Along with the fall, singer-songwriter Jeong Sewoon returns with his fifth mini-album Day. While it is his second EP release of the year, the balladeer has been keeping busy with multiple OST releases for dramas such as Touch Your Heart and Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency. With his stunning vocals and versatility, it is no wonder that he is rising this quickly in the Korean music industry. Much like what we have come to expect from Sewoon, Day is a mixed bag of musical styles that work together to highlight his multifaceted artistry, while staying tonally true to the melancholic vibes of the season. There is a certain maturity that Sewoon displays here that he did not do with his previous releases. It is as if he connects more deeply with the stories he sings about, and this shows in his mastery of the emotional arc of each track.
Title track “When It Rains” and “When You Call My Name” are the representative ballads of the mini-album, and they add a certain bittersweetness to Day‘s listening experience. “When It Rains” speaks about regret, plain and simple, and its opening instrumentals certainly embody that simplicity. The piano-heavy song is mixed in a way that adds to the atmosphere and ambiance of the track, but it does take quite a while for the instrumentation to build up. As a result, its first verse feels slow, which is unfortunate considering how the rest of the song moves in a pleasantly surprising direction. The chorus, in particular, makes uses of a lovely chromatic chord progression to add more depth and emotion to the track. The high notes Sewoon sprinkles in also balances nicely with the lower beginning, and they effectively create a climax for the whole piece.
“When It Rains” conveys an inability to move on, with heartbreaking memories of the past remaining fresh in the mind of the protagonist even as he tries his best to go on living normally. While “When You Call My Name” bears some resemblance lyrically, the song is more comforting than depressing. There remains hope at the end of the day for a reunion, that everything will return back to normal as long as the other party reaches out once again.
Even if I walk on a path without you
Feels like you’ll be there at the end
All the paths I walked on without you
I’m trying to go back
Melodically, that hope is evident as well. Sewoon’s bright and clear voice, coupled with the soothing way he kicks off the song makes for such a lovely listening experience. Instead of digging deep as he did with “When It Rains”, he keeps it relatively lighter here, and this affords a much-appreciated emotional balance between these ballads.
In line with the more melancholic tone of the album, “Lie Lie Lie” is a mid-tempo track which stands out the most musically. It begins strikingly with a rhythmic guitar riff that grounds the entire song. Its 3/4 beat drives the pace of the song, with even its lyrics sounding like they are broken off in triplets. While the reverb on Sewoon’s voice is overdone here, his lilting tone fits this instrumental very well. In some instances, it sounds as if he is being pulled by the song rather than him being in control of it, but all this works together to create a somewhat haunting yet fairy-tale-like piece. There is a twinge of darkness embedded in its melody, creating a sense of unease — a world apart from the comfort of “When You Call My Name”.
The genius of the song comes in how closely aligned its lyrics are with its melody. Although the protagonist keeps telling himself that he is happy and that everything is alright, at the end of the day these are all just a pack of lies. The carefully selected rhythm of the song, which feels overwhelmingly precise at times, shows how these lies have become somewhat hypnotic, and exemplify how the protagonist is relying on this delusion as a survival mechanism. And yet, that unease never disappears because he has no true contentment.
In much the same way that “Lie Lie Lie” began, “Day & Day” begins with an electric guitar riff, and with Sewoon singing almost monotonously while the chords change in the background. This is an interesting trend: where “Lie Lie Lie” uses this to signal how helpless the protagonist of the song is, “Day & Day” does this to highlight the chic-ness of its protagonist. He is a guy in love and extremely curious about his partner, but still intends to maintain a cool demeanor.
The bass guitar takes the limelight in this delicious jazzy song, but once again, the instrumentals take a while to be fleshed out. The initial dullness of the melodic verse really enables the subtle changes in chords to pop out, bringing into focus elements of songs that are often underrated. It can be a disorienting listen, however, because the transition from the initial verse to the chorus and the rest of the song is so drastic musically. If one heard the beginning of the song and skipped to its middle, it would sound like two completely different songs. This approach is unique, but more musical continuity would definitely allow this track to make more sense.
Sewoon’s vocal range and musical versatility have always been his strengths, and he definitely proves it with the track “Love in Fall”. By far the most energetic song of the album, it carries a bit of a The Chainsmokers especially in its choruses, but there is a mix of Sewoon’s ballad side as well. The change in pace and mood between the various sections of the song keep it fresh, and it effectively captures both the sentimentality of fall while also highlighting the exhilaration of falling in love.
All in all, while the album does not tell as cohesive a story apart from that of romantic love, it is an extremely enjoyable collection of diverse tracks that sufficiently display Sewoon’s talents. While he does not have a conventionally ballad-like rich voice, his voice is extremely malleable and works well with several different styles of music. The somewhat experimental nature of this album is a valuable venture for him, even as he continues to craft his distinct identity as a singer.
(Youtube, Images via Starship Entertainment)