[Review] WINNER Seungyoon’s “IYAH” has a timeless sound that lacks a bit of bite

Even before the formation of WINNER, I longed for a Seungyoon album. His early solo songs — “Wild & Young,” “Stealer,” “It Rains” — hinted at a gutsy rocker, and paired with some of YG Entertainment‘s best in-house talent, the music itself was fantastic. So, I was kind of disappointed when Seungyoon was roped into 2013’s WIN program to compete for the chance to debut with yet another K-pop boy group. Of course, WINNER ended up being more than “yet another K-pop boy group,” but their debut did put a brake on Seungyoon’s burgeoning rock career.

Now, nearly eight years later, Seungyoon has finally released his first solo album. And while I was hoping for an energetic rock song as title track, “IYAH” is a welcome reprieve from many of the sounds K-pop is currently focused on. Its emotive performance and unusual time signature are reminiscent of WINNER’s 2016 hit “Baby Baby,” though I don’t think “IYAH” has quite as much bite.

There’s a timelessness to music like this, and that quality is well-suited to Seungyoon’s raspy vocals. He supplies “IYAH” with plenty of pathos, and the rootsy, uncluttered instrumental adds to the sentiment. However, the energy is a bit muted for my taste. “IYAH” builds toward a suitable, singalong climax, but misses the opportunity to come swinging right out of the gate.

For me, this is the kind of song you’d put on in the background of a lazy afternoon, indulging in its mood without engaging too closely. I think its simple, repetitive melody has a lot to do with this perception. A rousing bridge might have taken “IYAH” in a more thrilling direction. Still, this is tasty comfort food — especially for Seungyoon fans who have been starved for so long.

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