I don’t know about you guys, but my Valentine’s Day last week was pretty depressing. Apart from a few moments of happiness derived from eating pink cupcakes given to me by my best friend, it was just another day full of trying to navigate annoying amounts of excessive PDA in the school hallways and eyeing fuzzy red teddy bears holding ‘I Love You’ pillows with a mixture of envy and disgust. Until I got home, that is, and found that K.Will had released his third mini-album, I Need You, along with a music video for the title track starring Bora from SISTAR.

If any of you Seoulbeaters are unfamiliar with K.Will, he’s a famous ballad singer, composer, dancer, actor, and vocal trainer. And let me tell you–this guy is no joke! During his trainee period, which lasted for five years, K.Will spent a lot of time performing wherever he could and through that, forged some useful friendships with popular stars today, such as 8Eight and SG Wannabe. He was discovered by Park Jin-Young (JYP) when helping Bi (Rain) produce his second album. Impressed, JYP wrote and composed K.Will’s title track, “Left Heart” for his debut album in 2007. This launched the beginning of his successful career; soon K.Will was flooded with requests to record songs for drama OSTs (including Shining Inheritance/Brilliant Legacy). His vocal training skills were sought after as well–even my favorite pretty boy actor Lee Min-ho asked K.Will to help him improve his voice for the Boys Over Flowers soundtrack.

So what’s the big deal about this guy? Frankly, many K-pop fans I know don’t really care about K-pop ballads. Sure, they’re pleasant to listen to, but with the many more visually appealing aspects of K-pop out there, most fans simply overlook ballads. It’s not uncommon–I had no idea a group like Davichi even existed until about three months ago, much to my chagrin. And sure, I’ve cried buckets of tears watching the ever-present ‘boy chases bus with his one true love on it paired with a sad song’ scene in various dramas, but I don’t spend time looking those sad songs up. They’ve always just been there in the background, but never truly catching my attention.

But then I found this.

I’m still not a fan of Mariah Carey, but I definitely became a fan of K.Will’s voice after seeing that video. He has not only a rich and versatile voice, but also the ability to control it well. Intrigued, I looked up some of his older songs, such as “Love 119” and “My Heart is Beating” (both of which I highly recommend). Only then did I truly realize how much I’ve missed in K-pop by ignoring ballad artists for such a long time.

And trust me, if you’ve never really paid attention to K-pop ballads like me, you might change your mind after watching this music video.

The song itself is wonderful. It has solid vocal quality, even with the relatively challenging range for the singer (although K.Will does not show that it’s challenging in any way — he’s knocking out those high notes like it’s no big deal). It’s a little more upbeat than the single he released prior to this one, “I Hate Myself,” but not overly so. “I Need You” captures the feeling of love perfectly — how life just seems to be full of this one person and just how important their presence is. And did anyone else absolutely adore the chalkboard scene with the teenagers? I pretty much fell out of my chair with cuteness overload, but that may also be the effect of my recent conversion to a Yeo Jin-gu fangirl (thanks to his depiction of Lee Hwon‘s teenage years in The Moon That Embraces the Sun).

As for the other tracks on K.Will’s mini-album, they’re all equally strong in terms of musicality and vocal quality. The first song, “Calling You,” is a soft, sweet number with some seriously impressive falsettos (I now see why he’s regarded as one of the best vocal trainers in K-pop). “I Hate You” sounded more instrumental to me–I could easily pick out the piano melody in the background. K.Will sounded melancholy and completely relaxed during this song, even though the notes he hit during the chorus were not easy ones. But then I got to track number five, “I’m Will,” one that sounded a little jazzy and more than a little autotuned. I definitely have mixed feelings about how the song threw me off. Also, I would argue that K.Will didn’t sound as comfortable doing this type of music as he does doing heartfelt ballads. I would’ve liked to see this track left off the mini-album, even though it does try to show that K.Will can sing more than one genre. It just doesn’t match up to the rest of the songs on I Need You. Overall though, the mini-album was one of the better ones I’ve heard.

Listening to the songs on I Need You took some of the single-girl-whose-future-husband-is-currently-in-South-Korea depression away for me on Valentine’s Day. I’m so glad that I discovered my appreciation for K-pop ballads–otherwise, my day would’ve been spent crying over pictures of INFINITE‘s Myung-soo (oh wait…). In all seriousness though, I Need You is one of the most relaxing compilations of K.Will’s songs I’ve ever heard, and that in itself is memorable.

What about you guys? Do you dig K-pop ballads or are you more of a fast dance number girl?

(Big Hit Entertainemnt, SBS, Starship Entertainment)