With ten years of experience in the K-pop scene, from auditioning for Fantagio’s project “i-Teen” back in 2012, to K-pop Star 3, Sixteen, and eventually Produce 48 where she was able to become Iz*One’s powerful main dancer, Lee Chaeyeon has returned to the spotlight with her debut EP Hush Rush.
After a year and a half since Iz*One’s disbandment, Chaeyeon is the fourth ex-member to officially go solo, with former bandmates Kwon Eunbi, Jo Yuri, and Choi Yena debuting earlier. However, Chaeyeon subverts expectations by opting for a calm and laid-back pop sound rather than something flashy or powerful. All of the numbers on the record are great for kicking back and relaxing with pleasant retro vibes throughout, but using a vampire for the album’s central theme is a bit puzzling and appears quite mismatched.
In lead single “Hush Rush,” Chaeyeon plays the role of a young vampire who is eager to explore the world after sleeping for so long.
Interestingly, instead of being nightmarish or terrifying, Chaeyeon pulls off a Y2K-inspired style and depicts the mythical creature in a softer, more endearing way. Furthermore, the lyrics convey the joy of the singer debuting and of longtime fans who have been waiting:
Standing in the light that spreads (I love it, I love it, I love it, I love it)
Hush rush on the stage
My blooming heart (I love it, I love it, I love it, I love it)
Hush rush on the stage
The faster my heart flutters
So that it never stops callin’ me (Rush on the stage)
Fall into it, it’s farther away (I love it, I love it, I love it)
Hush rush on the stage
Just as vampire Chaeyeon feels free roaming outside, idol Chaeyeon also feels free dancing on stage. It’s a lovely message, but a sense of lost potential remains prominent while listening to the song. While the idea provides a fun twist on the usual creepy vampire aesthetic and is appropriately timed with Halloween just around the corner, “Hush Rush” does not have enough quirks and energy to thoroughly express its unique concept and feels underwhelming as the representative track of the album.
That’s not to say that the number is completely lusterless. There are actually some peculiar elements in the production like the funky bass, the zany, repeating “dones” throughout the chorus, and the rich harmonies in the refrain that help create a strange, alluring charm. But, rather than building on these eccentricities, the song draws out its languid groove and ends without going anywhere. The lack of a catchy hook and memorable section despite its repetitive nature makes for a weak first impression to listeners. Its mellowness also does not provide a considerable foundation for Chaeyeon to showcase her charismatic dancing, one of her greatest strengths, or her singing capabilities. “Hush Rush” seems ill-suited for its vampire theme and would likely be more fitting as a cute and bouncy summer release.
Though, looking on the bright side, the B-sides on the album are stronger. They allow Chaeyeon to show more of her musical color while still retaining the casual and relaxed ambience from the lead single.
The dreamy vibes and 1980s retro flair of “Danny” make this synth-pop track a particular standout. With various hooks and a compelling melody, the song is both bright and sentimental. Even though the tune is fairly simplistic, Chaeyeon’s unique vocals are a real highlight and help to elevate the production with a sweet and captivating spirit.
“Aquamarine” continues the nostalgia with an addicting bass line that immediately sets the mood and Chaeyeon’s delicate, yet powerful vocal tone that expresses a more mature air. Similar to “Hush Rush,” the lyrics for this light pop tune use freedom as its subject. This time, instead of setting off for the human world, Chaeyeon ventures to the ocean and sings about swimming freely in “Aquamarine”:
But I can’t believe, it’s like a dream somehow
A small island I’ve never seen in the middle of the sea
I can’t breathe blue aquamarine
Move my closed heart and makе it flutter
It’s cool and soothing like a gentle wave, but with enough liveliness to be a perfect mood lifter that’s filled with several colorful sentiments. This, along with “Danny,” give off nice indie pop vibes that are easy to listen to.
Last on the track listing is disco synth-pop number “Same But Different.” Like the previous songs, it’s soft and calming, utilizing a groovy instrumental and dynamic vocal arrangement that is especially mesmerizing during the chorus. The brief silence right before the second verse is also an enjoyable, satisfying touch. However, its short length that barely goes over two minutes is very dissatisfying. With the absence of a bridge, the tune ends abruptly, and since it is the final track on the record, it also ends the album on a somewhat irksome note.
Nevertheless, the EP as a whole is still a delightful journey. While the combination of the vampire concept and laid-back sound remains confusing, Hush Rush is a charming debut for the former Iz*One member. Though she may not make a strong first impression with the lead single, Chaeyeon is overflowing with potential and has what it takes to be an absolute star. It will definitely be interesting to see if she continues as a vampire or decides to show something completely different for her next release.