Even before the formation of Winner, I longed for a Kang Seung Yoon album. His early solo songs – Wild & Young, Stealer, It Rains – hinted at a gutsy rocker. And paired with some of YG’s best in-house talent, the music itself was fantastic. So, I was kind of disappointed when Seung Yoon was roped into 2013’s WIN program to compete for the chance to debut with yet another K-pop boy group. Of course, Winner ended up being more than “yet another K-pop boy group,” but their debut did put a brake on Seung Yoon’s burgeoning rock career.
Now, nearly eight years later, Seung Yoon has finally released his first solo album. And while I was hoping for an energetic rock song as title track, IYAH (아이야) is a welcome reprieve from many of the sounds K-pop is currently focused on. Its emotive performance and unusual time signature are reminiscent of Winner’s 2016 hit Baby Baby, though I don’t think IYAH has quite as much bite.
There’s a timelessness to music like this, and that quality is well-suited to Seung Yoon’s raspy vocals. He supplies IYAH with plenty of pathos, and the rootsy, uncluttered instrumental adds to the sentiment. However, the energy is a bit muted for my taste. IYAH builds toward a suitable, singalong climax, but misses the opportunity to come swinging right out of the gate. For me, this is the kind of song you’d put on in the background of a lazy afternoon, indulging in its mood without engaging too closely. I think its simple, repetitive melody has a lot to do with this perception. A rousing bridge might have taken IYAH in a more thrilling direction. Still, this is tasty comfort food – especially for Seung Yoon fans who have been starved for so long.