Samuel lays a solid foundation on nimble “Sixteen” with help from Changmo

If any contestant seemed best primed for a debut with the boy group Wanna One, spawned from ‘Produce 101‘, it was Samuel. He’d already gained debut experience with duo 1Punch and as a solo act, and enjoyed a built-in fan base that stretched all the way back to his trainee days with Pledis Entertainment. So it came as an incredible shock when he was ousted during the series’ finale. But like many reality show contestants before him, Samuel has wasted no time capitalizing on the success of the show and his success on it.

As a track positioned to reinvent Samuel’s solo career, “Sixteen” is well-designed for his young age. The song has a juvenile, wide-eyed sensibility that not every artist could pull off without feeling overly cheesy. As far as style and sound, he’s merged trendy latter-day Justin Bieber with the more teen-focused lyricism of debut-era Bieber. It’s probably a smart move, even if he could (and should) be aiming for a higher artistic plateau in the future.

What we get instead is a light, synth-driven dance track that melds the trademark Brave Sound style with a heavy Western influence. The melody has a nimble, light-on-its feet quality that plays well with the hypnotic buoyancy of the instrumental. If there is a misstep to be found, it’s in the overuse of auto tune and vocal effects. Samuel isn’t a power vocalist (few 16-year-olds are), but I don’t think his performance needs as much processing as it’s given here. The production tricks bolster the song’s hazy, easygoing nature by casting his vocals as just another part of the instrumental, but it comes at the expense of artistic individuality. Now that he’s got a solid debut track under his belt, I trust that his specific charms can be better built upon in the future.

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