It’s been a decade since Sechs Kies’ Eun Jiwon last released solo material, though he’s been active with his group and in variety shows during the lengthy hiatus. As the first new music to come out of YG Entertainment since founder Yang Hyun-suk stepped down, comeback single I’m On Fire (불나방) is already infamous in its own way. Yet, you’d never know it by listening to the track, which sounds as if it could have been released any time in the last three decades.
Before blowing up with groups like Bigbang and 2NE1, YG was primarily a hip-hop focused agency, most well-known for rap quartet 1TYM. I’m On Fire feels very much of that era, built upon a nostalgic hip-hop beat that forgoes most of today’s trends. Eun Jiwon’s flow is similarly classic (or as “haters” might say… dated). For international listeners, imagine Dr. Dre, 50 Cent or Eminem circa 2001 and you’ve got a pretty strong idea of how Fire sounds. Whether you’re predisposed to enjoying this specific vibe will vastly affect the impression you’re left with.
For me, I’ve listened to enough of this brand of radio-ready hip-hop in my youth to make I’m On Fire feel more extraneous than thrilling. Jiwon makes for a colorful, braggadocious performer, but the cliché, empty-worded English thrown over the chorus does him no favors. I wasn’t expecting Fire to be some boundary-breaking, transformational banger. Still, it would have been nice if the song didn’t feel so slight. Vocalist Blue.D adds some welcome texture to the track with her ethereal vocals, but she’s underused. Most of Fire is yet another hype hip-hop track from an agency that has given us quirkier versions of this sound in the past.