[Review] BTOB’s Hyunsik elevates “Dear Love” above standard ballad fare with unique edge

I think I may have been underrating this Lim Hyunsik guy. I never covered his 2017 solo track “Swimming,” and I kind of want to time travel and give past me a slap in the face. BTOB are a group flush with talented vocalists, as well as big personalities, and Hyunsik is chief among the group’s talents, with a rich voice and strong composition skills. But, the thing I admire most about his solo work is that he’s imbued it with a sound unique to him.

It would be easy for Hyunsik to release a standard OST ballad, or a carbon copy of a BTOB track. And in some ways, “Dear Love” draws upon both of these influences. However, the song is given a rock edge that smartly sets it apart from similar fare. It’s also the perfect genre match for his expressive vocals.

“Dear Love” opens with piano and gathers strength from there. Guitar and percussion soon join the mix, forming a lush soundscape that has a cinematic appeal. At just over five minutes, this is the rare K-pop title track that is given plenty of time to breathe and build, steadily rising toward a satisfying climax of chorused background vocals and stirring ad-libs from Hyunsik himself. Surprisingly, the biggest vocal moment of “Dear Love” occurs mid-way through, as Hyunsik unleashes an extended power note guaranteed to give you chills.

Ultimately, the song’s anthemic heft and shimmering arrangement outdo its actual melody, which feels pretty standard for this style of K-balladry. For me, Infinite’s “Between You And Me is still the gold standard for idol rock ballads, but “Dear Love” is definitely within the same illustrious family.

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IATFB says: A five-minute ballad doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy, but the rock edge and the sense that there’s always an end destination for the song musically, separates this from standard fare.

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