Few K-pop artists can spark my interest in the quintessential melancholic Korean ballad, but Infinite’s Woohyun wields one of my favorite voices of all time. Impossibly rich and incredibly emotional, it’s a tone that elevates anything it touches. Ballads are his bread and butter, but I’ve got to admit… I’ve always preferred Woohyun the dance-pop artist or, even better, Woohyun the rocker.
If Only You Are Fine’s (너만 괜찮다면) slavish devotion to Korea’s balladic tropes limits its appeal. Even Woohyun’s previous ballad, 2016’s Still I Remember, felt more original in its approach. This time around, it’s all lilting piano and strings, providing the backdrop for an emotive melody that takes its time unfolding. The arrangement’s most novel moments come in the form of rich waves of background vocals and the occasional influx of what almost sounds like a church organ.
As usual, Woohyun’s performance provides a master class in nuance, rising and falling in intensity with each line. It feels like the aural version of a K-drama, and these twists and turns keep the song engaging even if its overly-familiar structure could use some innovation. We get one strong power note during Fine’s climax, but I wish Woohyun had used this comeback to go all out and cement his place as one of K-pop’s premier vocalists. It’ll likely be his last solo album before military enlistment, and would have been an excellent chance to show something new. Still, If Only You Are Fine is infinitely comforting, and certainly caters to his strengths as a performer.