The next generation of idol stars is officially here. The big three companies in K-pop have debuted their most promising trainees and now have to figure out how to make them into the successors of their biggest moneymakers. This week, it’s YG Entertainment’s turn to throw their hat into the ring with solo releases by lead rappers from their rookie boy groups — iKon’s Bobby and Winner’s Mino. Both of these promising young rappers have had successful turns on Show Me The Money (SMTM) and have the potential to be stars, so luckily, they’ve been given a spotlight to show us what they can do, for real. With “Holup”, Bobby’s the first one up to the plate.

The song begins with a clapping, trap beat that’s become a YG staple at this point. It’s a party song, which is YG’s forte, and it commences as such. There’s a chanting chorus and a driving beat that’s reminiscent of “Bang Bang Bang” and Bobby starts in with boastful lyrics in his now-familiar growling style of rapping.

I’m just standing here but cool drips down my body
That overwhelming feeling I give is like a monster truck, y’all are just rented trucks
Conquered the stage, I flew around like a bomber
I can outstrip a lightening bolt
Y’all can’t even be thunder

Sprawled on a messy floor dressed in a surfer boy get-up – orange shorts and an oversized hoodie – Bobby looks like a hungover frat boy in the opening shots of the MV. However, as soon as the song gets going, he’s moving non-stop. He’s a frenetic energizer bunny and the MV continuously ramps up the energy to meet his. Bobby’s not a rap genius, but he keeps up with the beat. “Holup” is noisy and fast but he never seems overwhelmed in the chaos. He’s always one step ahead, in control. He owns the song, as opposed to the song owning him. “Holup” is not a great song, but for his first solo effort outside of SMTM, it’s a good enough calling card. For better or worse, this is Bobby.

20160907_seoulbeats_Bobby_iKONEver since his winning performances on SMTM, Bobby’s gotten the reputation of being all show and not a lot of substance. “Holup” is not going to change anyone’s opinion. At least, it didn’t change mine. This song isn’t about anything; fans will argue it’s doesn’t have to be about anything, but I disagree. He could’ve injected more of himself into the lyrics. Right now, he’s all surface performance and not much else. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think he was fun to watch.

In the future, hopefully he will grow into a more well-rounded artist so that he can inject more substance into his music and connect with his audience on a deeper level. Furthermore, he can drop the faux-dreadlocks and cultural insensitivity. It’s unnecessary and puts a sour taste over the candy-coated pill he’s trying to get us to swallow.

The MV for “Holup” is a mess in the best way possible. Like the accompanying song, it’s barely controlled chaos. It feels like experiencing a frat party while tripping on acid. From the first moments to the end, it never lets up. The editing is quick and unexpected. Brightly colored visual effects are employed at random moments. Bobby seems to be burning like a candle at both ends, passing out in one scene and then waking up and partying again in the next. It’s impossible to be bored while watching this MV. It’s so loud and intrusive and obnoxious and weird. I loved it.

MV Rating: 3.5/5

Moving onto Mino, from the first frame of Mino’s “Body” it’s obvious the two YG rappers couldn’t be more different in image. Mino takes an abrupt turn away from Bobby’s loud turn up anthem, bringing a slinky, dramatic instrumental that has a similar feel to a late ’90s Timbaland track. He’s not the mindless party boy Bobby is; he has his mind set on something else entirely:

I’m talkin’ about your body
Talkin’ about your legs
Talkin’ about your lips
From your head to toe
OH I’m talkin’ about your body
Talkin’ about your everything
But where are you

20160907_seoulbeats_Mino_WinnerIn Winner’s “Baby Baby”, Mino surprised a lot of his fans by having a slightly risque (for K-pop anyway) bed scene. It seems he wants to play up this sexy side of himself and, I have to say, I have no complaints. He pulls off his tortured Romeo image with little effort. There were no moments when I cringed at his over-calculated attempts to be sexy. He’s very natural with his female lead and, boy, it looks like he knows how to kiss. There’s no awkwardness between them, which is so rare for K-pop MVs with love scenes.

Most importantly, he allows the sexiness in the song to speak for itself. In fact, the MV is so dimly lit that his face isn’t even visible for most of it. The female lead felt like she got more screen time because she made that big of an impression. However, that brings me to my biggest criticism of Mino’s solo effort.

As opposed to Bobby, Mino has very little that sets him apart from the crowd. Bobby is bursting with personality, from his crooked smile to his erratic movements. Mino, however, is a blandly attractive guy who famously looks like the lovechild of Big Bang’s Taeyang and G-Dragon. He has familiar features, but none that stand out. The lyrics of “Body” don’t portray any clue to his deeper personality; this song could’ve been performed by any one of the sexy hip-hop performers that are abundant on the K-pop landscape these days. Crush, Dean, even Zico come to mind. Mino doesn’t have a distinct style yet.

I think this was a great effort, though. The song is good. The production is more interesting than a lot of K-pop songs I’ve heard this year. It’s not something I expected to come out of YG this year, that’s for sure. Luckily, Mino seems to have more of a refined musical taste than Bobby and that can make all the difference.

The MV for “Body” is nothing new, but it disguises its cliches well enough. A moody palette of yellows, blues, and reds is utilized, as is the reoccurring image of fire, but that’s to be expected for this kind of dramatic setting. There’s a bare bones plot. Mino pines for a sexy, mysterious woman. Mino broods in various locales including, most memorably, shirtless and wet in the shower. Eventually, the two sexy people hook up. They have some steamy moments in a pool, drive recklessly, and then say goodbye. It’s all pretty standard, but the direction is what sets this MV apart.

20160907_seoulbeats_Mino_winner_01There are a lot of great shots and editing that really correspond well with the song. I especially liked the blurred effects that start to show up near the end, symbolizing the ‘drunk in love’ and out of control feelings Mino has for his lady love. They’re very subtle and not overused, but the blurriness perfectly conveys that out of control feeling you have when you’re in lust.

I especially liked the love scene in the pool, even though scenes like that have been done a million times. The lighting was exquisite. Another favorite set-up was the liquid blue neon lighting in the car scenes. Basically, this MV was really nice to look at.

The director of both MVs, Dream Perfect Regime (DPR), deserves a hand. A few changes in the creative direction and these MVs might’ve felt more safe or more stereotypically K-pop. The director avoided pitfalls and added a lot of unexpected elements. The lighting and editing were also top-notch. Every time I watched, I saw something new and interesting in both MVs.

Overall, both Mino and Bobby have proven that they have a lot to show us in the future. Neither is fully formed or a perfect performer, but there’s potential in both of them. Both have weaknesses that could hamper their journey to superstardom, most notably the constraints their own company may place on them. If YG Entertainment is smart, they’ll give their young artists more freedom to roam and explore and make a name for themselves without the looming shadow of their famous seniors always following them. I think these solos are a good first step for both Mino and Bobby, but it’s definitely not the end of the road.

MV Rating: 4/5

(Youtube [1][2], Images via YG Entertainment, Lyrics via pop!gasa and kpopviral)