During a well-recieved run on 'Immortal Song 2' earlier this year, INFINITE's leader and main vocal Sunggyu showed us that he may just have what it takes to go solo. With solo artists ruling the charts right now, it makes sense that INFINITE would test the waters of solo activities, and who better to start things off than their leader?
Sunggyu originally joined Woolim Entertainment because he loved their indie-rock band Nell and wanted to be in a group like theirs, so it's no suprise that he tries his hand at fronting a rock band in his lead single, "60 Seconds". While the song isn't at all bad, it also isn't at all innovative. The instrumentation and arrangement is very generic and lacks the tailored sound you want to hear in a solo single. While Sunggyu's interesting voice lends a special quality to the song, his vocals shouldn't have to do all the work here.
Unfortunately, "I Need You" swings too far in the opposite direction. While it's pretty, it's so understated that it stifles much of what makes Sunggyu's vocals distinctive, making the song feel like a filler. Around three minutes in, he finally has a few distinctive-sounding notes, but at that point it's too little too late. Both "60 Seconds" and "I Need You" are enjoyable listens, but neither gives us an idea of who Sunggyu is as a soloist, which is a problem when they're the first two solo songs we hear from him- a problem that could make Sunggyu's debut forgettable.
Smack-dab in the middle of the album is Sunggyu's acoustic cover of INFINITE's "Only Tears". He's performed an impressive solo rendition of this song in concert before, so it's not entirely a suprise that the song popped up on this album, and I'm sure lots of Inspirits are happy to have an official recording of Sunggyu's version of this song (which I personally prefer to the original). While it's definitely a better song for Sunggyu than the previous two, I had hoped that the first really good song on the album would be new material instead of a re-recording of an INFINITE song.
"Shine", written, arranged, and produced by Kim Jongwan of Nell, is a step in the right direction. This 90's soft-rock style is something no one else is doing in K-Pop right now, and suits Sunggyu pretty well. However, it's the final track on the album, "41 Days", where I feel Sunggyu really hits his stride, covering all of the points the other songs on this album miss.
Style-wise, "41 Days" falls somewhere between SISTAR's sad-disco of "Alone" and miss A's sinister-disco of "Touch" (genre titles courtesy of TheProphetBlog's review of "Alone"), but with an ethereal, atmostpheric quality to it that puts a new spin on K-Pop's nigh inescapable disco influences. The vocals sound distinctively like Sunggyu and work with the song to create something interesting (unlike "60 Seconds", where his vocals struggle to make something interesting in spite of the song). It's worth noting that this is the only song Sunggyu had a hand in writing- could the missing ingredient in the rest of this album be Sunggyu's participation in creating his own material?
It takes half of the album for Sunggyu to finally find his identity as a soloist, but when he does, it works beautifully. If he wants to be able to stand on his own as a legitimate solo artist rather than being a member of INFINITE who sometimes does solo projects, he and his team are going to have to get a firmer grasp on what makes him unique and create music around it, instead of trying to force his uniqueness into material that doesn't do him justice.
Score note: (didn't score "another me" since it's just an intro)