Before listening to Gaho’s first full album, I braced myself for a mix of rock and balladry. The reality is much more nuanced, showcasing a variety of sounds and styles all driven by his strong vocal. But more than anything, I was struck by an immediate comparison to another artist. It took me a few moments to decipher who the music reminded me of, and when I stumbled upon the answer I was quite surprised. Gaho’s Fireworks – at least the first half – feels like a modern K-pop equivalent to Lebanese-British pop singer Mika.
For those unfamiliar with Mika’s work, it’s a lot poppier and kitschier than I would have paired with my image of Gaho, but the two share a dynamic upper range and gutsy delivery that lends their music an idiosyncratic flair. The comparison is even more apt on standout track Part Time Lover – by far the album’s most dance-oriented moment. This was instantly my “buried treasure” pick, but now it’s been given its own music video (with promotions on the way, I hope?).
Gaho doing upbeat funk pop isn’t something I knew I needed, but he pulls of the sound with total flair. After opening with a flurry of backing vocals reminiscent of a Bruno Mars track, Part Time Lover careens into its nimble verse. Chunky bass guitar drives this segment forward, soon to be swept away by an even more ebullient chorus. I love how the instrumental swerves and smashes, bringing a palpable energy that’s difficult to resist. The hook is repetitive almost to the point of cloying, but it’s arranged in enough different ways and levels to ensure the song remains fresh. By the time we reach Part Time Lover’s stomping climax, Gaho’s bound to have your toe tapping (at the very least!).