Boy, this comeback was a wild ride. First of all, Wooyoung having a Korean comeback? Wooyoung, from 2PM, JYP’s Wooyoung? Since 2012, the idol’s solo career has been confined to Japan—until “When We Part,” his first Korean album in five years. The comeback was teased with a music video for the Korean version of one of his Japanese songs, “Going Going,” and when the music video for title track “Don’t Cry” dropped with the album, it was accompanied by a music video for another Korean remake of a Japanese song, “Party Shots.” As of today, the music video tally is at four, with the release of a performance video for “Don’t Act,” a new B-side.
And yet, for all the resources JYP has put into hyping Wooyoung’s return, it hasn’t gotten much attention—partly, at least, a result of his absence from the Korean music scene as a solo artist for such a long time. Your friendly neighborhood KAYBOP editor is here to tell you to stop sleeping on him. “When We Part” rings with a certain casual sincerity, as if Wooyoung is freely expressing himself to his listeners without manufacturing or streamlining the communication, and the result is so refreshing. While the album obviously had plenty of hard work poured into it, the music itself feels like a letting go. This sense of naturalness is the opposite of the elaborate and systematized image usually presented by K-pop.
Title track “Don’t Cry” is straight acoustic pop, and it could not be purer. It strums and whistles its way right into your heart, with a wonderful melodic hook that sticks after hearing it only once or twice, so that by the final chorus you’re whistling along. Wooyoung’s vocals can go big, but this track’s understated style suits them even better, drawing out a sweetness that you don’t always hear from his voice.
While “Don’t Cry” is a little piece of heaven, the crown jewel of this comeback is the elusive “Don’t Act,” an alternative R&B take on the tropical trend. I would have loved to see “Don’t Act” as the title track, but I guess Wooyoung or JYP may want to avoid joining the growing ranks of veteran K-pop idols who are claiming a chunk of K-R&B for their solo careers, or perhaps to stay away from groupmate Jun. K’s habitual realm of solo operation. “Don’t Cry” is more stylistically distinctive, but “Don’t Act” has an edge to it that’s derived from a handful of fascinating sonic details, such as the bubbly texture of the beat or sudden, exhilarating changes in the distance and depth of the vocals, sometimes mid-phrase.
In other songs on “When We Part,” Wooyoung just chats with his listener. The album is largely a vehicle for Wooyoung to simply talk about his life. The bombastic “Hey” opens with a voice asking, “Are you an idol?” and “How old are you?” in an exaggeratedly judgmental tone, while the laid-back “I Like” closes with a repetition of “I like you guys. I like 2PM.” The whole thing is somehow a relief from the hyper-polished, choreographed, and outfitted products we usually get from K-pop. It’s simpler, but that’s its power, and you can’t help but feel your heart be warmed. I hope the release of the special clip for “Don’t Act” brings some bigger numbers Wooyoung’s way, because this comeback needs to be heard.
DON’T CRY: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Oh-so boppy.
Take a look at Wooyoung’s “Don’t Cry” MV below: