For me, the post-Wanna One releases we’ve gotten so far have been subpar. It feels like too many of the members are rush-releasing music that lacks any individual spark, designed simply to keep their names in the spotlight. As one of the top two vote getters during season two of Produce 101, Park Jihoon has a lot of spotlight to preserve. His agency doesn’t have a history with boy groups (beyond Supernova, who mostly promote in Japan), so it’s not a huge surprise that Jihoon is launching as a soloist with debut track L.O.V.E.
Like many of the guys from Wanna One, I think Jihoon would be more successful in a group, but his talents as both a vocalist and rapper give him the opportunity to explore a multitude of genres. It’s a bit disappointing, then, that L.O.V.E steers hopelessly generic. We’ve heard this kind of lovelorn, instrumental-as-chorus structure countless times, and there’s little left to be mined from it. Yet, L.O.V.E’s specific style hits me in one of my musical soft spots. Like Seventeen’s Don’t Wanna Cry and Astro’s Always You, the song has a certain cinematic panache that’s hard to resist.
I recognize how inherently derivative most of L.O.V.E is, but it carries a lofty sort of sound that makes it feel more exciting than the sum of its clumsy parts. The central instrumental riff should have been replaced by an actual chorus, but what we end up getting has a pretty satisfying climb even without added vocals. The song’s opening verse is suitably melodic, even if none of it pays off or goes anywhere unexpected. The second verse is more forgettable, but helps to showcase Jihoon’s versatility. Normally, I’d file this under “fine” — but lowered expectations bump it up to a mildly more exciting “solid,” which makes it the most enjoyable post-Wanna One track yet.