Indicative of its name, Woosung’s first full-length album, Genre, captures a wide range of emotions in a cohesive style. While each track has its own unique features, they fit together as part of a bigger holistic story, one that showcases a satisfying and diverse taste into Woosung’s potential as an artist and songwriter going forward.

While the music production and mixing are fairly consistent from start to finish, several of the tracks flirt with other sounds and provide variety. The songs “Lazy,” “Hangover,” “Oh,” and “CWS” are vibey and laidback, while “Dimples” and “No Strings Attached” are exciting and alluring. The last song on the album, “island,” is a melancholic self-reflection that asks listeners “what is fun and what is love?”  In addition to two MVs, the album features a brainwave visualizer for each song that acts as “artistic interpretations of Woosung’s EEG brainwaves.”

“Lazy” featuring Reddy was pre-released along with “Dimples” before the full album release. Chill and easy to listen to, just like its name, it evokes the feeling of yearning to clock out of the rat race, gtf home, and chill alone (or with friends!) A relaxed backbeat, persistent, syncopated synth motif, and sustained block chords lend themselves well to Woosung’s sleek vocals. It remains chill and lazy, but only until the extended outro. Here the song reaches a fever pitch with the lyrics “you haters make me rise, I’ll save my gratitude, go, fuck you fuck you.”

There is something empowering here about being comfortable about being lazy and learning to take things at a slower pace, while juxtaposing one’s desire to hop back in and get back to work doing something you love. This struggle between sloth and sweat persists through the MV as well.

The beginning of the MV shows Woosung death scrolling social media in his pajamas in a messy home, cuddling his dog Woolfy, and dancing like no one is watching. Eventually, he changes into a comfy hoodie and makes an appearance in a dance studio before the setting abruptly changes to him in a sweater, then in a suit with slicked-back hair and jewelry. The end is a star-studded cameo performance complete with choreography, backup dancers, and a hype squad. Among the faces are JRE from JREKML and Benji (formerly of B.I.G.).

The MV and song complement each other effectively, mirroring the rise to the musical climax through the evolution of Woosung’s clothes and environment. However, the overall sound remains subdued thanks to the sustained chords and free-flowing synth melody that tie the whole track together. The contrast between these sounds and imagery helps contextualize the rest of the album as well.

The most closely related songs to “Lazy” sonically are “Hangover,” “Oh” featuring Ashley from Ladies’ Code, and “CWS” featuring BM from KARD.

The first song on the tracklist, “Hangover,” is an upbeat, addictive electro-pop song that reflects on late-night drunken shenanigans and the consequential remnants of memories. The lyrics that stick out throughout the song are “I hope you’re drunk as fuck” and “my heart flows without a filter.” In a recent Twitch stream, Woosung explained the motivation behind the lyrics as “There are certain memories when you’re drunk that you want to remember (which are good memories), and there are certain memories that you don’t want to remember and you hope that the other person was drunk as fuck too, so they don’t remember.”

Ironically, the sound of the song is playful and witty despite the subtle, regretful essence of the lyrics. The drum machine is busier and more diverse, and a midi keyboard contributes a persistent ostinato over top that only changes at the transition between the verse and chorus. While it does move fluidly between the background and forefront of the sound, the synth melody remains constant throughout almost the whole song. Addictive and upbeat, “Hangover” is fun, even if it does sound opposite to the sluggish feeling of being hungover (not that I would know…).

The songs “Oh” and “CWS” are both collaborations with Dive Studios pals Ashley of Ladies’ Code and BM of KARD, respectively. Carefree and exhilarating, both embody the feeling of casting off the chains of expectation and driving with the windows down on a bright day.

“Oh”s punctuate the beginning of every section except the pre-chorus and the song muses about how seriously one sometimes takes life. Woosung and Ashley urge listeners to “say goodbye to all our complications now” and not take ourselves so seriously.

In addition to the lively drum track, this song features a vocoder added to the first two choruses. Considering the subject of the song, it almost gives the song a dialogic quality. While the lyrics center around the question “oh why, why, why, did I care so much?” the layered sound of Woosung and the vocoder create the illusion of multiple voices in contemplation. However, the vocoder only emphasizes keywords in the lyrics. Here, Woosung urges listeners to come along with him while he figures out how to take life less seriously.

In contrast, “CWS” draws upon BM and Woosung’s shared Los Angeles home for inspiration. Describing the California west side as “a different type of vibe,” the sound of the song is just as chic and smooth as the high feeling, devoid of worries, they describe in the lyrics. The track that accompanies the vocals is understated and groovy with the instrumentals staying consistent underneath the vocals for the majority of the song, rather than any one section overpowering the other.

The album does include a couple of bouncier, dance-pop tracks in “Dimples” and “No Strings Attached.” “Dimples” is another song pre-released that features an MV. However, while “Lazy” was empowering and down to earth, “Dimples” is an ethereal and fantastical story.

Dressed in splendid clothes, Woosung yearns for a dimpled lover that he can not seem to escape the grasp of. The cinematography is obscured and trippy with frames rapidly distorting and morphing. Lost and confused, Woosung seems to be losing control of his senses and self-control while the images become increasingly chaotic as the MV progresses. The last shots see him underwater, literally drowning, with the girl now at the wheel of a car he may never escape from. While the scenes seem a bit whacky at first, the metaphorical parallels are evident.

The music has a funky, retro-like quality that really leans into old synthesizer patches and busy, low pitched electronic drums. The reverb placed on the drum tracks is remarkably wet, making the sounds bleed into each other and last well beyond their initial impact. Coupled with Woosung’s alluring vocals, his own harmonies, and the synthesizer, “Dimples” makes for a remarkable track, both for the songwriting and overall production finesse.

“No Strings Attached,” is an exploration of smooth and funky melodies with intimate verses that contrast with bass-driven, exciting choruses. The track underneath the verses is subdued, mainly accompanied by just snare, kick drum, and hand claps. While the pre-chorus builds intensity, the choruses explode with layers of a drum set, auxiliary percussion, synthesizer, and layers of vocal harmonies. The subject is straightforward and simple with an exciting sound to accompany it, while lyrics like “cut it loose” and the witty “you can dance with Johnny Tommy” hammer home the idgaf attitude of the song.

The last track on the album, “island,” is a short, melancholic, less than two-minute gem that was originally teased on Instagram. Accompanied by only an electric guitar, Woosung explores feelings of emptiness. Released in the midst of his hiatus while The Rose underwent a legal battle with their former label, the play on words “I land on ground feeling empty” highlights these feelings.

Sometimes it feels odd to place a sad song at the end of a tracklist, but “island” kicked off Woosung’s solo endeavors while the rest of his members enlisted, he moved back home to LA, sat through legal proceedings against his label for mismanagement, and the pandemic placed the whole world in a state of uncertain doom. Ending off the album with something familiar-sounding while laying bare Woosung’s uncertainties seems fitting and impactful while bringing comfort to fans and listeners.

Genre is Woosung’s first full solo album, first release under his new label, first album after escaping the clutches of his label’s mismanagement, and the start of a new beginning for The Rose. While the sound and instrumentation of each track remains remarkably consistent, each song has little jewels of divergence that begin to show listeners a glimpse at Woosung’s remarkable songwriting and authentic musical potential. His music with The Rose will always be hallowed, but while fans wait for the group to be whole again, Genre is a satisfying and evocative journey of sounds and themes to explore.

(YouTube, Twitch, NME Images via Woolfpack)