With a title like “What’s Good?”, Niel’s latest effort was going to be fighting an uphill battle from the very beginning. American slang just doesn’t translate that well to k-pop, and its injection almost always feels like pandering to trends and the perceived coolness of Western media. But Niel’s solo work has always seemed to exist in the shadows of other artists — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Everyone is inspired by something, and when he dusts off his Michael Jackson-esque dancing shoes, the results are super solid.
Instead of drawing inspiration from the classics, What’s Good (잘 지내?) takes Niel’s feather-light brand of r&b and grafts it onto an EDM beat reminiscent of the ubiquitous Chainsmokers. The production is crisp, even if its every move is completely expected. We’ve got the requisite tropical chirps, the lurching, buzzsaw synths and moments of atmospheric soundscapes to lend texture. It’s a template that wore out its welcome ages ago, but still yields positive results on the charts.
What’s Good‘s bigger problem is its lack of strong melody. The verses float by pleasantly enough, but their progression feels directly cribbed from better songs. The chorus, on the other hand, almost goes out of its way to be as forgettable as possible. Nothing rhymes within its lockstep structure, giving each line a throwaway, conversational style akin to the aural version of a shrug. Each couplet recycles the same melody line, which is flattened to the point where it hardly feels like a melody at all. It’s a baffling move for Niel, who usually seems to stuff his solo work with as much passion as he can muster. What’s Good may work as a strong choreography piece, but the song itself feels phoned in.