Former Monsta X member Wonho released his first solo track last month, the heartfelt Losing You. It was a perfectly pleasant ballad, but felt like more of a message than a peek at the sound he hoped to develop on his own. In that way, classifying Losing You as a pre-release teaser feels very apt. It may have sparked some curiosity, but Open Mind is definitely the main course.
Though I’ve never been intimately familiar with the group dynamics of Monsta X, Wonho always struck me as their most recognizable face. With that in mind, it’s easy to assume that a solo career would favor image over content. But, the best performers can incorporate both and come away with a well-rounded package. Open Mind isn’t a perfect knockout, but it comes close. And perhaps more importantly, it convincingly establishes Wonho as an artist in his own right, with the ability to bring his own personality and quirks to a groove.
And thankfully, Open Mind is all about groove. It’s a nice hybrid of the retro synth influences currently sweeping the globe and a more classic K-pop atmosphere. Wonho is clearly following in Taemin’s MJ-loving footsteps, and he’s having a lot of fun with it. The synth textures driving Open Mind’s instrumental are excellent, especially when the track pulses into its Daft Punk-esque chorus. The first time through, it’s a simple instrumental drop accompanied by icy strings, which allows for a satisfying introduction to the central rhythm. Later, this refrain is joined by an ultra-smooth melody. I don’t think we’ve heard this particular song structure in K-pop for a while, and the approach pays off. Open Mind doesn’t reinvent the electro-funk wheel, but it remains compelling until its final moment. That’s a testament to a consistent, exciting beat and an expressive, funky vocal. Here’s hoping that Wonho will continue down this route.