My anticipation for TVXQ’s long-awaited comeback was through the roof last year, but things didn’t go exactly as I’d hoped. Yes, the duo delivered two very solid albums, but each lacked the classic SM Performance sound that I’ve long associated with their music. Luckily, Yunho is making up for that with his (even longer-awaited) solo Korean debut. Follow brings together composers Yoo Young-Jin and Thomas Troelsen, each responsible for crafting so much of TVXQ’s epic singles run.
Up until now, this was a reunion that existed only in my wildest dreams. The one and only time Troelsen and Young-Jin had collaborated in the past was on EXO’s classic History — and that was over seven years ago! Given this, my sky-high standards for Follow are a little unfair. No song could be as perfect as the imaginary hit that exists in my head. But, by bringing together these luminaries once again, Follow continues the resurgence of a classic SM sound that began with last month’s Superhuman. It feels like a long-lost TVXQ single, filtered through Yunho’s dominant charisma.
From what I know, Yunho and I share a lot of musical influences. His past solo work has leaned heavily on the funk-pop style of Michael Jackson, and Follow is no different. The song hits hard right from the start, laying down its thumping electro groove with confidence. After a series of barely audible ad-libs, the first verse offers a rhythmic structure that nimbly skirts along the comparatively straightforward beat. Yunho is a master at this kind of performance, lending a dancer’s touch to the melody. I’m not a huge fan of the compressed vocal layering during Follow‘s chorus (a critique I never thought I’d level at a Yoo Young-Jin track!), but the hook is otherwise strong. Follow is at its best when it goes big. The commanding bridge echoes the iconic work of both composers, upping the key and thickening the layers of sound. This is what I’ve wanted from TVXQ for years, and I hope we get to hear more of it soon.