U-Know’s second mini album is themed around the movies, with a series of cinematic teasers leading up to the release of new single Thank U. Known as a passionate performer, he’s the perfect conduit for an ambitious project like this, and his old-school sense of showmanship is always welcome in the K-pop industry. Thank U pairs him with frequent collaborator Yoo Young-Jin, alongside a team of younger songwriters.
While I wouldn’t necessarily call Thank U “new” (especially for those of us who have listened to K-pop for a while), but it is refreshingly different from most of the material coming out of the industry right now. Its brittle dance beat recalls mid 00’s pop, fused with tense synth strings and touches of brass that feel as if they should be soundtracking the adventures of a conquistador. It’s not a complex blend of elements, but they work very well together to forge an addictive groove.
I often complain about the use of “sing-talk” in K-pop tracks, but Thank U’s verses show how effective it can be when given a tight structure and purpose. U-Know’s raps have always had an impish quality, but his performance here is more like the delivery of a monologue. It may not be technically impressive, but it’s emotive and convincing in its own way. I love the shouting that’s interspersed into these moments. It hearkens back to classic TVXQ tracks without feeling like a pastiche. Thank U‘s chorus is also more talking than singing, but when it delivers moments of harmonized melody, they’re all the more potent. More importantly, each and every element works together to bolster the song’s addictive rhythm. Even as most of the percussion pulls away for a standout, vocal-led bridge, Thank U never loses its spark.