I feel like I’ve written a lot about B1A4 lately. Maybe that’s because I’m so hungry for new material. After Infinite, they’re probably the idols I look forward to hearing from the most. Among the many, many male groups in their age bracket, they have an incredibly distinctive sound that favors melodic hooks over any trend that may be happening in the industry. This can certainly be a struggle when it comes to commercial success in the short term, but always pays off big time when it comes to the actual music.
As a fan of uptempo tracks, it surprises me that the slower, more contemplative Lonely remains one of my favorite singles from the guys. I don’t often gravitate towards the midtempo, but there’s something special about Lonely. Its structure retains all of the best elements from Korean balladry, but underlays a resonant hip hop beat that propels the song forward in a deceptively simple manner. Leader Jinyoung’s unique vocals have never sounded better than they do in the track’s first verse, passing off to CNU and eventually Baro in a seamless case of vocal interplay where each melodic segment builds deftly on the last.
The chorus is similarly straightforward, coming off as a shrug during its first repetition, but gathering emotional weight exponentially as the song continues. The momentum is such that it feels as if the beat is getting faster, when it’s actually the intensity of the vocals (and vocal adlibs) that give it that incredible drive. This is where I compare Lonely to the more explosive side of Korean balladry. Unlike many tracks within the song’s genre, Lonely gears up towards its climax from the very first beat. It has a sense of road-mapped purpose, which makes it feel more like a story than a pop song. And once that climax does hit, just before the last chorus, we’ve invested enough to make it really count. Better yet, it’s not a case of one impressive note signalling a return to back-to-usual, cut-and-paste melodic repetition. The entire final chorus spins out of the cathartic middle eight with a renewed sense of desperation. The backing vocals are louder, the pitch feels a bit higher.
And then, Lonely brings us full circle, repeating the opening bars that ushered in the first verse. Despite being melodically and lyrically identical, the “lonely, lonely, lonely” refrain feels completely different by the time the song is finished — more impactful, more final. It’s a case of perfect song construction, without an ounce of unused space or wasted potential. It manages to be incredibly catchy and surprisingly emotional, all while delivering the perfect showcase for each member’s individual talent.
And that’s what makes it a Legendary Song.