It’s been a long wait for a new Sungkyu comeback – almost three years, to be specific. And though we got a taste of his voice on this year’s Relay and OST track Beautiful, his first post-military album felt like it kept getting pushed back. Now in the doldrums of December, Sungkyu has officially returned with a collection of new material. It seems like blasphemy to neglect Nell songwriter Kim Jongwan from the project, as his touch has become so synonymous with Sungkyu’s solo sound. But, Woollim is keeping things in the family with frequent Infinite/Golden Child producer BLSSD.
If I’m being completely honest, I’m Cold isn’t really my kind of song. If it had been released by anyone else, I’d probably dismiss it out of hand. But, Sungkyu has been one of my favorite K-pop performers for as long as I can remember, with a vocal color unlike anyone else in the industry. That appeal buoys I’m Cold, even if the track itself feels a little underwhelming. The instrumental fuses modern r&b sensibilities with a bit of Sungkyu’s rock edge. It’s all wrapped in BLSSD’s crisp, atmospheric style. I love the touches of organ-like synth and strumming guitar. BLSSD’s soundscapes are always interesting, even if they may tend to be more gloomy than I would prefer.
It’s fun to hear Sungkyu tackle a song with more of an r&b flair. His voice is quite versatile, and it goes to interesting places here. Unfortunately, the melody is a little too repetitive and one-note to take full advantage of that skill. He imbues the chorus with more pathos and dynamism than expected, yet I’m Cold feels like it’s constantly spinning its wheels rather than organically growing to a catharsis. This is an issue I’ve had with some of BLSSD’s work in the past, so it’s hardly a surprise. Maybe I’m just unwilling to let go of the past, but this is missing a lot of the warmth and melodicism I’ve always loved about Sungkyu’s music.