While I’ve always been a fan of WJSN‘s music, I can’t say I was necessarily looking for or expecting solo releases from anybody outside of Yeonjung. But sometimes the potential of members just isn’t highlighted within groups for one reason or another, and the teasers for Seola‘s solo debut, INSIDE OUT, proved she at least had the image down pat. In a pleasant surprise, her debut single, “Without U“, showed there was substance behind that as well.
The initial notes lulled me into the expectation that she was going with a sleepy, vocal-centric, acoustic guitar number that one could file away as pleasant but unremarkable. I don’t know if that was on purpose or not, but it only made it all the better when being jolted awake by a strong retro-sounding beat. The push-and-pull dynamic within the dense verses that’s achieved with sections that feature electric guitar riffs were another welcome surprise that serve as a standout moment in themselves. That element really helps give “Without U” a bit of a fresh polish on a familiar-feeling and nostalgic formula.
While I’ve been wanting a vocal burst in the chorus from many groups over the past year or so, it was surprisingly Seola who provided what I’ve been desiring, initially centering the chorus around its “with or without you” hook that is purposefully designed to float above the rest of it, at least before the nostalgic feeling really sinks in when the back-end starts to come through. While Seola does well throughout, the bridge is where she really asserts herself, proving to have a pleasant vocal tone that’s quite perfect for this kind of pop track.
“Without U” does exactly what a solo debut is supposed to, introducing the wider audience to an image and sound that they maybe weren’t familiar with. The music video is just a lot of her looking attractive/cool, which I’m not complaining about, and it’s hard to ask for a lot more from the song, as it provides the requisite interesting wrinkles into a dense and time-tested formula with near-flawless execution. Among my favorite singles so far this year, and no disrespect to Seola, but I just didn’t expect this to come from her, though I’m obviously now glad she’s made her solo debut and am looking forward to more.