Sunggyu Saves 2015 with “Kontrol” ; Hyunseung Stays Swaggy

I should really give both Sunggyu and Hyunseung their own posts but I can’t be bothered to at this point. #lazy

Over the last few months I became a fan of Beast and Infinite, more so than I was when I did my Top 10 Boy Groups post last year. I’d say both have moved into my top 5, since they have solid discographies overall. Yet, I wasn’t looking forward to either solo release.

Sunggyu’s voice is honestly, quite grating on my ears and I didn’t care for his last solo album. His tone is not my favorite, and I have a hard time differentiating Sunggyu and L in Infinite songs. Hyunseung also has a similar tone, however it’s less whiney overall – and I would have preferred a Troublemaker comeback instead of a solo.

Yet, I of course checked both out, and while I was essentially placated with Hyunseung’s – though glad he didn’t push the swag envelope more – I’m very thrilled to say Sunggyu’s impressed me a lot, and has now taken the spot of my Favorite Song of 2015.

So I’ll start with Hyunseung, just to get this out of the way – because I feel like I should like this a lot more than I do. But I’m really not feeling the single at all.

“My First” is essentially what you’d expect from a Hyunseung solo. It’s swaggy, slightly catchy (but not too much), ensures he’s able to show off his dancing skills – thus is a mid-tempo dance track – and he’s styled like a hungover frat boy. What else is new?

“My First” is written by Black Eyed Pilsaeng, which apparently has some connections to Rado – who penned Troublemaker’s songs and “Wasn’t Me” – one of Beast’s strongest songs. I can hear Rado’s elements in the song, however I wish they were stronger. The random “holla” lines, where Hyunseung appropriately writes “holla” on the female lead in the video was too much, and essentially when I lost my shit while watching the video.

The song is basically a typical dance pop track that isn’t more than Hyunseung could handle – which works well for him, since I think he’s still afraid to go too far out of his comfort zone. I’m surprised the featuring of Giriboy isn’t helping it do a bit better on the charts, but considering Hyunseung is either 4th or 5th in Beast in terms of individual fandom, he could still be doing worse.

As for the mini album, My, “It’s Me” definitely has that Rado vibe I would have liked to see for the title, but it’s unfortunately only a short intro track. “걔랑 헤어져 (Feat. 토끼)” treads a bit more on the ballad side of a mid-tempo track, however I think overall it would have been a stronger single for Hyunseung to show off his vocals. Honestly, I can barely tell it’s him singing – as he doesn’t showcase his ‘built in autotune’ as much on this track. The next song, “야한 농담”, is my least favorite song the album, especially as it interrupts the flow of the CD, but “나와” picks the album right back up and brings a really interesting calming vibe. The closing song is “사랑한다고” and while it has a similar calming vibe as “나와”, it’s a weaker track overall. My thoughts on the album are essentially that while it’s not bad, it’s not exactly what I had expected from Hyunseung (aside from the title, of course). I think he relied too much on ballads – even though we were granted the opportunity to see a new side to his voice. I would have preferred “걔랑 헤어져” as the title track, just to show that Hyunseung doesn’t have to hide behind his swag attitude, but overall it’s not a bad release.

Now that 4 of the Beast members have had a solo debut, I can only hope for Dongwoon to be next. He’s arguably the 2nd or 3rd best singer in the group, and his lack of solo activities are depressing – even give the kid a musical, Cube! Do something! Doojoon has acting, and he’s essentially the weakest vocal in the group, so if he somehow gets a solo debut before Dongwoon, you can only imagine my level of pressed.

Next up is Infinite’s Sunggyu’s solo comeback. So far he’s the only member of Infinite to get a solo, even though Woohyun should have had one long ago as well. Without going into a rant about that, Sunggyu’s 27 is a mini album, and he had a double title track approach.

The ‘main’ title (why) is “너여야만 해” – which honestly, musically reminds me of something I’d hear from a religious inspired rock group.

Even though I don’t find it as strong as “Kontrol” – I think “너여야만 해” is a great introduction to the album (shoving basic, vocal-less intro track “27” aside). Sunggyu’s voice sounds nice here (and sets a nice pace for his vocals throughout the album), and I was shocked enough at that to actually give the rest of the album a chance. His trademark whine is gone in favor of a deeper sound, which suits the style of the songs on 27.

The second title, “Kontrol” is what I really want to talk about here. I know I said recently how much I loved JYP’s “Booty” but “Kontrol” has managed to top it as my favorite song of the year. “Kontrol” is not safe K-Pop at all – in fact, I think it’s one of the biggest risk-takers of the year.

“Kontrol” – while repetitive lyrically, has such a great modern sound. It’s contemporary music if I’ve ever heard it. It sounds like it was written in 2015 for a 2015 audience, and is a great mix of alternative, rock, and electronic music. The explosion of sound at the chorus sounds like something you’d be hearing in an Apple commercial about innovation – and that’s seriously the word I think of every time I hear “Kontrol” – ‘innovative.’ It’s rare that an idol takes risk with their music, and this is exactly what I think K-Pop needed to re-invigorate itself.

Music this year has been stale, re-used, boring, and honestly lacking impact. “Kontrol” is the first song that I’ve liked upon first listen without having to go back and listen to it two or three more times prior to judging. Whoever chose this song for Sunggyu should be given a medal, and should be getting more composition work in K-Pop. Now, I don’t want to hear 100 re-treads of “Kontrol” moving forward, but the fact is – the song is original, works perfectly for the singer, and is interesting. I haven’t been this excited about a song since “At Gwanghwamun” – and I can even say if Kyuhyun could get a song similar to “Kontrol” I’d be in 7th heaven.

As for the rest of the mini, I can’t complain overall. “Alive” isn’t a bad song, and fits with the flow of the album, but it drags on more than it should – it makes you work for each build up, and a little past half-way through the song there’s some un-needed autotune. “Daydream” also relies on un-needed autotune, but I like the song much more than “Alive” – and it’s a good follow up to “Kontrol.” Even with the high profile featurings, I still think Sunggyu shines on “Daydream”, and it’s probably my second favorite on the album. “답가 (Feat. 박윤하)” closes out the mini, and it’s a good, calm closer. I can hear Sunggyu’s trademark whine a bit more on this song. My biggest problem with “답가” is how I feel like I keep waiting for something more from it, yet it stays the same for so long. Then when the song finally does build up, the feature, Park Yoonha, pops on – and she has a very pleasant, cute tone, though it doesn’t match well with Sunggyu’s voice. I also think it should have been credited as a duet, rather than a featuring – considering she sings half the song – but that’s just my opinion.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more that 27 reminds me of a K-Pop-ified version of a Keane CD, and I love everything about that. I like that progressive music was able to be made without the use of guitars – and even though there’s a good amount of autotune throughout, 27 is a modern CD, without giving into trends or following expectations. It’s easily the best CD of the year thus far.

So, if it wasn’t clear, Sunggyu has the better release of the two, and definitely has the strongest album of the year. I hate to compare directly since Sunggyu and Hyusneung were exploring different genres, but looking simply at the ratio of songs, Sunggyu’s album is full of great songs – aside from the opener (whereas I definitely love Hyunseung’s opener, almost more than his title). It’s great to see solos coming out from groups I enjoy, but honestly I would have preferred a Beast comeback over Hyunseung’s solo – as the music is definitely more my style. If anything, Sunggyu’s solo has hyped me up for Infinite’s impending comeback even more, and I can only hope he brings along his improved vocals with him.

Everything being said, I really should update my favorite groups (both male and female) posts, since many things have changed in a year.

Which solo did you prefer? And which song is your fave? Leave a comment below!

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