Possibly the most influential R&B songstress in Korea at the moment is back with her fourth mini album, “Wish & Wind.” The double-title track comeback pushes even harder on the last album’s rainy-day R&B sound, flirting with acoustic and jazz sounds at a strictly chill tempo. One expects from Heize, who writes all of her own music, a certain level of quality, and it’s a quality that she never fails to deliver. Still, within that realm of quality—where every song on the album can, without reservations, be called a solid song—some tracks are inevitably underwhelming when placed alongside the spectacular accomplishments that represent the height of Heize’s abilities. That disparity between good and great is what I’m feeling when I consider “Didn’t Know Me” in juxtaposition with “jenga.” While the former is rather expected, “jenga” is a stroke of pure creative ingenuity, and is easily the highlight of this comeback.
“jenga” is one of those songs that demands a little patience at first. Heize’s compositional tastes have always leaned on the myriad powers of dissonance to some level, but this is heavy even for her. Take the piano opening—so many notes are purposefully clashing that I could barely detect the melody itself upon first listen. For people who find this amount of disharmony distracting rather than intriguing, it might be a turn off. But the chorus is more than rewarding. When the melody is drawn out of that recurring piano bit by Heize’s voice, well, it’s a dazzling moment. That melody is so unexpected, yet you’ve already heard it right at the beginning of the song (disguised as it was by layers of dissonance), so in a way, it’s already familiar. This melody, paired with the instrumental’s insistent rhythm, where every beat is emphasized by the driving piano, makes for something that feels completely original. I truly don’t think I’ve ever heard anything like it in my life. Just as essential to the song’s success as Heize’s composition or vocals is Gaeko’s verse, which adds texture to the song without ever disrupting its style. Everything about “jenga” is stunning.
“Didn’t Know Me,” if you listen to it right after “jenga,” feels—I have to say it—a little limp. Much of it, especially the main hook, is comparatively predictable. And there’s none of the driving rhythm or melodic ingenuity we hear from “jenga.” It’s unfair, though, to expect this track to measure up to “jenga,” because its goals are different. “Didn’t Know Me” earns the KAYBOP stamp of approval not for the majority of its structure, but for the movingly dynamic arrangement of the bridge and final chorus: Heize guides us through a highly constructive rhythm change and into an ambient moment of stillness where the chords from previous repetitions of the chorus have been exchanged for others, transforming the melody into something less complacent and more expectant. From there Heize is able to deliver a hard-hitting final hook that easily tops any of the plodding moodiness before it.
The rest of “Wish & Wind” (the Korean name of the album is actually one word that encompasses both of those meanings) is, put simply, a triumph. I’ve made it clear that “Didn’t Know Me” is a fine song, but I’ll also say that I do prefer every single other track on “Wish & Wind” to “Didn’t Know Me.” The diaphanous “But, Are You?” could have easily replaced “Didn’t Know Me” while conveying the same mood intended by the latter. If you’re a fan of anything at all that Heize has ever composed, don’t skip the piano interlude, “Wind,” which serves as a flourishing witness to the songwriter’s style. It’s no wonder Heize topped charts with this comeback, because everything about this release deserves to hit big.
JENGA AND DIDN’T KNOW ME: KAYBOPS OR KAYFLOPS? “jenga” isn’t A bop, it’s THE bop. “Didn’t Know Me” is, well, any old bop.
Take a look at Heize’s “jenga (feat. Gaeko)” and “Didn’t Know Me” MVs below: