With so many idols (and former idols) branching into international markets, it’s becoming harder to decide which songs to write about on this blog. I mean, Jackson’s LMLY can hardly even be considered K-pop. It’s performed entirely in English by an artist who now works mainly in China. But, we can’t overlook Jackson’s history with GOT7 – a K-pop group that formed the impetus for his success as a soloist. Plus, LMLY is just a great pop song, so I’m willing to overlook some of my usual criteria.
I find Jackson’s evolution as an artist fascinating, and a testament to the benefits of creative control. For better or worse, JYP pigeon-holed him into a rapper position within GOT7, and his early solo work carried on that style. I was pretty hard on those early tracks, and they still feel like empty boasts from a performer who would have rather pushed his musical boundaries than simply extend his GOT7 persona. But over the past year or so, Jackson’s transformed into a competent pop star. He’ll never be the kind of “main vocal” powerhouse that K-pop groups require, but his scruffy performance oozes with character.
For LMLY, Jackson jumps onto the synth-pop bandwagon. The track’s pulsing production melds hazy electronics to a soft rock base, resulting in a melancholic atmosphere at odds with LMLY’s sprightly arrangement. It’s got a great melody – insistent and rhythmic in a way that pairs perfectly with the production. And though the song is quite repetitive in structure, the refrains are satisfying enough to overcome the lack of dynamic shifts. It’s not the kind of track that demands attention through bombast or braggadocio, but it will quietly work its way under your skin.