Review

Song Review: Kang Daniel – Paranoia


Remember when male idol title tracks used to be fun? Angsty, horror concepts are not new to K-pop, but the music itself rarely felt as dour. Take VIXX for example. Their whole image revolved around these edgy concepts, but the title tracks were still punchy and exuberant, as if reveling in the inherent goofiness of their own imagery. They took the art of K-pop seriously, but they didn’t take themselves seriously. These days, we barely go a week without some male idol act unveiling a lurching, joyless bop tied to a dark color palette and moody aesthetic.

Kang Daniel is only the latest to step down this road, which is kind of surprising because his image has never been particularly dark. But, new track Paranoia capitalizes on fear and anxiety – something we’re all feeling right now, at least at some level. I don’t know about you, but I look to things like K-pop for escape. My favorite songs not only cheer me up, they galvanize me. I just can’t get behind dirges like Paranoia, no matter how much affinity I have for the artist.

This song isn’t objectively bad, but it’s dull and unimaginative and I don’t have much desire to hear it again. The verses deliver a mopey soundtrack ill-suited to Daniel’s voice and charm. The pre-chorus is stronger, utilizing the track’s lurching nature to forge a hook that wouldn’t be out of place on Halloween. Unfortunately, Paranoia’s chorus doesn’t amount to much, forgoing inventive melody for flavorless lamentations. The pulse finally picks up during the bridge, hinting at a rhythmic backbone that could have (and should have) supported the entire song.

 Hooks 6
 Production 7
 Longevity 7
 Bias 6
 RATING 6.5

38 thoughts on “Song Review: Kang Daniel – Paranoia

  1. “Remember when they used to be fun” – lolz!

    I had to check the calendar – it is not October. It sounds like an October Halloween song, that obligato underneath sounds like a creature tip toeing up to a door to scare the beejeebus, inducing a state of Paranoia. As a solo release, it just barely meets expectations.

    The chord progression is close enough to Yuho’s Eeny Meeny minee mo from last month that the three times this morning that I listened to this song, I started singing the chorus of Yunho’s song over it, and wishing that this song was as good as that song. This one takes itself too seriously, but Yunho has that sense of kitsch I crave.

    OT: Speaking of kitsch, this morning I came across Crayon Pop “Bar Bar Bar” again, which would fall into my rant on the other OT about classic kpop dances with instantly recognizable moves.
    The reference starts about 1:10 ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfo2ZTnhrWg
    Crayon pop itself ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMqL1iWfku4
    now that song is a lot of fun

    Liked by 1 person

    • I will grab your reference to Yunho with both hands to announce (again!) how much I love that song. Way more than I initially expected – which means he has completely solidified himself on my kpop radar.

      Yes, I have followed his tiny dance tutorial. I was getting frustrated of feeling the urge to dance and not being able to channel it productively.

      Bar Bar Bar is great for some passionate morning exercise or something. Gotta try that sometime, mornings are depressing recently.

      Like

  2. Also, VIXX. The thing about VIXX is that a) they got there first and b) they carried high concept all the way through with c) outstanding song performance.

    These follow-ons by comparison are mere pastiche of VIXX. Most of Road to Kingdom were VIXX copycats.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. you really woke up on the wrong side of the bed today huh. this song is perfectly fine and even exceeds expectations, not everything has to be about what we’re feeling “right now.” you’ve been taking this “pandemic reality” a bit too far and now it’s seeping into your perception of the general landscape of kpop. it’s not a “these days” thing, this form of song has been popular for years. maybe take a step back until you don’t have to rely on korean idols as your form of escape?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Exactly my point. This form of song has been popular for years now. It’s time for something new. All these angsty title tracks are running the risk of becoming interchangeable. And when you hear a bunch of them in a row, it’s hard not to get a bit fatigued.

      But no, I actually woke up before my alarm today, ready to go! That’s pretty rare for me on a Tuesday 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I miss VIXX. How the hell has it been almost 3 years since Scentist?! I need them to come back and do their thing.

    I like this, though, lol. I mean I’m the opposite, as in I like to relate to songs more than I’m looking for something to cheer me up (doesn’t mean I don’t like those), so I like Paranoia from that aspect – considering he wrote it and we know he’s been dealing with mental health issues for a while now. I’m also just glad there is… a melody there? Idk, I think ONEUS scarred me for life, I’m prepared for the worst now so everything seems ok lmao.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You’re completely correct, of course. The conversation is much more nuanced than simple “angst=bad”. I mean, one of my favorite songs of all time is Infinite’s Back… and it doesn’t get much angstier than that.

      The problem is, I think that angst can be done in a more varied way. Too often over the past few years, it feels like a fallback mood that eclipses dynamic song structure and unique performance style.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Regular reader but mostly a lurker—I find it interesting to try and guess what your ratings/review will be for the titles I check out beforehand. Often unsuccessfully, lol, but I think I’ve caught on to some of what you look for in a track. Unsuccessful again; I thought you’d give this 7s/8s because it has a strong melody and chugging (if sluggish) beat. Underestimated the weight of angst-weariness I guess.

    There’s dark/angsty and there’s dark/angsty. This isn’t posturing bombast nor does it give me “I’m so miserable because I’m an artist” self-important vibes…and there’s an actual narrative and concept to it, though it sounds like they’re not for you. The English lyrics are cringe (and it seems kpop artists with better English pronunciation are ironically more prone to have really cheesy English lyrics, uh), but with different lyrics or maybe just less English I’d really like this. Parts of the melody sound like ONEUS’s Twilight to me, which I also quite like. This is the first Kang Daniel single I’ve ever felt an inclination to listen to a second time.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I love that you try to guess what’s going on in my addled mind! haha

      I must not be hearing the strong melody that you and others have commented on. To me, it feels pretty inert, and that’s probably my biggest gripe with the track.

      I’m happy to be in the minority, though. It wouldn’t be the first time and most certainly won’t be the last!

      Liked by 1 person

          • I am a minor key guy, probably due to my love of classical music. Whenever I begin playing the piano or violin, whenever I write a song, it always is in the minor key. Counting classical music, I think my top favorite pieces of all time will mostly be in the minor key (barring Pachebal’s Canon and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, of course). Thus, it surprising my favorite K-Pop songs are more often major key. I feel this is because pop music is often less artistic in intent, and often is intended to be more of a thorough joyful experience, and minor chords are used for sinuous stuff, like TVXQ’s Mirotic.

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            • See, I am a classical music girl. I was raised on virtually only classical music. I do love minor keys in classical pieces but I tend to strongly dislike pop songs in minor key – probably because of the reason you mention?

              Gotta say: as a fellow string player I admit I chuckled at Pachelbel’s Canon being among your favourites. It gets a lot of hate from string players in my experience haha.

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                • The comments are getting too thin- but I get what you mean. The violin part of Canon also isn’t too bad (except for the first part which is just a glorified scale). The fact that you BROKE the bridge made me flinch mentally, I can’t imagine that happening..oof. Vivaldi’s Seasons were a favourite of mine. I still like them, but I’ve heard them too many times and have discovered other pieces I like more.

                  Like

              • This is a reply to your new comment, just up here to make it easier to read.

                I actually enjoyed the glorified scale part. If you are on the musician’s end, it is too simple. But as a listener, it makes just the right choices so it sounds like a slow climb on heavenly stairs, at least that is what I felt. I truly enjoyed it, despite it being so easy to play.

                I physically flinched when I broke the bridge lol. But then again, that violin seemed to hate bridges, once a bridge even fell inside the violin! Either that or I was careless…

                I have not played the violin in years, and I doubt I can play it now. Maybe I’ll pull it out one day.

                I cannot judge the 4 seasons unbiasedly. They are my childhood, no matter if they were better pieces, 4 seasons is better.

                And besides, 4 Seasons probably was a strong influence over them all.

                Liked by 1 person

                • These comments make me wish I stuck with bells and clarinet in middle school instead getting dragged into sports. I feel like I can only parse through the music to a certain point because of my lack of musical knowledge. Sighs.

                  Liked by 1 person

  6. Oooo again I feel different.

    The main cons I have is it’s really nothing new or inventive. Like yeah I feel like I’ve heard this sound before. The other con is the chorus doesn’t really do anything for me. Like it’s fine, it has some melody (or at least I think so), but it really isn’t that creative. Also, the opening is a little slow to start. Not my favorite intro.

    The positives. The concept I like (although Halloween would have been better time for it). I think the song had a solid PRECHORUS and the “la la la” part is actually pretty nice to listen to.

    With the MV and dance, I think this song will do well. Kang Daniel is a great performer. This isn’t his best work, but I think he still gave a solid song. 7.75 in my head. But I still have many more listens until I actually solidify my opinion. It ALWAYS changes.

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  7. I do feel this song doesn’t stand out musically either, especially with the wave of those ‘dark concept’ boy group songs we’ve been getting this year so far. However, maybe it’s the lyrics and the story behind this song, maybe it’s just my bias towards him, but the vibes I get from this are very different from those that I get from some of the other releases we’ve had so far. (Not speaking musically – don’t have the requisite insight for that!) This song feels very personal for Kang Daniel and I respect that he’s able to express all that he’s been through, and that makes it more palatable for me than just generic posturing about being badass and cool or whatever.

