The scandal and dissolution of MNET’s Produce 101 series has left the guys of X1 in a lurch. While the series’ popular 2017 season buoyed nearly every trainee who was lucky enough to be part of it, the 2019 Produce X aftermath has been far messier. We’ve seen a few winners (Victon, Lee Jinhyuk), but without much time to establish themselves in the industry, performers like Lee Hangyul and Nam Dohyon have been left to their own devices. Both made the roster of X1, and now perform as duo H&D. I assume they’ll eventually be a part of an MBK Entertainment boy group, though that remains to be seen.
Produce’s highly structured format didn’t allow trainees much space to display individual talents, but it turns out that both Hangyul and Dohyon are burgeoning pianists. Unfamiliar’s video highlights this, as does its instrumental. Written by 15-year-old Dohyon, the song’s emotive tone could easily be related to his post-X1 frustrations, even if the lyrics are more vaguely focused on relationships.
As a pre-release for the duo’s upcoming mini album, Unfamiliar (낯설어) is pleasant and accomplished. It does a good job showcasing both performers’ talents, from Hangyul’s slightly husky voice to Dohyon’s magnetic rap. The melody has a nice lilt to it, constantly cresting in mini climaxes but never building towards one knockout moment. The piano-and-strings arrangement fuses with wispy backing vocals that support the duo well. I like how the interplay between vocals and hip-hop is constant, rather than jarring. In the end, Unfamiliar’s sentiment is more memorable than the track itself, but I appreciate how H&D aren’t just chasing current K-pop trends. It’ll be interesting to see if piano plays as prominent a part within their first mini album.
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