[Review] Lay’s “Namanana” is a flawed yet fun and coherent offering

As much as I love anything EXO-related, I’ve always found Lay’s solo music to be oddly hookless. His songs have mood and texture, and I enjoy his vocal tone and undeniable charisma. Yet even now I can’t recall a single melody from his discography. There have been highlights, for sure, and notable WTF moments (mostly in the form of “Sheep“, which has the dubious honor of being the lowest ranked song on this entire site). But when I think of his albums, they all kind of blend into one. In other words, Lay’s music just hasn’t been for me — and I wish it was.

With that said, “Namanana” is a pleasant surprise. It’s not reinventing the wheel or offering some heretofore unseen element of Lay’s persona, but it’s funky and coherent and even kind of memorable.

To be clear, I’m listening to the Chinese-language version of the track. I just can’t stomach trite lyrics like “I’m hot like wasabi” no matter how ingratiating the undying groove may be. Minus that concern, “Namanana” paints a fun carnival-like atmosphere, offering layers of ever-shifting percussion coupled with a whistling synth loop that stays just clear of becoming an annoyance. The nimble melody allows Lay to indulge his hip-hop side, infusing a welcome sense of personality. The song actually sounds like something ex-SM Entertainment artist Henry might have released several years ago. I could do without the energy-killing trap bridge, but Lay salvages the sluggishness with a shot of power vocals.

(And even if you’re not into the song, you’ve gotta give it up for that big-budget extravaganza of a music video.)

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