“Feeling a little lost from this broken world, I miss the memories with you… We need each other like stars in the night sky, shining so bright. We’ll light up the night.”
Six months after his solo debut, Wonho continues to woo his fans (Wenee) with his intimate lyrics and catchy title tracks. Wonho tends to be well known by fans for his duality presented in his gentle, warm personality and sexy, ripped physique, even back when he was with Monsta X. Likewise, the second and final album of his Love Synonym series, Love Synonym #2: Right for Us is diverse, sexy, and intimate all at the same time.
Wonho himself describes the album as having a message of “Let’s be together” in this album series, which is exemplified through both his imagery and songwriting. The tracks are split mostly into two major groups: sexy and sentimental, with one track falling into the cracks of both categories. “Lose,” “BEST SHOT,” and “Ain’t About You” are upbeat, sensual songs while “WENEED,” and “FLASH” are sentimental and reflective. “Devil” takes on characteristics of both with a mysterious, distorted, and alluring sound and message.
Literally called “Captain Korea” for his fit, muscular physique, it comes as no surprise that Wonho’s title track “Lose” has ignited fans and gained almost 3 million views within a week. In addition to the steampunk-esque visuals, chronically unbuttoned shirts, and camera smolders, the MV depicts themes of destruction, loss, and angst. With Wonho falling off buildings, screaming into the rain, and staring into the barrel of a gun, the MV is a metaphor for toxicity and one’s inner darkness threatening to take control.
The song is a mix of Wonho’s chill, mid-range vocals and satisfying electro-pop, fitting the overwhelming fan service-y clothing and somewhat jarring symbolic imagery. Sonic characteristics and the theme are similar to his previous title track “Open Mind” but lean into darker, more carnal elements associated with desire and one’s inner demons. Interestingly, there is also a steampunk or sci-fi flavor to the imagery as well, suggesting a dissonance between the past and present Wonho: his transformation from Monsta X Wonho to soloist Wonho. He will always be the Wonho Monbebe and Wenee know and love but continues to grow and evolve, carving his own place in the industry as a soloist and showing himself a force to be reckoned with. “Lose” is eye and ear candy in equal spades, setting the stage for an edgy, satisfying album opening.
The other two songs “BEST SHOT” and “Ain’t About You” are the two other upbeat, sexy tracks on the album. “BEST SHOT” is a funk-influenced track while “Ain’t About You” is a spicy collaboration featuring American pop artist Kiiara. “BEST SHOT” is one of my favorite tracks on the album from a musical standpoint. Funky slap bass and repetitive, fun lyrics make the track carefree and teasing rather than exemplifying any in-your-face sensual undertones.
“Ain’t About You” by comparison is a sassy tea-spilling story that posits that one just “needs some time” and it “ain’t about you” (albeit a bit sarcastically). This collab was actually recorded around the same time as his debut album and features only English lyrics. Aside from the obvious influence collaborating with an American pop artist, the sound of the song is more along the lines of a song that would ordinarily hit mainstream radio waves in the US. It is fun, easy to understand, and easy to sing along to.
Splitting the difference between sexy and soft, the track “Devil” is a slow burn, vibey song that reminds me of a darker, more contemplative “Lights On” by H.E.R or more recently “Intro: Devil is in the detail” by Oneus. While Wonho’s track is more of what could be described as bedroom music befitting a quiet night in, the usage of offset vocals from the instrumental and atmospheric, distorted audio samples make both songs sound and feel erotic. With almost whispered lyrics like “Get lost, soaked with ecstasy as if I’m going to stop breathing,” the listener can not help but be lured into this track. While the thematic ties are more similar to the three previous songs, the sound and audio sampling in the song stand out musically.
In true king of duality fashion, it comes as no surprise that the two remaining tracks are not only soft and sentimental, a direct contrast to the rest of the music on the album, but are also co-written by Wonho himself. In fact, Wonho holds not one or two composition credits for this album, but a whopping five out of the eight songs on the tracklist.
Originally performed as part of a livestream concert, “FLASH” describes fans and listeners like a lighthouse that helped to guide Wonho to the present. After all that he has been through from drug abuse allegations, leaving Monsta X, and debuting as a soloist, the lyrics of “When I get lonely and lost, you were the shiny flash” feel emotional and personal, almost like a personal thank you to Wenee who have stuck by his side. Musically, “FLASH” has a thin texture and features acoustic sampling and audio tracks, letting Wonho’s falsetto and delicate piano take the forefront in the audio mix.
The most personal and raw track on the album is “WENEED” and perhaps my favorite. Written as a tribute to fans, “WENEED” is intimate in a way that feels a little too real. The song is all in English to target a wider demographic of fans and features deeply specific lyrics like “feeling a little lost from this broken world,” “I met you, end of summer, seems like it’s been forever,” “We need each other like stars and the night sky” and “when I’m back on the stage and sing this song, will you be there for me again?” Hell, all the lyrics feel intimate in a way that anyone familiar with the last year of his life would relate to.
Cleared of all allegations but left without his group of nearly five years, Wonho is in uncharted territory, held aloft by his blossoming career as a soloist and the support of friends and fans. Surely a force to be reckoned with, one can only imagine how vulnerable it might feel to be embarking on this new solo endeavor in a largely international market. While we can never really know how genuine the lyrics of “WENEED” are, the decision to create a special personal cam clip and the fact that he co-wrote the English lyrics himself speak to a rawness and authenticity that, if not genuine, is highly convincing.
While a rookie by soloist standards, Wonho’s duality, experience, and performance prowess are on full display in Love Synonym #2: Right for Us. Diverse musically and thematically, I am struck by the versatility and authenticity of Wonho as he continues to reinvent himself as an artist. Standout tracks and a supreme lack of fully buttoned-up shirts feed fans’ ears and eyes fully. With the conclusion of this album series, I look forward to seeing where the next step in Wonho’s journey takes him and hope that his compositions continue to make it into his future albums. After all of his time as part of a group, it finally feels like fans are getting to see the full breadth of his versatility and his true artistic identity, one comeback at a time.