Song Review: Wonho – Open Mind

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.

 Hooks 9
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9


29 thoughts on “Song Review: Wonho – Open Mind

  1. YES! This is exactly what I thought of the song. It’s just so consistent and Wonho completely kills it. One thing I really enjoyed was how the instrumental drop tickles your ears. Other than that the melodies were killer and the production was surprising in many ways. I think Wonho’s vocals were also great here and the adlibs in the pre-chorus were just soooooo good. Damn, the one week Nick takes a break we get two 9’s in a row!


  2. This song has a shed load of polish to it. The producers made such careful and measured choices for the soundscape. This is the song that a dozen or more solo male releases this year wishes they could all be (eg the Ab6ix solos, Kang Daniel, others).

    Do you notice how they actually free up the middle ranges in the mix so that the vocal is the highlight right there. Not by making the vocal louder or processed, but by not putting noisy synths right on top of him. How many instrumental lines does one need in a song, even for a contemporary sound: fewer than you think. These verses have maybe 4 instrument lines, the main vocal, and about two background vocals. Thereabouts. Regulars will know how many times I go on about how noisy some songs are full of midrange noise, how more is not always more. This is the perfect example of what I mean.

    Yes, good job WonHo!

    Liked by 4 people

      • Sorry, more, since earlier this week I listened to the KBS 34 hour youtube streaming marathon for Forestella, and I listened for more hours than I will admit.

        Here is an example where the mix can also help, in a different way. ‘

        When HyungHo hits the high high note at 3:07 at the climax of the song, how to make it even bigger? The arrangers put behind him a synth wash that is probably called something like “Voice 6”, so it sounds like a whole chorus behind him supporting him but doesn’t have warbly female sopranos competing against him. And then when it isn’t needed again at about 3:24, after he catches his breath, off it goes. They add something right at the same frequency range, at the right time, soft enough, close enough but different enough so you can still hear the real live him.

        (There is also a stealth key change in there at 2:31, so the 3:07 high note is an A5 which is a full step higher than the 1:07 G5 high note. That’s another way to build height and build the climax = stealth key change. Yes, they earned that key change.)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This song is awesome! Two days after the bombastic Favorite Boys we got hit with Wonho’s groovy Open Mind!

    I want this to be Wonho’s signature sound , Imagine how good it would be , him bringing this timeless quality will definitely put a change in how I always saw him!

    I love his vocals! They sound so smooth and so great and if that finale wasn’t impressive enough we got hit with the final instrumental before the song closes.

    Now , let me go off topic , WOOLIM?! DRIPPIN?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? DRIPPIN?!

    You had such cool names and you can only think of DRIPPIN?


    • Maybe it’s just me, but the first person that comes to my mind is Changmin (minus crazy high notes, of course).

      Wonho, yes to me, is a buffier version of Changmin with Abel Tesfaye-esque music, lols.


  4. I rather dig this, it’s definitely better than I was expecting and I appreciate a lot of what it does. I’m not nearly as high on it as you are, though. But I often feel that I should like Taemin’s work than I actually do (which feels a bit too slick to me), so there’s that…


    • To be fair, I’m a low “9” on this, and waffled between the 8’s and 9 for a long time. It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I’ll be interested to see what I think about it in a month.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I like it. Definitely not as much as you but it’s nice. Unfortunately I can’t say the same about the rest of the mini, this is the only decent song on it imo.


  6. Surprised how this is the direction wonho is going with his solo, it’s a good idea tho!

    Overall, it does have a good groove to it. This is what most male idol solos that wants to be sexy strives to be.


  7. Those “ooooo aaaah”s were lovely. Wonho always had charisma, but it’s great to hear him command a track like this with ease and confidence. I’m just really happy for him 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This is surprising, knowing where he has come from. My jaw opened during the start cause I was like “OHHHHHHHHHH” but now my mouth’s closed. Maybe I came back from reality? Maybe I already got bored with this song? I don’t know yet, but I’ll keep a close eye on him.


  9. I was in utter disbelief when he had to leave Monsta X. I used to be a big fan of the group, so it’s a relief to see him do such a good song on his own. He really has the charisma for this style!

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.