With three members currently inactive from BtoB due to mandatory military service, rapper Peniel has taken an opportunity to carve out his own solo career with a late summer release. Coming just two months after his last venture with “B.O.D,” the track “FLY23” carries the same youthful charisma we have come to expect from the energetic rap star, but unfortunately fails to produce any musical growth for the most part.

Sonically, “FLY23” is a trap beat confession of love with a splash of tropical house that is in line with Winner’s spring hit, “Everyday.” As can be noted from his previous single, Peniel likes to keep his releases trendy and upbeat, whether that is in the genre of hip-hop or pop-rap. So as not to stray from this routine, “FLY23” makes adequate use of rhythmic drums and high pitched snares that semi-compliment the added sounds of synth chords and claps. Although the track certainly goes all out to create a dance anthem fully packed with an EDM inspired chorus, it ultimately doesn’t hit the mark due to its washed-out and bland production, not to mention its lazy songwriting.

One aspect of “FLY23” that is able to hit the mark is the accompanying MV that takes Peniel through a waterpark VR experience. The video is a great example of how to get creative with a limited budget that still results in a fun and enjoyable experience for the viewer. The choreography is by far the best part of the MV, as the dance is able to convey the energetic tone of the song. Coupled with swaggery outfits, Peniel is slick with each body move, but is not afraid to show himself having fun while killing the dance choreography. “FLY23” might even sound more appealing if heard along with the MV, which could make up for the dull moments in its production, particularly in the verses that dull out Peniel’s rapping, making his delivery sound blander than it should be.

Although Peniel’s rapping is hindered by the instrumentation, the MV aids in showcasing his charmful persona through his sweet mannerisms. As Peniel confesses his affection to his crush, they playfully frolic around the water rides that bring out his cute smile and facial quirks with momentary close-ups. These loving moments are then humorously cut to Peniel in his room with full VR gear on as he aimlessly flails his arms around in his bedroom. Scenes like these within the MV contribute to the song’s appeal. However, if a song cannot evoke the same energy in delight and satisfaction without the MV, is it really that good to begin with?

In addition, without the visual, there is a greater focus on the lyrics, which are by far the song’s weakest mark. Lyrically, the conventions of the song follow Peniel as he confesses his feelings falling for a lucky somebody in the audience as he performs on stage. Although “FLY23” reads like the ultimate fantasy for any fan hoping their relationship with their favs turns romantic, it sure does not ring nice to the ears. The lyrics disappoint mainly due to their basic structure that can come off as quite corny with a tinge of cringe.

But girl I ain’t worried
Trust me when it’s us two
I feel like I be flexing (Yo!)

I see that everybody look at us
Like we went viral
But girl I don’t really care
I’m not your average idol

I don’t do sides
I swear you ain’t no concubine
You’d be my main if you say you’re mine

The above are just some of the song’s lyrics that come off as cringe-worthy, as opposed to the real intention of being sweet and loving. Normally, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue had Peniel recorded his song in Korean. However, “FLY23” is delivered in full English, which might put off many listeners who do not find the lyrical content appealing, just disappointing.

Despite “FLY23” falling below expectations, it is clear that Peniel is enjoying his own solo spotlight thus far. He doesn’t try to mask his vibrant personality within overblown projections of what others may want him to become. Peniel stays true to his persona as a rapper and a representative of his group BtoB. I just hope that, going forward, he can create songs that fully match his potential as a solo star.

(YouTube, Images via Cube Entertainment)