No, Sewoon, no! How could you do this to my poor fragile heart? The soloist’s first comeback was going so, so wonderfully—the title track opening on sweet echoing guitar, practically dripping honey, following up with Sewoon’s lovely vocal and an increasingly intricate rhythm—but then, boom. An EDM hook. I feel betrayed. It’s not that “Only U,” Jeong Sewoon’s debut, was completely free of electronic sounds, but they supported the strumming guitar at the center that gave the song its singer-songwriter feel, its Sewoon-ness. “Baby It’s U,” with its gorgeous verses, was this close to reinforcing and expanding upon that concept. But instead, it just had to jump on a trend.
It’s painful because the verses are the perfect setup for an impactful mid-tempo ballad chorus. You’ve got three unique rhythms that overlay each other one by one—first the guitar, then the vocal melody, then the bassy percussion—each contributing to the construction of a pace with massive momentum. The prechorus, with stadium-filling pop sounds, raises expectations for something big. But what follows is the opposite of big. The vocal melody that is eventually introduced to the hook is good, actually, but it doesn’t come soon enough to patch up the momentum leak that is the initial EDM drop. Sewoon could have done a lot better than this.
Luckily, the B-sides on the new album, “Pt. 2: After” (the title of which is a continuation of the debut album’s name, “Pt 1: Ever”) are more effective than the lead song. The album lets Sewoon’s vocals out of the birdcage as “Baby It’s U” would never dare to. The upbeat “Toc, Toc!” and the thoughtful piano ballad “I Love You” are particularly impressive. The true star of this comeback, however, is the magnificent “Close Over.” This song is so good that I even wonder if Starship Entertainment gave Sewoon a little more creative license here, as opposed to with other tracks he’s released. An unhurried mid-tempo which incorporates contrasting acoustic sounds in a way that somehow makes you think of northern European indie rock bands, “Close Over” throws structure to the wind and wanders where it wants. The wintry, soothing result is a moment of concentrated artistry on the album that I wish we were able to see more of from Sewoon.
Other Produce 101-associated acts, such as Wanna One, RAINZ, Chungha, and MXM, have sensed that this trend of washed-out, innocuous EDM is dying, and by their first comeback have all jumped ship before it was too late. Sewoon and JBJ, though, have done the opposite, trading the unique sound of their debuts for bland EDM in their first comeback. I don’t like that pattern, but as I said in my JBJ review, maybe we can’t escape it—maybe it’s obligatory at this point for the P101 folks (and just about everybody else) to go through an EDM phase at some point. Gratifyingly, everyone else seems to be starting to move on, so hopefully Sewoon will follow suit shortly.
BABY IT’S U: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Yikes, am I actually calling a Jeong Sewoon song a flop right now?
Take a look at Jeong Sewoon’s “Baby It’s U” MV below: