A week after his prerelease single “Star,” one of the best ballads we’ve seen out of K-pop in months, HIGHLIGHT’s main vocal Yang Yoseop is back with his second mini-album, “White.” If this album isn’t the ideal collection of chill winter tracks, I don’t know what is. Title track “Where I Am Gone” levels at the most energetic end of the chill spectrum, meaning that it can function either as a jam or as a lullaby with equal deftness. The other songs on “White” range from mid- to low-tempo, bringing out the same sweet, subdued colors from Yoseob’s voice that we saw in “Star.” He never really lets loose the big belt that we’ve heard from him in HIGHLIGHT songs, but somehow, “White” feels all the more coherent for it. This album is about sweetness, not power, and Yoseob delivers as few others could.
This comeback has brought me to the conclusion that more than anything, I’m just a sucker for Yoseob’s voice (it’s so clean! His tone is so pure—so impeccable!) but even if, by some unfathomable motive, you aren’t, the vocals certainly aren’t the only special thing about this album. What we’re looking at in “White” is a collection of tracks that belong together, each with just a touch of stylistic and compositional distinctiveness: none of them are weird or different enough to stick out from the others, but each is capable of standing alone. “Where I Am Gone” couldn’t be called a standout, as its straddling of uptempo and downtempo stretches the hook just a smidge too far, rendering the beat of the chorus the slightest bit stiff. Still, it’s absolutely one of my favorites: the melody is delicately diaphanous, the rhythm grooves occasionally, and the vocal layering is to die for. The prechorus especially, with its staggered vocal melodies and simmering piano, makes it clear that this isn’t any old R&B K-pop track.
The other songs on “White” carry echoes of “Star” and “Where I Am Gone” in varying degrees, to the extent that you’d probably be able to pick which tracks belong on the album out of a random K-pop playlist even if you’d never heard of Yoseob. Piano ballad “Up” feels like a gentler follow-up to “Star,” with slightly remade compositional flavors—a little more lightness, a little more brightness. “It’s U” employs the same gossamer composition and shuffling percussion that what we hear in “Where I Am Gone,” but with its slower pace, it’s able to construct a tidelike rhythm that pulls in and out, marking its beat with more vitality.
But the loveliest B-side we hear on “White” is the spectacular “Today.” Trying to think of a way to describe this song leads me only to white, fluffy images—fresh snowbanks, cotton clouds, marshmallows. It’s smooth and sweet as custard, with lithe vocals and a trace of beachiness for those hungry for summer. Interestingly, the album rounds out with a solo version of HIGHLIGHT’s song “Start.” I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a member do a solo cover of their own group’s song, but it fits in just fine with the album’s relaxed tone. That commitment to mood is what makes “White” so engaging. It’s the perfect soundtrack for February, and a vocal showcase to be treasured.
WHERE I AM GONE: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Bop, as expected.
Take a look at Yoseob’s “Where I Am Gone” MV below: