When Shannon Williams was first announced as a contestant for the final season of K-Pop Star, I was skeptical about how it would all work out for her. She has obvious talent, and released a wickedly catchy little pop song in 2015’s underrated Why Why, but never seemed to amass the sort of passionate following that helps push contestants to the grand finale of these survival-type variety shows. But watching the series, it was impossible not to feel empathy towards her. Her stint seemed like a true “last chance,” and the judges did not hold back when it came to criticism. Being on a different vocal level than many k-pop stars, her every last note was scrutinized.
It must be nice to be free from that microscope, starting afresh with a sense of momentum behind you. With this in mind, Love Don’t Hurt (눈물이 흘러) is a bit of an odd choice for a comeback single. Abandoning her dance-pop roots, Shannon has opted for a darker, more soulful approach. It’s a smart fit for her engaging voice, but the song itself lacks the punch I was hoping for.
What we get instead is a track driven by emotion. Its murky blend of keys and crashing percussion blends like watercolor, painting an atmospheric instrumental that conveys just as much pathos as Shannon’s vocal. Rapper Lil Boi adds a welcome break during the second verse, but Love Don’t Hurt rests on its powerhouse chorus, which pushes and pulls with peaks of big-note drama followed by a more hesitant approach. It’s a dynamite arrangement and performance tethered to an alright song. And that’s just enough to convince me that Shannon: Version 2.0 is an artist to look forward to.