My K-pop loving heart skips a beat every time I hear the name Yoo Young Jin. Despite having vastly different styles, he and Sweetune are my all-time favorite K-pop composers. But while I can find clear Western touchstones for Sweetune’s 80s-drenched style, Yoo Young Jin’s unique beat-driven blend is without precedent. SM Entertainment uses his songs much more sparingly than back in his heyday, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’ll have a strong presence in TVXQ‘s comeback material later this year (and maybe Super Junior and SHINee‘s as well).
For now, we get to enjoy him as a vocalist, paired with NCT’s Taeyong for SM’s latest Station track. The last time Young Jin participated in Station was with the gorgeous “Tell Me (What Is Love)“ — a duet with EXO‘s D.O. That r&b-focused pairing seemed like a no-brainer on paper. “Cure”, on the other hand, presents a much more left-field proposition. An emotional rock song featuring the rapper/leader of SM’s newest rookie group? Young Jin’s music has always borrowed heavily from rock, but his vocals lean much closer to the rhythm and soul side of Korean pop.
As it turns out, “Cure” couches its uplifting rock in a rootsy, soul-bearing sense of emotional release. It feels more mainstream and streamlined than much of Young Jin’s work, with an instrumental that shows quite a bit of restraint. Even as Young Jin’s pristine vocals soar or Taeyong’s rap builds to its peak, the track rarely strays from its chugging, guitar-assisted beat. Though it’s perfectly galvanizing as is, I can’t help but feel that the song is missing a moment of explosion. Young Jin also co-wrote last year’s stupendous “Without You“ by NCT U, and “Cure” could use some of that track’s invigorating arrangement. But then again, this isn’t a hyper-budgeted idol comeback. For a digital Station release, “Cure” is easily up there with the best.