“Colorful” and “Trauma” aren’t two words that automatically go together. In fact, they more or less suggest completely opposite connotations. “Colorful” alludes to an upbeat brightness, while “trauma” suggests a gloomy darkness.
But like the unexpected combination of the words “colorful” and “trauma” on Woodz‘s latest EP, Colorful Trauma, the singer has repeatedly done the same — mix contrasting moods and genres together — throughout his discography, including since his first EP Equal. Although this is only the soloist’s fourth mini album, Colorful Trauma feels like the culmination of Woodz’s (real name Cho Seungyoun) particular knack for transforming his sound, persona, and preferred genres into something completely new and unexpected, especially within the realm of K-pop.
While the album art suggests inspiration from early 2000s pop-rock artists like Avril Lavigne, who Woodz notes as inspiration for the title track “I hate you,” Colorful Trauma isn’t limited to just one genre or musical time period as a source of reference. Rather, the EP’s individual tracks are tied together through the exploration of trauma, or rather an exploration of experiences and memories with their own unique colors, as Woodz noted in a recent interview with Dazed. The album as a whole is also “colorful” in the sense that it not only has its bright moments, but in that it also explores a lively palette of rock influences throughout each of its songs without sticking firmly to one over another. Hence, not every song adheres to the strict early aughts, emo-pop-punk sound of “I hate you,” but also delves into variations of rock and pop throughout.
While the album’s nuance in terms of exploring the rock and pop genres is apparent throughout each of its five songs, the first track, “Dirt on my leather,” is one of the first examples of how easily and masterfully Woodz can tackle any particular genre and make it his own. Compared to the title track, “I hate you,” which nails the current emo-punk renaissance to a tee, “Dirt on my leather” takes clear inspiration from a different era of rock — the ‘80s. The chameleon-like quality of Woodz’s powerful vocals is at its best on this track, as he adapts his voice to match the track’s hardcore rock instrumentals, including heavy electric guitar riffs and intense, booming drums. Woodz sings the entire track in English and almost wholly at the higher end of his vocal register, sprinkling in his signature, robust vocal ad-libs throughout to enhance its overall nostalgic, throwback feel.
“HIJACK,” the next track on the album, serves as the perfect segue between “Dirt on my leather” and “I hate you.” It’s not necessarily exactly in between the two tracks in terms of the era of inspiration, but it incorporates elements from the genres featured in both — pop-punk and heavy rock — to create something new enough so that the track stands out as different amongst the others but still fits firmly within the EP as a whole.
At the beginning of the “HIJACK,” Woodz chants
You wanted a new symbol?
Are you tired of same old?
Let’s go, let them know
What is good, I got ya, bingo
in a hushed tone that is also reminiscent of parts of his rap in “BUCK,” from his first mini album, Equal. Although much of the rest of “HIJACK” hinges on heavy rocky elements, with a fierce electric guitar that sounds like a continuation of that in “Dirt on my leather,” the rap callback to “BUCK” brings a sense of familiarity to the song. In addition, the rap also suggests an unexpected mix of genres that further adds to Colorful Trauma’s diverse and colorful musical palette.
That brings the album to “I hate you,” which is really the base that every other track on Colorful Trauma connects back to, as well as the album’s turning point. Its heavy pop-punk influences are incorporated not only in the instrumentals in “HIJACK” but in the fourth track, “Better and better,” too. The lyrics of “I hate you” also have a playful angst to them, much like those in “Dirt on my leather,” thanks to the track’s upbeat guitar and drum and Woodz’s bright vocals:
I can live well without you
Oh, doing everything I want to do
You’ll be fine without me (Ayy)
I know like you
I don’t need your love.
The pop and rock genres trickle into the final two tracks, “Better and better” and “Hope to be like you,” although in completely opposite ways compared to the first two tracks. As the middle ground in mood between the first two and final two tracks, “I hate you” is a turning point of sorts within Colorful Trauma — its playfulness leads to a softening of sound and lyrics in the remaining tracks on the EP.
Like “HIJACK” and most other Woodz tracks, “Better and better” is a unique blend of genres. The track leans toward alternative rock in its melody and instrumentals, but the emotion and sincerity in Woodz’s vocals give it the feel of a sentimental pop ballad backed by an optimistic beat. Woodz again sings in his higher register, albeit this time with heartfelt words for Moodz, his fans, expressing that their support and love make him “better and better.”
“Hope to be like you” slows things down even further, and boils down much of the rock elements prevalent at the beginning of the album and especially in “I hate you” to their simplest to make the track’s hopeful aura loud and clear. Atmospheric synths and soft harmonies are layered over a rosy rock guitar as Woodz’s vocals get sweeter and more melancholic with each lyric. As the track closes out with a rock guitar synth solo, the album also closes on a nostalgic and bittersweet tune that encompasses the mixed emotions and genres of Colorful Trauma as a whole.
Colorful Trauma is another gold star example of Woodz beating himself at his own game. The more he releases, the more molds he breaks, and the more he blurs the lines between what was once thought to be possible within the confines of genre. Over the course of just five songs, the soloist assures that his ability to take current and past trends, as well as popular sounds, and make them entirely his own isn’t just a one-off stunt. In Colorful Trauma, Woodz isn’t just a genre chameleon (and a colorful one at that), but a powerful musician with the ability to bend, mix, and construct new categories and standards of music.