Though it’s hard to gauge whether The East Light has made any meaningful impact on the k-pop scene thus far, they’ve been an unexpected highlight of the year for me. It’s refreshing to see a young group come on to shows like Music Bank playing instruments (or at the very least, miming them!) and tackling a rockier band sound.
I Am What I Am (나는 나) continues in that vein, though it takes the tempo down for something closer to a ballad. It was the b-side to debut single Holla, so I’ve been familiar with it for over a month now. And though it lacks Holla‘s instant pop power, I think it’s smart for the boys to display a different side to their sound. For those familiar with 90’s western pop, it’s so easy to think of The East Light as Korea’s answer to U.S. sibling group Hanson. From I Am‘s opening note, we’re transported right back to that time period. It’s an era that brings back a lot of nostalgia for me, so I’m predisposed to enjoying it.
Luckily, I Am is strong in its own right, fueled by a soaring melody that takes its cues from classic, rootsy rock. There’s even room for an extended guitar solo at the song’s outro, adding to the lighters-in-the-air vibe the track is going for. The guys aren’t quite old enough to fully tackle some of the song’s bigger notes, but their youthful go-for-it attitude is incredibly endearing and actually more effective than a flawless, rehearsed-to-perfection vocal would have been. I can’t wait to see what they bring in 2017.