Fans have been (justifiably) clamoring for a return from Winner after their successful debut in the summer of 2014. Now, it looks as though they’ll be releasing multiple singles and (partial) albums, following the promotional path YG set out for Bigbang and iKON last year. I’m not a huge fan of this release schedule, but hopefully they’ve worked out the kinks and will be allowing other artists to return in between comebacks. Before Winner’s first mini album of the year is released on February 1st, we’re presented with Pricked, a duet between vocalist Taehyun and rapper/vocal Mino. Pre-releases aren’t unusual in the kpop world, but I am a bit surprised that YG didn’t choose to make this a “warm up” single with a music video, since that worked so well for iKON’s My Type back in September. And as lovely a song as Pricked is, I can’t help but feel that it’s a little underwhelming, particularly after the jaw-dropping, edgy, rock-infused teaser the group released a week ago. I hope, and expect, that their actual title track will match the tone of the teaser a bit more closely.
Now, that’s a long introduction to say that Pricked is indeed a very pretty song, which adheres nicely to the moody, subtle arrangement that Winner perfected with Empty. I love the delicate acoustic guitar that gives the track a real organic, intimate feel, but then builds to an electric crescendo in the last thirty seconds. Taehyun is really given a spotlight for his smooth, emotive vocals, but what’s more surprising is that Mino makes a very convincing vocalist in the first verse. We haven’t really heard that from him before. The song is definitely not an in-your-face type of track, which makes it very suitable in the context of a full or mini album. I don’t believe that this’ll be the best we’ll hear from Winner this year, but it’s made me curious for what’s to come.