Wonder Girls’ Reboot was my favorite full length k-pop album of 2015, and this is coming from someone who had never really been a massive fan in the past. I’m delighted that they’re keeping with their new band formation, but I worried when it was announced that Why So Lonely would be primarily reggae-based. I know reggae has an enormous fan base, but it’s a genre I’ve always struggled to fully embrace. I credit that to the fact that it tends to be more vibe-based than performance-driven. I’m not the type of listener to search out music that plays well in the background or sets a certain atmosphere. I’m too actively engaged in the track, and like my music to really punch me in the gut.
This is all to give context to a review of Why So Lonely that just won’t be as glowing as so many I’ve read. To be fair, the reggae influence here is exactly that — an influence. The track has a much more solid melodic base than I’d anticipated. Its hazy verses give way to a knockout chorus. Yes, it is totally chill and laidback, but the vocals are gorgeously produced and the rush of guitar that propels the swirling post-chorus gives the track its biggest moment. The girls have truly found a groove here, and it works for them. As much as the heavy 80’s vibe suited their vocals in Reboot, 70’s midtempo material may be an even better fit.
So the problem lies not with the song itself, but with my own bias. I adored Reboot to an extent that anything less than another 80’s synth-pop standout was going to seem at least mildly disappointed. Why So Lonely is brilliantly done for what it is, but I fear it’s just a bit too laidback to have the lasting impact that I Feel You had for me. It almost feels like a really great b-side rather than a full-fledged comeback.