Jung Ilhoon Debuts on a Big Wave
Perhaps you’ve only heard of him on sparse occurrences. Perhaps you don’t know him at all. Or perhaps, you do know him—and have been following him and his group for months, years, even. But no matter who you are, chances are you didn’t expect BTOB’s main rapper, Jung Ilhoon, to suddenly launch his solo career by releasing his first mini-album, Big Wave, on March 8.
Yeah. We were surprised, too.
However, the fact that Big Wave is a wholesome, insightfully crafted piece of music is not as much of a surprise—if anything, it is proof of Ilhoon’s rapping and songwriting genius, displayed through the five-song tracklist. Much different from BTOB’s music, the album tackles various topics while also gathering everything under a consistent and powerful coming of age theme.
Raw Groove of “She’s Gone”
Big Wave’s title track, “She’s Gone,” is possibly the best display of the teenage-influenced rawness of the mini-album. Without Ilhoon’s delivery, one might think “She’s Gone” is a typical rock song: heavy guitars, powerful drums, prominent bass line, and a lot of noise. It’s already great, though it also sounds like the kind of stuff you’d hear your older brother jam out to in the garage one summer evening—but that’s until Ilhoon comes in with his flow and changes the game for the better. The result is a song full of confidence, bleeding through the dirty instrumentals and Ilhoon’s low-pitched, rhythmic delivery. That confidence is also found in the lyrics, speaking of a bad breakup but still clearly displaying Ilhoon’s detachment and assertiveness.
The Music Video
If you enjoyed the intensity and the rebellious sound of “She’s Gone,” you’ll definitely love the music video. The fast-moving shots, the dark shadows and low saturation, the quick close-ups; all of these things only enhance the song’s angry carelessness. We don’t see Ilhoon dancing, but that’s alright—it is not exactly a song you can dance to, anyway, and the live performance of the song is proof of that. We do see dancers in the music video, though, and it doesn’t take away from the otherwise reckless atmosphere of it. Overall, the music video of “She’s Gone” is an incredible complement to the song itself and fits well with the overall teenage theme of the album.
Waiting for the Big Wave
“She’s Gone” is far from being the best song on the mini-album, though, even if it ranks pretty high. The eponymous song probably holds the first place, catching our attention from the very first second. The opening distorted guitars of “Big Wave” are enough to draw us in to the mellow, entrancing journey the song provides. The beat is slow, steady, and the guitars carry most of the melody. In “Big Wave,” Ilhoon shares some of his anxieties—fear of the future, fear of failure—while reiterating his passion for his craft and a desire to keep going. Balanced together, we get a mix of bittersweet feelings, showcased best in the English lyrics of the chorus: “I just wanna follow, wallow, wallow, // Man, I’m floatin’ alone, alone, alone // There’s no one who follow, wallow, wallow // It feels like I’m sober, when it gets over.”
Other highlights include a remastered version of “Fancy Shoes,” previously released in the summer of 2017 through BTOB’s solo project Piece of BTOB. The remaining two songs are both collaborations: “Come Closer,” featuring fellow BTOB member and vocalist Hyunsik, and “Always,” featuring Jinho of BTOB’s junior group PENTAGON. While “Come Closer” has a nice groove and Hyunsik’s vocals add a nice, smooth touch to it, “Always” particularly stands out because of its lyrics. