Like his career, there’s certainly nothing cookie cutter about Woodz’s discography.
Also known as Cho Seung-youn, Woodz first got his start with the currently inactive but still-existing Korean-Chinese group Uniq. Since then, he’s produced and written numerous tracks for other artists, debuted as a soloist under the original moniker of “Luizy,” and had a short stint as a singer and rapper of the now-disbanded Produce X 101 group X1.
Struggles and at-first short-lived successes aside, since his official debut as “Woodz” just a little under three years ago with the mini album Equal, Cho Seung-youn has quickly made a name for himself as a remarkable, versatile all-rounder amongst other K-pop soloists and within the industry as a whole. With three mini albums, a single album, and another mini album on the way, Woodz has proven that he can do it all — and more.
And audiences and his fans, Moodz, have taken notice. This year, Woodz swept our Seoulbeats March Madness 2022 competition, a testament to his ever growing starpower and talent. To celebrate Woodz’s win and discography that knows no limits when it comes to genre, let’s take a look at some of his best, most genre-transcending b-sides that have propelled him to the dynamic, all-rounder status he’s known for today.
Considering Woodz’s start in Uniq as the group’s main rapper — plus his appearance on the fifth season of rap competition show Show Me the Money — it’s no surprise that his original musical stylings leaned hip-hop when he first debuted as a soloist under the stage name Luizy in 2016.
To bridge the gap between his “Luizy” persona and Woodz, he kept some of those influences present in his first mini album, Equal, especially with b-sides “Lift Up” and “Buck.” While “Lift Up” falls more along the lines of R&B-meets-hip hop-meets-rock and centers more around Woodz’s powerful, wide vocal range, “Buck” is a particular standout from Equal as the sole, true hip hop track on the album.
But that’s not to say that the track, which also features rapper Punchnello, is your standard, run-of-the-mill hip hop song. Right off the bat, “Buck” begins with a woman in a muffled, old-timey voice asking: “What’s the matter with you? Money isn’t everything.” Immediately, it’s easy to tell that Woodz is bringing something different to the table practically before the music even begins. The track then launches into a distinct, heavy trap beat, with Woodz rapping the lines “Life is short and life’s a race/Whip whip/Your time is tick tack.”
As the track progresses, Woodz switches seamlessly back and forth between different flows, speeds, volumes, and styles of rapping as the instrumentals and rhythms change in tandem with his voice. Punchnello’s distinct vocals and flow add interesting color midway through the track, but it’s Woodz and his rapping chops that remain the star of the show throughout. It’s the kind of track that keeps you on your toes, but in the absolute best possible way.
On the other hand, while Woodz may not necessarily be known as a balladist, there’s something to be said about his slower, more laid-back b-sides. His second mini album Woops! is far more stripped down and softer overall in comparison to Equal, with tracks like the all-English “Sweater” featuring his friend and solo artist Jamie, “Thanks to,” a heartfelt tribute to Moodz, and “Tide,” an honest acoustic ballad that reflects on feelings of loneliness. But it’s “On My Own,” another acoustic-based, albeit this time more uplifting-sounding number that takes the cake amongst Woodz’s soft and slow songs on Woops!
“On My Own” is an upbeat acoustic number that mixes light rock and pop elements to at times almost mask that this is technically a breakup track, as Woodz proclaims:
Now I’m on my own, I’m gonna go my own way
Don’t tell me I’ve changed
You are always like you, me like you
I have to change, now I’m on my own
The airy backing vocals give the track an atmospheric feel before Woodz’s main vocals transition from soft to stark as the pre-chorus builds to a subtle anti-drop at the chorus. As he sings the chorus, his vocals become even softer, practically to a whisper of a falsetto, than they ever were before — another crafty example of Woodz’s ability to traverse genre and singing styles within the span of a single song.
There’s also “Memories,” from Equal, a slow ballad in the more true sense with a profound kind of sincerity that could only signify that Woodz is the real deal. “Memories” is even more stripped down than anything on all of Woops!, as Woodz’s delicate vocals are backed mostly by only a faint piano, guitar, and soft rock drum. Later in the song, his versatile but still gentle vocals serve as a backing instrumental of sorts to a tender electric guitar solo, which continues until the track fades into nothingness, all to leave a lasting impact.
But Woodz’s quest to tackle every genre of music and category of song doesn’t just stop there. Since the release of Equal, he’s also created a signature kind of grungey, rock- and Western-inspired sound across his albums that still transcends and bends the definitions of genre, no matter the kinds of musical stylings he chooses to incorporate into a single song.
“Accident,” an atmospheric rock-meets-R&B track, is a prime example of this. Shrill, almost string-like sound effects heighten the rock elements of the song while the beat and rhythm give it its R&B, slow jam feel. Woodz’s powerhouse vocals are again front and center, and ultimately bring the house down when he hits the high notes at the tail end of the bridge and in the ad libs that follow.
Another prime example is “Touché,” featuring Moon Sujin, from the single album SET, which unexpectedly but seamlessly combines R&B influences and Latin instrumental stylings together.
Aside from Woodz’s chameleon-like qualities when it comes to genre, there’s also nothing like a straightforward pop-rock track from him — another genre he gets right on the nose every time.
“Kiss of Fire”, but especially “Chaser,” from his most recent EP Only Lovers Left, are perhaps his best in this department, even if they’re on the more straightforward side compared to the rest of his discography. While “Chaser” is a clear-cut rock track, it also has a tinge of retro ’80s-inspired pop elements that give it that edge that practically every Woodz track possesses. The best part of the track is easily Woodz’s vocals, which are at his most emotional, powerful, and vulnerable especially during the final chorus, when he relinquishes any restraint to allow them to fully take off and reach their full potential.
In short, it’s difficult to compare Woodz and his b-sides, and really his entire discography, to any other artist, because there’s truly no one doing as he does. With his vocal range and skill, songwriting and producing chops, performing power, and overall commanding stage presence, which oozes through each and every one of his tracks, Woodz holds the keys to take genre — and K-pop — to places they’ve never been before.