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.