[Review] Lee Hi returns with “No One”, which prioritizes a drop over her vocals for some reason

It’s been over three years since Lee Hi’s last comeback, so the fact that I’m writing about her at all feels like a minor miracle. But, this long hiatus carries with it a very real danger. The longer fans wait, the higher expectations rise. After three years, the desire for a momentous, iconic song only becomes more palpable. With excellent tracks like “Breathe” and “Rose,” Lee Hi is definitely up to the task. However, new single “No One” feels like a sigh when we’re craving an exclamation.

Like the solo debut from BLACKPINK’s Jennie, “No One” hinges too strongly on a lackluster drop, wasting Lee Hi’s most valuable asset: those gorgeous vocals. The song’s opening verse feels destined for something greater. It’s not a galvanizing (or unique) melody, but it employs a gradual build that should have been capitalized on. Instead, “No One” collapses into a whimper as an inert instrumental loop takes precedence. Lee Hi ornaments this drop with a melodic refrain, but it feels oddly muddled.

Surprisingly, the one moment where the instrumental of “No One” truly comes alive isn’t during Lee Hi’s verse at all. iKON’s B.I injects the track’s mid-section with a blast of hip-hop. He’s a fine feature, but is outdone by playful production that incorporates accordion-like synth to exciting effect.

If the entire track had this same swagger, “No One” might have been able to draw more fully on Lee Hi’s charisma. Instead, she’s swimming upstream, through a forgettable blend of reggae-lite percussion and recycled instrumental flourishes. It’s nice to have her back, but this wasn’t worth a three year wait.

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