    That said, I personally think Daniel shines the most when he’s doing something more laid-back land groovy, like 2U or Touching, and I hope he returns to that kind of sound in the future.

    (And by the way, not to get my hopes up too high but it’s SHINee and I’ll love them anyway so I’m hoping for next week to give us something bombastic and fresh, the way only SHINee can! So hyped for their comeback)

    Liked by 2 people

    • (Just wanted to say I’m having the exact same thought about SHINee..Taemin ended up spoiling some stuff and it sounded very promising.. 6v6 But I’m trying not to get my hopes up to high!)

      Like

  8. I agree with you here, Nick. I actually kinda like this song but it’s just not my style. Tbh I actually really like the sound of the bass during the verses but (as you may already know) I just need more EDM in a song LOL. I’m a sucker for upbeat electronic-sounding instrumentals that have sky-high vocals. A song like this just doesn’t hit high on my bias spectrum and unfortunately will be the sole reason why I probably won’t listen to this again.

    Like

  9. So I am gonna start with stating I think your bias rating is wrong. I think you have a major bias to begin with before you even listened to the song. I feel like you can’t really rate a song you already hate the concept of. But whatever.
    To continue on you obviously missed the whole concept behind this whole song and mv. And that is that it’s not simply just a concept. It is not scary or some horror film. It’s real life imagined. He and other people like myself have gone through real stuff in our lives. You can’t just blow people’s feelings off like “oh everyone is anxious and depressed because of covid”. It is not capitalism if an individual has really felt this way. And to people like me this was not scary at all. This is my real life and I relate to it. I think it is good that there is a genuine kpop song about mental health. Also even if it was scary, scary things are not reserved for halloween.
    I do not think the song/mv is unimaginative. If anything it is far from it. He takes his feeling and literally turns them into a visual image you can see. I dont know about you but that’s pretty imaginative.
    Instead of insulting the song you could have simply stated it just wasn’t what you were into. Honestly I’m sad you didn’t see the bigger picture. But that probably means you haven’t dealt with mental illness yourself. Which is fine but at least try to understand someone’s perspective before rating them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, let me apologize for coming off as insensitive. I don’t mean to equate our global anxiety with mental health struggles of individual people, and I do understand what this song is aiming for lyrically and thematically. I also know that Daniel has been through struggles of his own, and had a lot of creative input here.

      I don’t often touch on lyrics in K-pop songs because I’m not a Korean speaker and find it awkward to rely on translations, but I realize that it can come off as crass to complain about the musicality of a track when the meaning is so personal. Probably not the best place to do it.

      To my own embarrassment, these kind of over-generalized reviews tend to happen from time to time — usually at the end of a stretch of songs I haven’t liked. Unfortunately, Daniel came back with a song I didn’t really care for… on the heels of a series of other songs I didn’t care for. Unconsciously, I end up taking this growing disappointment out on him. It’s not fair, and I need to be more cognizant of it.

      With that said, I’m never rating a person or an artist on this site. I’m always trying to represent how I feel about a song. And though I’ll write about things like concept and mood, I try to keep the ratings focused on the music itself.

      I’m really glad that this song resonated with you. And judging from the overall response in the comments, it’s resonated with many others, too. Though I may be this “invisible” person behind a website, I’ve also dealt with a lot of things in my life that I choose not to share here. And, I know how powerful music can be when it comes to tackling those struggles. Thank you for not making assumptions. I’ll try harder to do the same. After all, empathy is underrated.

      Like

  10. I really like this song but I understand that is not your style, in my case, I’ve always like these concepts in the music, even outside of kpop; also, if this song would have been published in October could’ve resonate different as the man above said.

    Like

  11. I love seeing artists express themselves through their own experiences. It relates to when he was in hiatus during his legal battles with his label. I love that we are getting darker themed songs that focus on much more than bubblegum happy love. It won’t be for everyone’s palate however I enjoy a wide range of themes, especially those that aren’t featured commonly in KPop.

    Like

  12. You can use big words and analyze progressions and sections of a song but at the end of the day they are simply just your opinion. I personally do not find the song dull, unimaginative or non-melodic. I actually think the song progresses incredibly fine and it very entertaining from start to end, blast this on good speakers and you can feel its creativity despite the imagination in its music video which i might add is simple yet so sophisticated. Imagination doesnt have to run wild to grasp artists, and this one truly captures something dark, melancholic and choatic. I love the droopy tune, and his voice fits perfectly with it in my opinion.

    i find your criticism a little harsh but i myself reminded myself that this is just your opinion and is in no reflection of how others feel about his music. I hope he continues dabbling in this theme and comes out with even more. The choreography and outfits were well matched with the overall vibe of the music and in conjunct, its music video.

    Like

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