“Happy Birthday” is such an odd name for a pop song. It instantly conjures up one iconic melody, suited to a single day each year. When reading these two words, my mind certainly doesn’t imagine noisy EDM drops, but Woo Jinyoung seems intent on surprising. As part of boy group D1CE, his idol career has stopped and started with no coherent promotional plan. D1CE have been given infrequent comebacks, making it difficult to develop a stable fan base. With the group seemingly in limbo, will Jinyoung pursue a solo career indefinitely? Judging by Happy Birthday, he’s going to need stronger material.
We first met Jinyoung in 2017, when he competed in season two of Produce 101. After failing to make a debut through the program, he moved on to YG Entertainment’s ill-fated MIXNINE. Now under a subsidiary of Dreamcatcher Company (formerly Happyface), his career is ripe for reinvention. And, parts of Happy Birthday hint at the charm that made him such an engaging trainee. The punchy verses bring a heavy bounce to the track, acting as the perfect foil for his hard-hitting rap. The pre-chorus follows suit, injecting a touch of melody to an otherwise shouty song.
Unfortunately, Happy Birthday is the latest comeback to succumb to an awful beat drop chorus. The instrumental is just as boisterous here, but its shifting tempo upends the momentum the track had been building. From here, Happy Birthday struggles to regain the focus and potency of its opening verse. I understand idol rappers’ desire to appear “hardcore” and subversive, but there are ways of doing that without resorting to a noisy, derivative EDM drop. It’s such a shame, because this track had real potential.