Seventeen members have used the buzzword “mixtape” as a way to slowly branch out as soloists. Last time I checked, a digital single doesn’t quite count as a mixtape, but I’ll happily take new music in whatever form it’s offered. After similar efforts from Hoshi, The8, Wonwoo and Mingyu last year, Seventeen’s vocal leader Woozi has made his solo bid with Ruby.
As the group’s chief songwriter, expectations are certainly high for Woozi’s individual work. His 2016 solo Simple remains one of my favorite Seventeen tracks. Ruby swerves pretty far from that bright pop sound, but its rock-fueled energy is very welcome. It would have been easy for Woozi to release another ballad, but I appreciate that he’s challenged a new genre. The best of Seventeen’s output has often borrowed from rock music, and Ruby’s boisterous energy makes a great fit for Woozi’s quiet charisma.
To me, Ruby sounds like a track that fellow K-pop soloist Woodz might covet. It uses rock tropes in a familiar way, drawing upon their inherent sensuality. After a subdued opening, Ruby bursts forth with unrelenting energy. The guitars crunch and squeal – a constant presence. Yet, they never overpower the song. Woozi’s typically-light tone takes on a more menacing attitude. Is that an English-language curse word I hear? My goodness, Woozi! His performance echoes the industrial drive of the instrumental. Similarly, the frantic, aggressive chorus harnesses a palpable sense of exasperation. If anything, I think Ruby could stand to be at least thirty seconds longer. I appreciate its brevity, but there are a few missed opportunities for further development.