ROTATE: Jung Jinwoo Proves He Has Everything
Planetarium Records is really out here proving their artists have more talent in their pinkies than some of the biggest artists out there. After JUNE’s autumnal release a few weeks ago, singer Jung Jinwoo has dropped his first full-length album ROTATE, stacked with 13 tracks that properly demonstrate his vocal color and creative touch.
Instead of one, we got two gorgeously shot music videos, though there’s not a lot of substance to unpack. “She’s got everything” is fully consumed by a duel between two men—the cheater and the side man. The song serves as the soundtrack for the brawl. It has a pleading, soulless tone smeared on top of the R&B electro-pop beat similar to The Weeknd’s earlier work. The music video itself drags on a bit as the physical altercation is a majority of the video. Plus, the footage has been slowed down. And while the main character trudges away from his exhausted opponent, there isn’t a clear resolve with the girl in question. We’re left to decide for ourselves.
The “Color (색)” music video on the other hand is essentially Jinwoo wandering alone in beautiful landscapes. It’s a much-needed complement to the loud track. This one is a three-in-one package, with the sections mushed together that sort of makes sense. The first third of the song is a slow, finger-snapping introduction with a sweet texture before literally exploding into the chorus. Then the middle maintains a chill electronic beat and plays with autotune that hypes up the vibe before mellowing into the aforementioned harmonious vocals. Finally, the song concludes with a distorted cacophonous breakdown that’s reflected in the video’s visual effects. There doesn’t seem to be a clear direction with the song or the video, which isn’t uncommon among edgy underground artists, but we can still appreciate Jinwoo’s vocals.
The rest of ROTATE is a real treat for the ears, though, with a sample of various sounds and nostalgic imagery. “Mon Dieu” opens the album with its romantic piano-based melody that heightens with Jinwoo’s muzzled vocals and then concludes with the dainty piano. “햇님 (Dear Sun)” features the intriguing vocals of SOMA and is produced by PLT member Villain. It’s a personal favorite from the tracklist—the lovestruck duet sharing their infatuation for each other. It’s really amazing the power Jinwoo can exercise with his voice, and yet his falsetto almost sounds like a different voice completely. “One Way” is the funky love song that could easily go mainstream—think early BTS, B.A.P, or B1A4. It’s hard not to smile to this infectious track. “Ride on you” brings back those R&B vibes; when I heard this one, I was immediately reminded of Jeremih or Justin Bieber circa Journals era. “형 (形) (Touch)” is a heavily jazz-inspired instrumental with an old Hollywood feel thanks to the vintage-sounding sample of an English conversation.
The album approaches its second half with “Dock” featuring JUNE, strongly embracing the sexier sound with a tantalizing beat and autotuned falsetto. Both boys attack their verses to the point where you’re body-rolling into the next track, “Games,” featuring 15& Jimin Park’s heavenly voice. This R&B duet exudes a different vibe from the previous duet but still possesses the same passion. The sick guitar solo at the end shows the attention to detail on this album. “문제 (Problems)” ventures into melancholic R&B territory with a simple beat and minimal instrumentals, building into a funky chorus. Featuring fellow underrated artist jeebanoff, this chill track is accentuated with exceptional riffs and soulful ad libs from Jinwoo. The album simmers down with “Tattoo,” another soulful track comprised of stacked harmonies and a prominent electric guitar. We approach the end of the album with “I See.” Jinwoo’s vocals are at the forefront of this heartbreaking acoustic English track. After the various routes this album has taken us, the song helps to round out the album. “위성 (Satelite) (2018)” concludes ROTATE, revisiting vintage samples and autotune. This time, the beat never arrives; even Jinwoo leaves the listener floating on a lonely piano melody and distant violin.
ROTATE is a well-rounded piece of work, but the music videos lack the impact Jinwoo needs to launch his solo career. Like some of the greatest K-Pop albums, however, the real gems are overshadowed by the title tracks. Jung Jinwoo’s artistry is reflected in the album’s arrangement as well as the thought-out collaborations. Planetarium Records demonstrates that quality music will attract the listeners, even against the big competitors. Jinwoo lets his album’s quality speak for himself—a move only made by those confident in their musicality.