertainment takes a stab at expanding the solo chops of its successful boy band 2PM with this debut mini-album from member Wooyoung.
At first blush, Wooyoung is not the obvious choice for a solo debut. Though he played Jason, a main character in last year’s wildly popular teen drama “Dream High“, he lacks the level of visibility enjoyed by fellow band mates Nichkhun and Taecyeon, or the production skills of the group’s main vocalist, Junsu. Hell, he doesn’t even resemble any famous artists (unlike member Junho, who’s been noted for his striking resemblance to former JYPE artist, Rain). However, his strong dancing skills, diligent work ethic, and passable vocal ability were enough for JYP to vet him as the best candidate for 2PM’s first solo debut. And so we have it, 2PM’s first solo effort, in the form of ”23, Male, Single“, whose prosaic title reads like a bare-bones e-harmony profile (and what is it with K-pop artists these days emphasizing their relationship status in their track titles?).
With the title track, “Sexy Lady“, the mini-album rounds out to a generous seven tracks (most mini-albums have three songs) that covers most of the bases, including a slow R&B number composed by fellow member Junho (“Be With You“), and a dance/pop number that features an appearance by Junsu (“DJ Got Me Goin’ Crazy“). It’s a solid collection of songs, but ultimately, “23, Male, Single” doesn’t offer any compelling reasons to be excited for 2PM’s solo debuts.
The title track, “Sexy Lady”, despite building up hype with a series of eye-catching teasers, stays cautiously close to the group’s 2011 summer hit single, “Hands Up“, borrowing not only the club concept, but also the structure of the song. It begins promisingly with an earworm of a hook, but fails to deliver a satisfying chorus, instead relying on the same 8-bar loop to carry the song (which inspired me to do this). If anything, this release makes clear that 2PM is a group whose sum is greater than its parts, as its members shine best when together (for opposing examples, look no further than the solo success of Big Bang‘s G-Dragon). But that’s ok. Most six-member idol groups aren’t designed to breed six successful solo artists, anyway.
So which songs on “23, Male, Single” are worth your time? Check out the track-by-track breakdown below.
1. 2NITE (Produced By Deez)
A laid back jam from Wooyoung, who clearly tries to channel his mentor’s R&B charisma in this Motown-esque number. Things begin to develop melodically a little to late, however, preventing it from reaching the funk-filled heights of J. Y. Park’s finer works.
2. Sexy Lady (Produced By JYP)
A promising synthline hook characterizes the intro of this unadorned dance-pop single, and it draws you in, only to disappoint when the chorus proves to be no more than a toothless rehash of the introduction (so I tried to make it better here). It has the trappings of a K-pop hit, with an easy-to-follow dance and a solid hook, but fails to live up to its potential. Overall an unremarkable lead single, and a particularly bad choice during the competitive summer comeback season.
3. DJ Got Me Goin’ Crazy (feat. Jun. K) (Produced By 143v)
A more club-friendly track that’s still watered down heavily. Also hampered by some questionable lyrics along the lines of “Magic…”.
4. Be With You (Produced By Junho Of 2PM) *Recommended
Down-tempo R&B that tries to position itself as a cross between a pop song and a veritable babymaker (see examples here from a forum on, of all places, Yelp), and does a fairly good job at both. The moodiness and the strings could make this song an easy fit on the OST of a drama, too.
5. Falling Down (Produced By Lee Woo Min & Hong Ji Sang) *Recommended
The more upbeat cousin of “Be With You”, this song is easy-listening fodder. A piano-driven intro gets some crucial momentum from a nice bass guitar, and strings fill out the high end nicely. A classic K-ballad, tweaked for 2012.
6. 시작도 없던 것처럼 (Could Not Even Start) (Produced By Lee Woo Min & Hong Ji Sang) *Recommended
A pure K-pop song, from the instruments (electronic synths + piano) to its chord progression. Sounds like something Boyfriend or B1A4 would release, and it sticks out on this album.
7. Only Girl (Produced By Noday & Park Ji Ho) *Recommended
A Rhodes-style piano is the only backing for this stripped-back, but lovely ballad, leaving plenty of room to showcase Wooyoung’s decent vocals. K-indie fans might find the minimalistic, warm production of “Only Girl” a possible nod to Nell‘s latest album, the critically acclaimed “Slip Away“.
Check out my remixes here and hit me up on Twitter (@TESTAMENTVM).