The tried-and-true melancholic hip-hop ballad has been a staple of YG Entertainment’s discography for many years, but it feels like it’s been a while since we’ve heard a new one. Goodbye Road (이별길) fits neatly within this template, and is the first real ballad iKON has promoted since 2015’s Apology. Road makes a nice bookend to the group’s prolific work this year, even if it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.
iKON are known primarily as a hip-hop group, but 2018 has shone a greater focus on their vocalists. Goodbye Road is driven almost entirely by melody, filtered through the kind of cast-off delivery that sounds more conversational than structured. This gives the song an intimate appeal, abandoning sentimental bombast in favor of a lived-in feel that roots Road in reality. It seems destined to soundtrack some indie romance drama. It’s wistful and affecting without demanding attention the way so many overwrought ballads do.
Road’s instrumental is stripped back as well, placing a constant blend of strings over a simple hip-hop beat. The song doesn’t offer dramatic, dynamic variation. Even its climax feels underplayed. Instead, Road winds its way along, meandering slowly through its various pieces until it finishes with a similar energy as it began. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this approach. The song is certainly pleasant, but it doesn’t hit with the kind of emotional punch I was expecting. YG ballads tend to be slow-burn successes for me, so we’ll see how time treats this one.