As Wanna One’s first center and a bonafide variety show star, Kang Daniel is easily the most anticipated of the group’s post-disbandment debuts. He’s spent the past few months locked in a legal struggle with his former agency, but has come out victorious with his own label and (presumably) a new sense of artistic control. His debut solo album, Color On Me, is pitched as a vehicle for Daniel to show his own unique colors. So, why does What Are You Up To (뭐해) sound like everyone else this summer?
One of Kang Daniel’s biggest draws is his warm, goofy personality. Yes, he’s a great dancer and a decent rapper, but casual fans will likely be most familiar with the charm he exudes just by being himself. It’s a shame, then, that What Are You Up To lacks any sense of personality at all. Courtesy of producers Devine Channel (who have already provided several July dirges), What’s instrumental rides on the same washed-out synths and low-energy, trap-adjacent beat that has characterized this summer. Things briefly come alive during the chorus as the percussion strengthens, but the song’s energy stays relatively low.
Within this murky framework, Kang Daniel makes a bid for pop/r&b vocalist, offering an adequate (but dull) performance. Where’s the guy that absolutely killed Energetic’s post-chorus rap break? As with many other Wanna One graduates, I can’t help but think that he would be better off as part of another idol group. Not everyone needs to be a soloist, and judging by What Are You Up To’s been-there, done-that sound, Daniel hasn’t yet found a reason to warrant a solo career. He’s a performer with charisma for days, but What’s one-note melody and lethargic pace does nothing to harness that. Here’s hoping he’ll find his own unique sound in time.
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