Earlier this year, Eric Nam combined his love of K-pop and interview skills with the successful English podcast, K-pop Daebak. As he ventures into English entertainment, he also finally released an all-English album that he hopes all of his fans, regardless of nationality, can enjoy. Before We Begin is a versatile and cohesive album about desperation, heartbreak, and moving on.
Eric has previously released all-English songs before like the Timbaland-produced track “Body,” and his collaboration with Gallant and Tablo on “Cave Me In.” Eric has commented on the lack of Asian-American representation in the Western music industry and is hoping to be someone to help fill that void. The title of his album, Before We Begin, points at a start for Eric as he steps into a competitive music industry. Although almost every song has a romantic factor, he tackles different parts of relationships from the beginning, end, and the aftermath. Eric’s always had a knack for writing or singing songs about love, which he continues with songs like “Congratulations,” “No Shame,” and “Runaway.”
Eric dropped an MV for his lead single, “Congratulations,” a song about celebrating the end of a relationship. The song and MV feature Marc E. Bassy who is an American singer from California. While it is the end of the relationship there is a reason to celebrate because the persona of the song is finally free from the toxicity of the relationship. The lyrics are unique, the vocals are smooth, and the upbeat take on a breakup gives it a fresh outlook:
You’re finally leaving
Let’s throw a party here tonight
And toast to the end of you and I
Similarly, the lyrics to both “No Shame” and “Runaway” are about bitterness in a relationship. They were first released in Korean. Eric has commented in interviews before that he typically writes or receives songs in English. When translating the song, he can end up creating a completely different theme. For “No Shame,” the persona of the song is lamenting about a relationship he wanted something more out of and wishing he could be as cold-hearted as the other is. The song’s upbeat tempo with tropical beats gives it a lively feel despite having a negative theme. For “Runaway,” the persona is telling a significant other not to bother to come back if they leave. For long-time fans, these are a different story and side from Eric. They were both already hit with fans and likely why he decided to release them in their original form.
Eric’s lyrics can be sassy and cold but that does not mean he does not show his vulnerable side, as he does with “Love Die Young” and “Wonder.” “Love Die Young” was a pre-release to the album which, as he stated in interviews, is a song that came from feeling burnt out. He amazingly turned those emotions into a song about not letting a love or passion end. He keeps a melancholy tune to his vocals set against R&B beat in this ballad:
What happens when it’s over
When we’ve breathed our last breath
And we’ve loved each other to death
Can you tell me what happens?
“Love Die Young” is a personal song to Eric but “Wonder” takes the lyrics to a similarly dark place. The lyrics of the song point to having a partner that suffers from depression and addiction. The song’s persona is pensive and imagines a different scenario for two people where they could have been happier. Eric once again carries a sorrowful feel in his vocals as he softly sings against a piano-based melody. On top of memorable tunes, it is Eric’s lyrics that stand out in most of his songs on this album. Both “Love Die Young” and “Wonder” share a sadder side regarding relationships with loved ones.
Eric is not completely sour about love on as there is also “Come Through” and “How’m I Doing?” The first song on the album, “Come Through,” is an optimistic pop song about waiting for his future significant other. Like his other mid-tempo songs, it has an incredibly catchy tune and chorus. The more positive outlook helps round out the album to give it a different outlook on love.
“How’m I Doing,” on the other hand, is about someone already in a relationship who wants to make sure they are giving as much as they take. While in other songs, the lyrics point the finger at someone else, the persona of this song is reflective and looking to change for a healthier relationship. It is refreshing to see a song about trying to save a relationship without tackling it from an angry point of view.
“You’re Sexy I’m Sexy” is in a category of its own because it is about pure attraction. Eric is known as the “Mr. Nice Guy” but he’s not afraid to show different sides of his personality in this album. The lyrics are honest and raw bluntly letting someone know that he is only interested in their physical attraction. With its upbeat pop melody, it will surely be a favorite for his fans.
Eric put together an album with great musical versatility and poetic lyrics that speak about love, depression, anger, and heartbreak. It is a great follow up to his last album, Honestly, and gives us a taste of what kind of music he is looking to pursue with his American audience. There is no doubt that Eric Nam is talented but whether or not this album can push him into the American music industry is still up for debate. On top of good music, there is the need to sell yourself an audience. Eric will likely struggle with an American audience as he strips away the label of “K-pop idol” and attempts to replace it with “American entertainer.”
(Youtube  . Billboard. Lyrics via Genius. Images via Stone Entertainment.)