Boy group VIXX has settled into a comfortable stability, having cultivated a sizable fan base that seems pretty committed to supporting them. But there’s still room to go higher, as last month’s viral MBC Gayo performance proved. Just because a group has established themselves doesn’t mean they should stop challenging new things. Part of that artistic expansion comes from solo projects, and leading the charge for VIXX is their main rapper, Ravi. Nirvana comes from his second mixtape, released only a year after his first mini album.
I was never sold on Ravi the tough guy rapper, which made previous single Bomb feel like a bit of a stretch. He’s better when he gives a less cartoonish performance and takes a more artistic, indie approach. At times, his particular brand of over-the-top delivery can grate, making it more effective in small doses. This is part of the problem I had with his previous solo works. But by bringing in guest vocalist Park Jimin and challenging a new genre, Nirvana is easily the best track he’s released so far.
Rather than rest solely on hip-hop tropes, Nirvana incorporates elements of dance music. After a fitful start (as if the beat is struggling to kick into gear), the production takes on a deep house pulse, intercut with kaleidoscopic synths that give it a much brighter appeal than expected. This contrasts well with Ravi’s gruff hook, where his vocal drawls in a grungy, cast-off manner. This is quickly followed by another contrast in the form of Jimin’s euphoric post-chorus, which lends Nirvana the kind of pop climax that much of Ravi’s solo work has lacked. I don’t think the song will be for everybody, but it feels like the first single that really begins to separate him from the idol-rapper pack.