Lee Hongki’s 2015 solo album was a surprisingly diverse affair. It may have been led by a big, theatrical ballad in the vein of his group’s 2012 hit Severely, but the b-sides offered a range of sounds that dabbled in dance and synthpop. In other words, it was exactly what a solo album should be — a chance for the artist to explore avenues not available to their main group. And with I Am, Hongki continues this experimentation. He’s even enlisted rapper Cheetah as a duet partner.
Unfortunately, I Am doesn’t work nearly as well as his 2015 material. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a little fun, but the song is a bit too silly for its own good. The funky instrumental is its strongest selling point, a loose groove that gives its performers plenty of opportunity to vamp and appeal their charms. In a parallel universe, there exists a melody and hook that would have fully taken advantage of this. But instead, we’re stuck with an odd structure that vacillates between singing and talking.
In this case, the singing portions definitely come out on top. The chorus isn’t all that memorable, but at least feels thought out. The moments that precede it are among the strangest I’ve heard in 2018. The call-and-response hook between Hongki and Cheetah has potential, but the delivery is just plain bizarre — culminating with Cheetah slurring the phrase “don’t be rude” in a weird accent that blurs the line between serious and comical. I’m not really sure what they were going for here, but I guess I can respect their commitment! In the end, I Am is only a pre-release for next week’s comeback, so we’ll see if Hongki switches things up with a track that doesn’t feel so lightweight.