A number of fans were heartbroken (but probably not shocked) when Minzy left 2NE1 and YG Entertainment once her contract expired. Out of all the members of 2NE1, she was the only one who didn’t get a solo. Blackjacks couldn’t figure out why that was. She didn’t appear to lack in singing or dancing, so why didn’t her former agency give her the same shot her other members had? It was possibly the most frustrating mystery that fans couldn’t solve.

As sad as it was to see one of K-pop’s most popular girl groups fizzle out, fans were still excited by news that Minzy would finally release a solo album. This was the silver lining Blackjacks needed. Even non-fans seemed intrigued by the news. What kind of music could we expect? Ballads? Pop? R&B?

Almost surprisingly, we got all of those genres in her debut album Minzy Work 01. “Uno” or just, Uno. This move is usually risky for singers because there’s no telling how fans will receive it. They could love the boldness of the initiative, or they could hate the inconsistency of the concept. Usually, I dislike this approach for the latter reason, but it actually works for a debut.

Uno comes off like a sampler showcase of what Minzy can do. She can get the party going with the island vibes in “ING” and “Ninano”, the title song. Now, “ING” did sound a little like a continuation of 2NE1’s “Falling in Love”. It also didn’t help that the lyrics centered on the similar theme of handling a crush.

On the other hand, “Ninano” was something of a dance battle war cry. The lyrics reaffirm this sound as Minzy challenges potential opponents to show off their dance skills at the club. My favorite part about this song was the intense rhythm of the violins. It reminded me of a classical pop fusion group named Bond. Flowsik‘s rap gelled nicely with the beat, and it was cool of him to record both a Korean and English rap. Neither version prevailed over the other, which I liked for the simple reason that one shouldn’t sense a different vibe just because the language changed.

I’d love nothing more than to see a live performance of “Flashlight” featuring Jay Park. Their vocals matched quite well, making for a sensual tune about love at first sight. Minzy sounds really great singing in a mid-range, employing her lower tone when it suited the melody. It’s very relaxed and gives off the impression of light flirting in a club.

Unfortunately, “Superwoman” disappointed me for its basic melody and the weak attempt at a girl power anthem. I’m all for songs that promote loving oneself, but this came off like a song for arm deodorant, not lyrically speaking. It felt uninspired, even if you related the context to Minzy’s struggles after leaving 2NE1. I’m sure she felt insecure about going solo, and this song touches on that sentiment. Compared to the rest of the album, though, it was the weakest song. It just doesn’t stand out well.

“Beautiful Lie” is my favorite song because there’s something pained in Minzy’s voice, yet it’s quite lovely to hear. I don’t know how much of a personal connection she has to the lyrics, but it meant something deep for her to sing it the way she did. It wasn’t perfect or pretty, speaking to the lyrics of the song itself. It’s one of those cry-yourself-to-sleep-post-breakup tunes.

Uno is a good start for Minzy. It shows a bit of her range and versatility, and it’s not too heavy-handed in the production. Since it’s her first solo album, I think it was a decent introduction of things to come. I definitely want her to gain the confidence to go harder in the next one. I’m not talking about an album of only dance tracks; I want her to delve deeper into personal subjects. She’s on her own now, so I’d like it if she shared more of herself in her work, be it through composition or production. Minzy spent years unable to express her voice fully. She deserves this overdue moment in the spotlight where she truly belongs.

Album rating: 3.5/5

(YouTube [1][2], Images via Music Works)