After last week’s pre-release Star, Highlight’s Yoseob is back with the title track from his second mini album. “Where I Am Gone” may be a baffling English translation that feels like an affront to the very idea of syntax, but its mid-tempo sound returns Yoseob to the days of his 2012 solo debut, Caffeine. It’s a welcome expansion of Star‘s by-the-numbers balladry, even if it lacks the punch of his best work.
Where I Am Gone (네가 없는 곳) opens with the kind of delicate, emotive piano that highlights so many k-pop tracks of the winter season. The first verse is just as hesitant, but quickly finds its groove as the extended pre-chorus kicks in. An ornate blend of instrumentation lends interest to the chorus, incorporating strings and electronics into the shuffling trip-hop beat. This is the kind of song that actually improves as it goes on, snowballing as more elements are brought into the fold. By the final chorus, Gone has transformed into something that verges on grand, as pitched vocals and symphonic flourishes echo Yoseob’s mournful refrain.
Even so, Gone would benefit from the kind of indelible chorus that drove a song like Caffeine. The melodies here are pleasant and effective, and Yoseob sounds uniformly fantastic. The bridge, in particular, gives him the chance to play around with his tone, adding a bit of nuance to his performance. The post-chorus refrain is Gone‘s simplest and catchiest hook, but never builds to anything particularly groundbreaking. Still, it’s much more engaging than another straightforward ballad.