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 want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
Of all the post-Wanna One projects, Kim Jaehwan has released my favorite album — hands down. I would have never expected this, since K-pop logic assumes a vocalist like him would have released an entire album full of ballads. That may be true for the title track and album opener, but it turns out that Jaehwan has a funk-loving spark in him just waiting to be explored. Another is the perfect case for why it’s so important to listen to an album all the way through. The first half is nice, if unadventurous, but it’s the last three tracks that really catch fire.
Designer (디자이너) acts as the album’s climax, and would have made for a dynamite single. Jaehwan channels his inner Stevie Wonder here, riding a lethal beat that feels like SHINee’s Good Evening mashed up with Lucas and Jonah Nilsson’s Coffee Break from last year. In other words, it’s incredibly funky in a deliciously retro way. It’s also the rare dance track that makes room for vocals. Jaehwan rattles off a daring power note towards the end of the track, but he’s engaging throughout. His charismatic, brassy tone is made for material like this, and shouldn’t be relegated only to ballads. He’s got the swagger of a real showman — no bad boy posturing needed.