More often than not, K-pop agencies play the long game with their trainees, recruiting young with the hope of rearing a world-conquering star. This is usually a behind-the-scenes process, but fans have been with Bang Yedam ever since he competed in the second season of K-pop Star at the age of ten. K-pop Star was the first Korean variety series I’d ever watched, and I still hold a soft spot for the small, long-haired phenom that continually impressed the judges.
Fast-forward seven years and Yedam has finally debuted, a few weeks before the unveiling of his group Treasure. With one-half of Winner in the military and iKON struggling to replicate their immense 2018 success, YG Entertainment’s boy group slate feels in need of new blood. And perhaps as a passing of the torch, WAYO (왜요) is co-written by Winner’s own Kang Seungyoon. We’ll see if Treasure is able to measure up to their seniors, but for now it’s clear that Yedam is a star.
I’m not sure that WAYO does much to display that charisma, apart from shining a spotlight on his fantastic vocals. Post-puberty, the appeal of his tone could have gone either way. But, I think he’s even better than he was on K-pop Star. There’s an appealing warmth to his voice that feels unique within this generation of K-pop. The acoustic-meets-r&b vibe of WAYO fits neatly within YG’s wheelhouse, hinging on a simple, repeated melody that blossoms for the track’s rousing, symphonic climax. Much of the song is quite muted – an approach that has led to YG classics like Eyes, Nose, Lips, Lonely, and Untitled 2014. WAYO isn’t as melodically rich as any of those tracks, but it feels well-suited to a performer of Yedam’s age. I expect that its timeless nature will give it some durability, holding fans over until Treasure’s long-awaited debut.
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