[Review] SHINee’s Key gets assist from (G)I-DLE’s Soyeon on buoyant, feel-good “I Wanna Be”

For fans of second-generation idol acts like myself, it seems like all we hear these days is farewell/going-on-hiatus tracks. Most are wistful ballads or “please don’t forget me” dirges, so it’s always refreshing to hear something more upbeat. As more and more SM Entertainment artists begin their mandatory military enlistment, the agency has done a good job giving most a memorable farewell. Key’s comes in the form of a repackaged album, spearheaded by the buoyant “I Wanna Be“.

The original version of this album was one of my favorites last year, even if I thought its title track was a little underwhelming. In contrast, “I Wanna Be” hit me right off the bat. Sometimes all a song needs is one knockout melodic line. There’s plenty of forgettable (even throwaway) moments during the song’s fitful verses, but once it hits the chorus, the song really sparks. Maybe it’s the nostalgia factor, as I swear I’ve heard this early-00’s pop melody before. At the very least, it’s a construct of all sorts of familiar musical influences. But more importantly, its optimistic tone just makes me feel good.

The post-chorus instrumental drop is less memorable. It functions in a similar way to SHINee’s excellent “Good Evening“, but lacks the emotional punch of that track. I appreciate the specific focus on drum-and-bass rather than the same trap/synth/EDM combo that everyone else is peddling, but I can’t help but wish that the instrumental felt as galvanizing as the chorus.

“I Wanna Be” also features (G)I-DLE’s Soyeon, who turns out a strong verse that melds well with Key’s lead. I’m less enthused with her unnecessary ad-libbing after every line of the track’s opening verse. It feels silly and distracting, and really put me off the first time through. Still, she is one of K-pop’s current it-girls, so I understand the desire to bring her into the song as quickly as possible.

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