Song Review: Kim Jaehwan – Back Then

Kim Jaehwan - Back ThenIt’s been interesting watching the members of Wanna One settle into their respective comfort zones after the group disbanded in early 2019. As massive a force as they were during the 2017-18 period, many of these solo efforts and spin-off groups have struggled to find notoriety outside their core fan base. In the case of Kim Jaehwan, I think the issue lies in a lack of imagination when it comes to title track choices.

Jaehwan has an amazing voice, equally adept at big, sweeping ballads, cathartic rock bangers and nimble funk. But apart from a standout b-side here and there, his solo work has largely targeted middle-of-the-road fare. New single Back Then (그 시절 우리는) exemplifies this. It’s a rock ballad, bolstered by crunchy guitar during its go-for-broke chorus. But in between these peaks, we’ve got limp verses that spin their wheels with trendy percussion and a looping melody that doesn’t really go anywhere. At its best, this arrangement might result in a cool push-and-pull of energy that would keep Back Then engaging.

Unfortunately, neither segment is memorable or ballsy enough to stick. Instead, we’re left with a solidly-delivered slice of straightforward radio rock. It feels more like an obligation than a revelation, far from earlier highlights like Designer, My Flower and Nuna – all superior b-sides that deserved title track promotion. Kim Jaehwan’s talent is too undeniable to be wasted on dull dad-rock. Here’s hoping he’ll stretch his ambition next time around.

Hooks 7
 Production 7
 Longevity 7
 Bias 7


3 thoughts on “Song Review: Kim Jaehwan – Back Then

  1. This is the first time I’m listening to Jaehwan’s discography. What can I say? This one definitely has got a lot of potential. Unfortunately, trap beat-driven verses ruin everything, and although I like the dramatic chorus, I’m afraid it’s gonna leave my memory soon.
    Hope that once Jaehwan will be blessed with a proper title track rather than an underwhelming, effortless empty black hole. (same about UP10TION’s Wooseok, btw!)
    Gotta disagree a bit on the rating, though, mid-7’s for me (7,9,7,7).


  2. I wouldn’t have known this was Kim Jae Hwan if I didn’t read the tin.
    I mean, its ok, but it could have been by any number of soloists or bands.

    My boy’s “Snail” from early June is a serious grower. Song sounds like it is coming home, so to speak. Here it is live live.

    For those who don’t know Kim Jae Hwan – he entered as a free agent the Produce 101 contest that formed Wanna One. Free agent meaning he wasn’t signed to any label, just him off the street. Then he went on to come in fourth despite all odds and all payola that happens in these competitions. Since he was unsigned, his portion of the Wanna One boatload went all to him, not to an agency. So not only is he hella talented, he has also done well enough that he can put out song he wants to put out without having to worry.

    Plus he can actually sing really well. “Snail” will end up somewhere on my year end list.


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