October’s been a pretty lousy month for K-pop so far, and I’m finding myself in a bit of a slump when it comes to new music. This happens from time to time, and always turns around eventually. Sadly, Lee Jinhyuk will not be the idol to unleash that much-needed U-turn. He and I seem to exist on different musical planets, as I haven’t enjoyed any song he’s released thus far.
Unlike his two previous singles, Work Work isn’t actively obnoxious. So, I guess that’s an improvement? Instead, the song is a big nothingburger. This comes in spite of some great collaborators behind the scenes. Whenever I see the name “Monotree” attached to a production, my attention instantly piques. Unfortunately, Work Work is the kind of generic mid-tempo track that never fully draws from the strengths of its genre influences The instrumental is laid-back but tinny, and could have explored its brassy elements further. There’s also a persistent whistle. You all know how I feel about whistles in pop songs…
Work Work flits between rap and sing-song melody, with the former being more enjoyable. Jinhyuk’s not a vocalist, and the melody here is meant to sound rough around the edges. But, his performance isn’t compelling enough to make it work, even when we culminate in a literal “work! work!” shout-along. Had the track found a better groove or more raucous energy, these exclamations might have been more endearing. But, Work Work never carves an identity of its own. There are much stronger examples of this same style to be found in K-pop.