Most of the time, a k-pop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-sides deserve recognition too. In the singles-oriented world of k-pop, I wanted to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
Though he excels at them, I must admit to slight disappointment that Nam Woohyun’s new single was yet another ballad. Thankfully, a couple tracks on the album offer a bit more variety, with I Swear standing as the most compelling entry. At over five minutes long, the song would never have been in contention for promotion, but its willingness to defy expectations is the reason I still enjoy the album and mini album format.
Just because Woohyun can belt it out with the best of them doesn’t mean he always needs to bring bombastic vocals to his work. The most surprising thing about I Swear is its restraint. Its jazzy r&b funk is miles away from his work with Infinite, and gives him the opportunity to play around with phrasing and style in a way that feels incredibly unique. The layered verses give his smooth tone an otherworldly quality, built upon by the effortless falsetto of the pre-chorus. It all builds to an ultra-breezy hook, which eventually morphs into an extended outro of vibey vocal refrains. Lest things start to stray too far from the familiar, Infinite’s Dongwoo is brought in for a short hip-hop verse. It makes me long for the day these two form their own sub-unit and explore this sound further. There’s definitely untapped potential here.