VIXX’s Leo made his solo debut last summer with the Taemin-esque Touch & Sketch. Now, he finds himself in the same place as many of his third-generation K-pop peers: counting down the months until mandatory military conscription. VIXX has already seen its leader, N, enlist earlier this year. Leo is only four months younger, so I’d expect Romanticism to be his last musical work before hiatus. Given this, I wish the song was stronger.
Romanticism follows the post-2016 VIXX template, employing a moody blend of synth, future bass and trap elements. Fans of Scentist and Shangri-La should find plenty to love here, but this is one K-pop style that does absolutely nothing for me. After a murky opening, Romanticism finds its laid-back groove and maintains it throughout the rest of the track. There are many elements within the instrumental, but none are overpowering. Instead, the song glides confidently without making any waves. This causes the verses to blend with the chorus, stifling any momentum Romanticism might build. In a year where male-fronted K-pop seems to becoming more ambitious in sound, a song this subdued could easily get lost in the shuffle.
Romanticism’s high point is its melodic chorus, even if it’s a shoulder shrug instead of an exclamation. The sauntering melody is a good match for Leo’s always-pristine vocals. There’s a classic feel about it, which contrasts with the trendy production. Given different instrumentation, I could imagine this becoming quite addicting. Instead, Romanticism feels like a release aimed at the fans — a position I find myself drifting further away from with each passing single.