[Review] Kang Daniel goes smooth on sneakily addictive “2U”

After taking an extended break from the K-pop industry, Kang Daniel has returned with the release of his first mini album. Never mind that two-fifths of the EP is a repackage of his November single, it’s just good to have him back, and hopefully with a renewed strength in mental health. New title track “2U” sees him return to the subdued r&b of his 2019 solo debut, buoyed by a production and songwriting assist from popular hip-hop/r&b artist Chancellor.

Like “Touchin’,” “2U” is indebted to its sense of groove. The difference is in the song’s energy. “2U” is laid-back and smooth — rhythmic but never hard-hitting. The instrumental gets plenty of mileage from its plucky synth loop and steady percussion, even as I long for more modulation. This relatively simple production throws full spotlight on Daniel’s performance, and he’s up for the challenge. The main vocal track borrows too heavily from the kind of processing favored by BTS and TXT lately, but his performance is wrapped in airy layers of backing vocals that really help to give it some heft.

Melodically, “2U” rests heavily on its breezy chorus, which becomes more sneakily addictive each time it circles around. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but its sense of cool restraint fits Daniel well. There’s something refreshingly old-school about the straightforward r&b approach of “2U”. It would have been easy to turn this into some horrible trap dirge with sharp, lurching synth chords simulating angst, but “2U” takes a more timeless route instead (minus the vocal effects, obviously!).

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IATFB says: Flame suit on, but while I actually really like the smooth, chill vibe the production was going with here, I didn’t feel like he was quite up to the challenge. This kind of effort does rely on the artist to carry it, and mainly what I was thinking throughout was how much better your favorite r&b singer might be able to inject personality and verve into this.

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