[Review] Eric Nam’s “Honestly” struggles to blend appealing to Korean & American tastes

In a K-pop landscape that’s becoming more international by the year, Eric Nam finds himself in an enviable position. As a U.S. born entertainer, he has the language and cultural chops to act as a bridge between the Korean and American entertainment industries. Because of this, his music often feels like a hybrid of sounds preferred by each country. This melding of influences can go one of two ways: a song comes across as completely original or it feels watered down without any unique identity of its own. As polished and enjoyable as “Honestly” is, I think it leans closer to the latter.

The song places Nam’s light pop vocals over a blend of acoustic guitar and tropical synth loops. It’s a backdrop that fits well with his ingratiating performance, even if we’ve heard it all before. Opening with a subdued version of what will eventually become its chorus, “Honestly” segues into a slow-build verse that utilizes a repeated guitar riff to give the gentle melody some movement. Before long, the track incorporates percussion — hinting at something bigger to come. This rising tension is the song’s strongest asset.

Unfortunately — like so many others before it — “Honestly”’s build results in little more than a simplistic, repetitive instrumental refrain. It’s well-fitted to the upcoming summer months, and completely inoffensive, but at this point in K-pop’s ongoing tropical infatuation, it takes something really exciting and novel to make this overused genre template soar. Added bursts of processed vocals late in the track’s running time hint at what might have been a much more exciting arrangement. Sadly, this never came to pass.


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