It’s been a long while since I last reviewed a straight-up Korean ballad, but it’s a slow Tuesday and vocal duo Homme are the sole big release of the moment. Though their music has little in common with labelmates BTS, Dilemma (딜레마) was co-written by that group’s leader, Rap Monster, as well as frequent BTS-collaborator Slow Rabbit. Their influence, among other things, gifts Homme with what might just be their best single.
That’s saying something, since Homme has been around for six years now. But Dilemma is really something special. It’s the type of ballad that hits you within the first second. Kicking off with a brief accapella burst before the melancholic piano adds support, the song hooks immediately. What follows is a haunting melody, sparely produced but smartly arranged. Unlike many Korean ballads, Dilemma never builds to the expected crescendo. In fact, it rarely rises above the soft demeanor of its first verse. This allows for full focus on the guys’ voices, ornamented here and there with some beautifully placed background vocals.
Let’s also talk about that chorus, because it feels like an instant classic. The song actually launches with this refrain, which sets an effective structure that really puts the emphasis on this simple, yet strong melody. It has an old-fashioned, almost nostalgic appeal — to a time when pop songs could be this simple and still be considered hits. There’s a palpable sense of restraint in Homme’s delivery, which only adds to the emotional effect. At three minutes, Dilemma is over before you know it… but its echo lingers. I’m not always a huge fan of ballads, but this is an excellent example of what the genre can do when it’s at its peak.