How does one describe love through music? Is it in the lyrics, soft sentimental tone of one’s voice, or the lilting, mesmerizing melodies that speak to a listener’s heart? With heart-melting lyrics and a honeyed voice, Jung Seung Hwan’s EP Five Words Left Unsaid explores what it feels like to fall in, and out of, love.
Accompanied by summer skies and lonely sunsets, he describes a feeling of new beginnings as seasons change and people grow, and the album is similarly soft, contemplative, and hopeful. While some of the tracks such as “If You are With Me” explore feelings of falling out of love and hopelessly floating, it still feels optimistic, like he is pondering a better time. The music in all the tracks is made up of soft string patches, prominent piano lines, and acoustic guitar. With this softer and lighter musical texture, Seung Hwan’s smooth and emotive vocals are given space to take the forefront.
One of the most profound features of this album is the depth of emotion that Seung Hwan conveys with each song—no flashy photography, CGI, or eye-catching fashion necessary. While these contextual and effective elements can certainly enrich MVs, concepts, and performances, Five Words Left Unsaid is simply beautiful in a way that needs only the sincerity and musicianship of the performers, composers, and producers to touch the listener. While each track generally outlines feelings of love, loss, hope, and/or longing, there does seem to be a rough timeline for the album as a whole.
“We, From The First” documents a lover just realizing that at some point they have fallen in love with a friend. The song is bright and thoughtful but with a sad undertone. It reminds me of a prequel to the song “Lucky” by Jason Mraz that expresses the joyful of falling in love with your best friend, someone you share all your time, interests, and similarities with. However, unlike the beachy, joyous Mraz song, Seung Hwan watches his lover pass each moment unaware of his feelings as he hesitates to admit his feelings outright. The MV exemplifies this using cutaway shots of Seung Hwan staring listlessly at his love interest, blurring out the background to represent the world stopping as he wishes about what could be, slowly coming to terms with the depth of his feelings.
Throughout the video, Seung Hwan, his crush, and another friend spend their days riding bikes and enjoying the summer sun, seemingly devoid of worry. Each progressive scene builds like a love story, finally ending with the other friend leaving only Seung Hwan and his crush alone before walking her home, never confessing at all. Interestingly, the cinematography ends back where it started: on a sunny day with Seung Hwan riding his bike, seemingly to only repeat the same thing over again without moving forward on his feelings.
“Thinking of You” is an ode to an unrequited love, while “If You are With Me” explores what life could be like if they were liberated by their “lonely dream” and given a chance at love. Both sound like the hopelessness of falling out of love or the realization of a romance that may never be. Explaining that his heart is “far away” and describing the feeling like a melancholic dream, both songs are bittersweet yet soft. It sounds like lying awake under the stars dreaming of what love might have felt like with their lover beside them. They both could be compared to lovesick arias that award listeners a glimpse at characters’ inner feelings.
Composed by IU, “Love Letter” is a story of growing old with a significant other, reminiscing on their love stories and how they might have met. “The Spring Day Passes” is like seeing the darkness of a tunnel after exiting from the other side. A metaphor for a happier time, the lyrics ask “are you doing well without me?” as he watches each season melt into the next, without his lover by his side.
IU herself explains that the lyrics of the song are like a letter left behind by one half of an old couple, reflecting on first meeting and their ensuing adventures together throughout their lives. Within the lyrics there are death-like references and messages of farewell that express how grateful they are to have grown old together, and the song sounds acoustically the same.
Seung Hwan’s voice is accompanied by only a lone guitar for majority of the song, and the vocals are relatively restrained. As the song reaches a climax, there are some light strings and piano chords, but overall, the timbre is light and balladic. One of my favorite features of the song is the whistling bridge. It gives the sound of the song a fun and playful quality, like a joke made to lighten the mood amidst serious conversation.
While they could be entirely love stories altogether, one could envision “The Spring Day Passes” like the epilogue of a grand, sweeping love story. Warm sentimentality and a wealth of memories remain, despite the loneliness that the protagonist is experiencing. Ironically it is the first song in the track list and sounds relatively light. Rather than just a sad song, the song sounds like a lover that has come to terms with their current reality. As their lover leaves and a new beginning looms, Seung Hwan is content to live his life with the pleasant memories of his significant other, whether lived or profoundly hoped.
Ultimately Five Words Left Unsaid sounds healing and cathartic, allowing listeners to experience a range of relatable emotions, both joyful and quite gloomy. The instrumentals do Seung Hwan justice, allowing his voice and evocative storytelling to take center stage, touching hearts and souls with his superb musicality and sentimentality.