Teen Top‘s Niel has returned with his second solo mini album. His work has always reminded me of a lighter version of what Shinee‘s Taemin releases. They’re both clearly inspired by Michael Jackson, but Niel has an airier tone and seems to prefer a less aggressive r&b sound than Taemin’s go-for-broke dance assault. Love Affair (날 울리지마) sticks to this approach, perched somewhere between dance and mid-tempo.
One of Niel’s greatest strengths has always been his vocals. Though not what you would call a powerhouse singer, his distinctive tone injects a ton of character into anything he performs. Love Affair utilizes this well, layering his voice to tremendous effect during the chorus. Much like his debut single Lovekiller back in 2015, the song starts out pretty uneventfully. It seems to be stuck at a tempo too slow for its ambition. As the chorus segues into the second verse, the beat accelerates, though the track never becomes as propulsive as it should have been. The instrumentation’s blend of acoustic guitar and synth has a lush appeal, but ultimately robs Love Affair from the kind of momentum that would have made it a real standout.
Luckily, Niel’s performance goes a long way towards compensating for this lack of energy. The song’s main hook — that wall-of-sound vocal that kicks off the chorus — is a beautifully arranged element that gives Love Affair a grand, stately aura. It has a sweeping, cinematic quality that instantly becomes the track’s focal point. If the rest of the song was quite as spectacular as that moment, we’d have something truly memorable. As it stands, Love Affair is a solid effort that’ll tide us over until Teen Top’s next comeback.