[Review] WINNER’s Mino takes a big musical risk and sees it pay off on “Fiance”

A solo album from WINNER‘s Mino seemed to be speculated about forever, but he finally got his solo debut with ‘XX‘ and recently released the music video for “Fiance“. Surprisingly he went with a rare/new genre (uh … trot hip-pop?) and that definitely kept things fresh and interesting if nothing else.

Whether you like this or not, it’s a hell of a debut, in my opinion. Instead of going with something safe, collecting perfunctory praise, and cashing his checks, Mino stepped out on a limb with something different that pushes boundaries a bit. It’s the kind of risk we (The Bias List and I, at least) always ask artists who know they will sell regardless to take.

Of course, whether that works is something else entirely. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a huge fan of putting vocal effects on rapping, which ends up as my biggest complaint about “Fiance”. At times it does make sense just to go with the vibe, but at least in spurts I think he’d be better off with him just going after it normally. That said, he does a nice job of expressing the tone shifts in the lyrics through his performance.

Fortunately, Mino got a lot of help from the instrumental, which melds a booming bassline, samples from trot songs, and traditional instruments shockingly well, and scores big on the latter two inclusions. Using traditional instruments is like cheating with me, but an especially nice touch was that the sample of Kim Tae Hee‘s “Virgin Of The Soyang River (ballad version by Melody Day‘s Yeoeun) was topically like a female version of “Fiance”. So in addition to complementing the song and adding a unique twist, it even fits perfectly with the the lyrical content. Of course, the trot song sounds completely different, which is part of the point and it’s definitely ends up as an instrumental to remember.

“Fiance” still had work to do even with all that said, so it’s a good thing that chorus is explosive and is where the sing-song delivery with vocal effects works best. The trunk-vibrating bass gets an assist from the brass section, which helps bring it together well. Thankfully, it’s not just an instrumental drop and actually has a catchy refrain of its own to stand on, which makes a huge difference when the margin between great and mediocre is so thin.

In the end, I’ve been surprised that the reception to “Fiance” been so positive thus far, not only on the charts but random people as well. It’s definitely a bit experimental and disjointed, something that can easily teeter on the edge of love and hate, but overall it fell on the right side of things for me. The biggest question is how this song will age. Will the uniqueness of it eventually wear off? It’s possible, but after catching up a whole lot of Korean hip-hop over the past week, I’m guessing it won’t.

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