The first time I saw and heard One was as part of the short-lived duo 1Punch. Their Turn Me Back was one of the most underrated singles of 2015, but it turns out that its catchy New Jack Swing style wasn’t really what One was about. Rather than continue that sound for his solo debut, he’s opted for the languid r&b/hip-hop style favored by popular acts like Crush and DEAN. It’s a sub-genre that’s quickly becoming over-saturated, which means only the best of the best will truly stand out.
While One certainly has the tone, look and style to succeed, Heyahe (해야해) isn’t the most memorable of tracks. His other release, Gettin’ By, works because of the pop hook at its center. Heyahe is hooky enough as well, but it feels more meandering and less idiosyncratic. The instrumental here is darker and murkier, creeping forward with waves of plodding percussion and distorted synths.
The one thing Heyahe does better than Gettin’ By is allow One to explore different textures of his voice. The pre-chorus, which approaches falsetto without quite getting there, is an effective break from the grittiness of the rest of the track. The verses veer closer to hip-hop, though they’re less about flow than a sort of spoken word inner monologue. Heyahe paints One as an intriguing character, but I wish the song itself would have felt more unique to him. The fact that he’s released dual title tracks should have given him wider leverage to really experiment.