It seems that 2020 has become a year of solo debuts and comebacks for the Produce 101 boys, and it’s finally Cho Seungyoun’s turn. As some new fans may not be aware, the “All-rounder” idol has gone through multiple stage name changes throughout his career. From Cho Seungyoun as a member of UNIQ, to rapper Luizy, and then as Woodz — following a change in his musical focus.

After much contemplation over his identity and preferred sound, he announced that he would continue promoting as Woodz. This time, however, he aims to venture away from his niche of alternative R&B to a combination of styles that appeal to a wider audience.

The rising singer songwriter recently released his first mini album appropriately named Equal on 29th June. In this album, he blends his alter egos equally to create music that represents the current stage of his career.

Echoing the themes of duality, the comeback concept focuses on a two-sided representation: Earth, the softer more emotional side of him, and Cosmic (as he calls the darker representation), the sexier and more charismatic edge to his personality. The two combine to create a balance of who he is and his musical expression.

The title track “Love Me Harder,” also known as “파랗게,” is a love song revolving around his Bluish love affair. The choice of the colour blue, as explained, sets this indescribable love affair apart from the ordinary conventional red type of love. In a dreamlike state of deep blue love, the lyric boasts their extraordinary love and craves for more.

Musically, “Love Me Harder” mixes pop rock’s catchy bass line and funk pop’s groove while showing off Woodz’s high register and distinctive tone.
With flowing arrangements it gradually builds and consistently unfolds its layers, keeping the track far from falling flat.

It all kicks off with a whistle of the melody and a prominent bass guitar that carry throughout the track. The tune simultaneously introduces an edgy character—assumed to be Cosmic–donning an all black leather outfit and a rebellious red mullet. In contrast, Woodz’s, or Earth’s, naive persona is stressed in lighter toned styling and lack of an aggressive red mullet.

Earth is visibly arguing with his Blue lover in the car when Cosmic approaches. As soon she leaves, he jumps on the car and refuses to get off in an attempt to provoke Earth. As Earth gets out of the car to confront him, he is transported to what seems like a parallel universe.

Day turns into night and it quickly becomes clear that Earth is standing in the middle of a crime scene surrounded by yellow tape. The MV fluently uses the breakdowns and bridges of the track to effectively transport the audience in and out of reality. The plot follows Earth trying to catch his darker counterpart, floating in and out of reality in search for answers.

Implied by the styling and the Joker-like demeanour, we are lead to a preconceived impression of Cosmic, a villain provoking Earth for pure entertainment. However, the longer the chase goes on, the clearer things begin to get. After seemingly refusing to accept his reality, Earth eventually is faced with the truth Cosmic has been trying to show him.

With the flick of Cosmic’s lighter, everything becomes clear to Earth and the audience, reiterating the intended message of the mini album: the alter egos he created are all different sides of him trying to work together. The MV transports the audience back full circle to the beginning. This time, to the sad realisation that Earth was betrayed by his Blue love. The series of events are recollections of how he was killed, played out to him by Cosmic.

K-pop MVs have predominantly leaned towards stylised sets, symbolic props, and minimalist aesthetics. But, every now and again, a movie-like plot comes along and it is a welcome refresher. Both plot and track of “Love Me Harder” maintain the overarching theme alongside a love interest, whilst seamlessly complimenting each other.

The MV is fuelled by the flow of the track in its transitions, from the pulsing bass of the verses to the restrained build up of the bridges and the bolster of the chorus. Viewing the MV is almost as though we are watching a short film with its own soundtrack.

“Love Me Harder” is definitely a venture away from Woodz’s previous releases, which in itself is a testament to his versatility and potential as an artist. Yes, neither the plot nor the track is ground-breaking or original in any way. Nevertheless, “Love Me Harder” is a solid track that can hold its own even without the help of the MV.

With the Produce X 101 exposure and Woodz’s past experience in the industry, his comeback proves to be very promising. He takes non-formulaic comeback approaches to reflect his unique musical flair amidst extremely over exhausted trends. As K-pop begins to give more attention to soloists, we can expect that Woodz will bring his A-game.

(YouTube[l][2]. Images via Yuehue Entertainment.)