Song Review: Woo Jinyoung (D1CE) – Happy Birthday

Woo Jinyoung - Happy Birthday“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.

 Hooks 6
 Production 7
 Longevity 6
 Bias 6
 RATING 6.25


12 thoughts on “Song Review: Woo Jinyoung (D1CE) – Happy Birthday

  1. This song sounds like someone grabbed an old unrecorded song from GDragon or Block B from 8 or 10 years ago, decided to add more contemporary elements, and got the worst of both worlds out of it.

    Also, more boys with guns. Nope.

    I have seen that round foyer in another video – someone’s solo from a disbanded 2nd gen, released in late autumn? – it will come to me later. Filming in unused hotel ballrooms and wedding venues also seems to be a trend this year too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The phrase “We should have him point a gun at the camera” should trigger a cartoon style trap where some sort of large rubber hammer falls on the creative director in question. I’ve just seen it too many times.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think I understand the dislike of guns in music videos. I never thought about it that way, though – what do you think about gun violence in movies and art pieces? (And what about the glass guns in Exo Love Shot?)

      Liked by 1 person

      • There aren’t many examples of good, artistic uses of guns in popular media. The first Matrix, the scene in the marble lobby, the swoosh dips, those were awesome. Mad Max Fury Road was awesome (have not seen the originals). Maybe a couple old westerns – the “High Noon” and “Good, Bad and Ugly” types.

        Usually guns on a screen is just a lazy metaphor for empowerment and depravity and sex, to imply risk and fear, to substitute for clever and inventive plot development. As an example, how many guns are used in Hitchcock films? Hitchcock films are packed with thrill and suspense, without having to reference easy outs of “oh he has a gun, oh and now she has a gun, now they are pointing guns at each other who is going to shoot whom first?”. Maybe the cops have guns, maybe the bad guy has a gun then loses it. “Saboteur”, fantastic film, I think one scene once has a gun. The Birds, Rear Window, Rope – Rope is creepy as all hell.

        Guns in contemporary media isn’t a reflection of modern mores, it is a banal provocation. Unfortunately, there is too much real gun violence to justify this. Mass shootings, gang violence, suicide, domestic violence, accidental shootings from bullets left in chambers. Over half of all suicides are by gun, usually the person’s own gun.

        I do not see why kpop also has to use gun violence as a theme except out of laziness. Its part of the same facile bingo card to indicate danger, like all the bondage straps in their costumes. It’s a poor mimic of some US genres where for some of the performers the gun violence is actually part of their lived experienced and for others its street swagger that is still actually part of their lives.

        Why does kpop have to mimic this?

        The culture has plenty of its own lived experiences to draw from and interpret to still have intensity. A few weeks ago on the Kingdom show there was the hip hop adaptation in hanbok of some historical story. ACE “Favorite Boys” was a very contemporary hip hop take on mythology which was visually stunning.
        Korea has a shed load of history and mythology to draw from that are new to us outside of Korea. Hanbok is so cool and stylish; long shiny black hair on guys is an awesome fetish. No other country in the world can dip into such a rich tradition and be fresh, serious, relevant, sexy and contemporary all at the same time. I mean, sure, somewhere in Germany some pop star shows up in a dirndl to be sexy beer maid, not quite the same as hanbok.

        Also worth mentioning, ATEEZ Wonderland – everyone’s favorite pirate hip hop sea shanty which builds a menacing flair from robots waving black flags, a marching band in black, more cowbell, and no guns.

        Liked by 2 people

    • As someone whose birthday is coming up, this actually works. I’m aging! yaaay. ye-e-e-e happybirthday. It sounds like he’s sarcastically mocking people who wish him a happy birthday, which is pretty funny – but no, not very likeable.

      Just eat some cake and open your presents, man.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I think I liked NCT’s Make A Wish so much, and my birthday this year so inconsequential, that when I heard the word ‘Happy Birthday’, my mind immediately started whistling and going ‘we can do this all day’ instead of the original Happy Birthday.

    Also, this song is easily the worst one to come out of this month yet.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This almost never happens, and it’s very interesting: everyone unanimously dislikes this song, but I…kind of like it. And it’s a rap song, too!

    I definitely hear the discount Block B/ GD vibes that Myma mentioned. Maybe I just miss both of them so much that I’m willing to take anything that resembles their music? His rap sounds pretty strong, honestly, his delivery has personality. The verses are varied enough, the prechorus is really nice.

    Yes, the chorus drop is noisy and heavy, but it keeps about the same tempo as the rest of the song, doesn’t it? I don’t think the drop feels out of place in a track like this.

    What can I say, I enjoy it quite a bit.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The drop is fine. It went well with the song and the rap delivery is strong with major GD vibes. However, this lacks a solid hook and on the whole, sounds like plain noise.

    Reminds me of u mad in this aspect. Atleast I liked that one. I need to bring back Nick’s words from that post.

    ‘I wasn’t mad before listening to this, but I kind of want to punch a wall now. I don’t enjoy this feeling, but I have to give kudos to U Mad for delivering on its intent.’

    I don’t know if that’s the aspect this song’s going for but hey, don’t need to be so mad about your birthday. Makes me angry about my own birthday coming soon…and for no reason.

    Liked by 1 person

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