Concepts are a dime a dozen in K-pop. They’re part of the idol equation, but rarely do we hear an actual concept album. AKMU’s Lee Chanhyuk makes his solo debut with a full-length that takes us through death and rebirth. As part of this “new” Chanhyuk, the music brings in flourishes of 80’s synthpop – a genre never fully explored in AKMU’s work. Lead single Panorama (파노라마) is a good introduction to this new sound, even if I wish it had a bit more oomph.
I lost at the expectations game again. For whatever reason, Panorama’s teasers made me think we were getting a big synth banger. Instead, the song is a melodic mid-tempo – much like many AKMU songs – with synth as its driving force. It’s my own fault for making assumptions, and I needed to rewire my brain the first time I played the song. For what it is, Panorama is quite good. Chanhyuk has always been a master of melody, and the strength of his songwriting hits from the first listen.
I love Panorama’s use of retro synths. They’re thick and chunky and have an analog feel missing from so many other 80’s-leaning efforts. Their presence here is invaluable, especially during the chorus. But, I would’ve preferred a brisk tempo to go along with these tones. Panorama constantly feels like it’s ready to kick into gear and develop a knockout punch, but never goes there. Instead, it acts as a statement of intent for the album. I hope this isn’t a one-off, because Chanhyuk could work wonders with this style in the future.