After years in the limelight and of his fellow members building sonic worlds of their own, it’s a major feat for Minho to finally release his own album in his own style and flair. While he has released solo music prior to this first EP (including single “Heartbreak” in 2021 (which is included on this album)) Chase puts it all together into one cohesive, vibe-y R&B album that gives Minho a chance to show what he can do, and who he is on his own. 

Given the R&B influences of “Heartbreak,” it’s no surprise that Chase lends itself to the R&B genre entirely. Minho’s low, rich vocals suit the genre perfectly, and the overall slower and more laidback tempo of the album set it apart from other male soloist releases from this year. 

While not the standout track on the album, title track “Chase” sets the R&B tone successfully, albeit in typical fashion. The track is alluring at the start, with a heavy bassline and striking trap beats that cool off with the addition of a continuous, gentle piano loop. Minho’s low vocal tone meshes into the instrumentals neatly, but ultimately gets lost in the sheer force of the trap beats as the song continues.

The track’s strengths lie in its lyrics and vocals, which convey a sense of loneliness after chasing someone that ultimately can’t be reached. These stronger elements come to a head at the very end of “Chase,” when the beat and bass cut out, leaving just Minho’s voice and the piano loop to heighten the song’s message of emptiness. 

“Choice” is another track that feels too generic of a take on a mix of R&B and hip hop to stand out amongst the rest of Chase, but stays cohesive within its sonic realm nevertheless. Minho’s smooth, polished vocals carry the track amidst a trap-based beat that ultimately becomes too simple and repetitive for its own good. The track’s lyrics reflect Minho’s “choice” to make decisions that lead to him achieving his dreams, which makes the chugging instrumentals feel like a mismatch for something that should come off as more uplifting. 

That’s not to say that Chase doesn’t hit its stride. The middle of the album is where it especially finds its rhythmic sweet spot. “Runaway,” “Prove It,” and “Waterfall” are easily the best moments on Chase production-wise, vocally, and rhythmically.

“Runaway,” which features rapper Gemini, has the strongest hip hop influence compared to the rest of the album. It features a multilayered production that’s deceptively simple enough to give Minho plenty of room to show off different facets of his unique rap and singing vocals. Gemini’s rap verses blend into the track seamlessly, while offering a contrast in tone between his and Minho’s vocals to add to the song’s intrigue. The album sticks with that same sense of suaveness and sensuality on “Prove It,” which features an acoustic guitar throughline and groovy horns alongside Minho’s low, atmospheric vocals. Midway through the track, the horns themselves become a vocal character of their own, following Minho in the melody by just a half beat in almost a call and answer format. 

“Waterfall” is another standout, with support from singer Lim Kim and production by Cha Cha Malone. Chase’s airiest selection, “Waterfall” is a vibey yet vocal-forward track through and through. Here, Minho escapes his comfort zone to skilfully show off his higher register, especially as he seamlessly meshes his falsetto in harmony with Lim Kim’s breezy tone.

“Heartbreak,” a pre-release single from 2021, is the expected closer of the album. Despite the inherent issues that often come with adding an older single to a brand new EP, the track defies that odd, fitting into Chase’s dark sensuality like a glove. Like many of the album’s other tracks, “Heartbreak” has a stark yet sexy R&B beat that plays nicely off of the lyrics’ sense of moody bitterness (“You’re just here for the heartbreak”). Minho’s smooth, layered vocals reinforce the catchiness of the track’s melodic chorus, which can best be described as alluring. 

It’s safe to say that Chase lives up to expectations after several years of waiting for an official solo musical project from Minho. Chase is a cohesive and buttoned-up R&B release through and through — practically to a fault at times — but still finds several moments where it excels and shines in unique and unexpected ways. Even though this is technically just his first album release, it’s clear that Minho knows who he is, and likely where he’s going next.  

(YouTube. Images via SM Entertainment.)