Edited by Yoon
Translated by Kim Yoo Hyang
Most idols go solo after gaining years of experience. It’s an extension of their group’s music and a chance to display a new aspect that they have never shown before. Coming out as a solo artist is inevitable yet uneasy, especially as they have to take over the stage alone. It is a challenge considering that they have been active as a group of 5-12 members. Let me introduce a list of the best tracks from idols’ solo albums released so far.
Taeyang – RISE (2014)
In 2008, when it was hard to see R&B artists in Korea, Taeyang brought the foreign genre through his first solo album, Hot. Since then, he released high-quality music with Solar (2010) and made locals enjoy R&B as mainstream music.
The artist’s second studio album, RISE, showed a peak in Taeyang’s vocal skills. Emotions were added to Taeyang’s forte, making the music entirely and uniquely Taeyang’s. You can feel this in songs such as the album’s title track “Eyes, Nose, Lips” and “Let Go.” With a great sense of rhythm, he aces slow-beat R&B tracks with rapping on hip-hop bass. As revealed in the popular video with the MR removed, we can feel how stable his voice is. The album was somewhat more refined than the first album, and he chose the title track as a safe bet, but it moved the public’s heart with candidly expressed emotions.
Sunmi – LALALAY (2019)
Sunmi establishes, understands, and expresses her concepts better than any artists in the country. Through “Gashina” and “Siren” – which reminded us of Wonder Girls’ masterpiece REBOOT – we can see how she achieves a perfect balance between the song and the performance.
The singer and the persona of “LALALAY” naturally overlap as Sunmi made and wrote the song herself. Like her previous works, the message and concept of the song are clear-cut. Her performance and facial expressions in it are also outstanding. It’s fun to listen to the song as the lyrics are honest, and its choices of words are smart. They make adorable rhymes. (Deulssuk – Nanlibubssuk, Nan Naughty – Lalalay, Wing Wing – Win Win, etc.) The inclusion of Korean traditional music into the exotic-sounding Latin music was a brilliant attempt to break the mold. It was groundbreaking and successful.
Baekhyun – Delight (2020)
We could tell Baekhyun was different right from his first solo album, City Lights. He focused on his genre without being light-hearted about it. While SM’s strict production is apparent in the album, he doesn’t lose control and makes it his own.
In the second album, Delight, the artist seemed more confident and laid-back. Baekhyun’s vocals soar through ranges in every track. And his ability to lead the album’s mood from “Candy” to “Love Again” is particularly notable. The ‘Oh’s and ‘yeah’s in the song sound like an expression instead of him showing off. Despite not singing the lyrics syllable by syllable, as it takes on the form of R&B, the song is clean to listen to as the message is fully delivered. Like its name, the album is like a Delight, filled with love as sweet as “Candy.” It is a must-listen, even if you’re not a fan of EXO.
TAEMIN – MOVE (2017)
This is a complete form of a performer who satisfies both the eye and the ear. The album embodies how the public sees Taemin. Never has a studio album been released in K-Pop, with this perfectness in portraying male sensuality. The album doesn’t get any less intense from “MOVE,” the first and the most characteristic song, to the last song, “Flame of Love.” The album leads the mood and flows consistently as Taemin’s voice expresses the songs to the fullest. He portrays sensuousness in “MOVE” and a dry emotion in “Heart Stop.” The desperation in “Love” is intensified in “Thirsty” as he turns into an insane patient. The instrumental is also captivating. Songs like “Crazy 4 U” or “Stone Heart” illustrate the concept that flows throughout the concept only with their sounds.
Taemin has become an even more complete performer through the following album WANT and Never Gonna Dance Again: Act. 1, and Act. 2, which were released last year. Though we wonder what more he could bring to the table, it’s truly fascinating to see him improve with each album.
Taeyeon – Purpose (2019)
Taeyeon’s second studio album, Purpose, is a lot more collected and deep than her first. It solely focuses on her. The listening experience of the album is smooth, and it gets you immersed rather quickly.
The artist’s vocal style in “Love You Like Crazy” is not only powerful but dominates the fierce melodies and sounds. We have no choice but to be captivated by “Wine” and “Do You Live Me?” in which she freely switches in between falsettos. “Better Babe” reminds us of her abundant expressions of emotions in “Time Lapse,” and the sorrowful falsetto after the bridge is the best part of the song. We can see the delicacy in Taeyeon’s voice and how well she interprets the songs in “City Love” and “Gravity.” The prior is a sweet love song with a retro atmosphere, and the latter is a track that feels autobiographical as she seems to thank fans in it. It’s a great achievement that every song demonstrates a solid presence of her voice. Her characteristic as an artist is clear in the album regardless of only singing the songs.
Editor Yoon: I love music, especially K-POP, and I dream of becoming an A&R person, lyricist, artist, etc. I will cover various articles, including song reviews, artist reviews, and K-pop market analysis.