Former Monsta X member Wonho fell victim to K-pop’s quick-to-judge outrage machine, exiting the group in dramatic fashion last October. Since then, he’s gone on to foster a solo career. After months of waiting, pre-release Losing You is the first taste of what a future Wonho discography might sound like. With that in mind, it’s hard to see what sets his music apart from countless other pop soloists.
Often, when a member leaves (or is forced to leave) their idol group, the urge is to embrace styles that feel more “artistic” or “meaningful.” You can’t blame the idols. K-pop’s agency-led system is infamous for its high level of control. While some performers are happy to embrace the road-map laid out for them, others undoubtedly want to express themselves in a more personal way. Unfortunately, for Korean idols that expression usually involves boring tropes and genres like coffeehouse, piano ballad or “deep” English-language lyrics. Wonho’s Losing You ticks off two of those boxes, but fails to bring anything new to the table.
I get Wonho’s desire to branch out internationally. Monsta X is quite successful globally, and he’s got a vast, sympathetic fan base to draw from. But apart from the connection listeners might feel to his story, Losing You is really quite slight as a piece of music. It’s a typical pop ballad, performed typically. If I had listened to this without knowing the talent behind it, I would have assumed it came from some generic American solo act. The melody is fine, but far from compelling. The song kind of glides in and out, leaving little in its wake. It feels overly short, like an unfinished thought. We’ll see what Wonho musters for his official debut, but Losing You is unlikely to appeal outside his fan base.