Though she’s been a member of two girl groups this year, neither I.O.I nor Gugudan have managed to display Kim Sejeong’s full talent. Consistently ranked at or near the top during the Produce 101 variety series, she quickly became known for her incredible vocals and refined image. She seems perfectly suited to ballads, which makes new release Flower Road (꽃길) an exciting proposition.
The fact that the song was composed by Block B’s Zico is bound to make listeners even more curious. Zico’s not especially known for his ballads — especially ones that aren’t informed by hip-hop. And make no mistake, Flower Road is about the furthest thing from hip-hop. Instead, the song takes its cues from the many, many ballads that are tied to almost ever single Korean drama. There’s nothing surprising in the song’s emotive, strings-assisted build, and that’s a shame. Yes, Korea will eat this up, but Flower Road never really goes anywhere special.
With a central refrain that recalls a more delicate, restrained version of Taeyang’s massive hit Eyes, Nose, Lips, even the melody feels familiar. There’s a nice bit in the bridge, where the symphonics build to the song’s one big power note, but this is really the only moment that Sejeong is allowed to show off her formidable vocals. Instead, the track feels like one long tease. It’s pleasantly lilting all the way through, but when it’s over there’s just not much that lingers in the memory apart from Sejeong herself. She deserves something with more of a punch to it, and I’m hopeful that this song’s inevitable success will pave the way for just that.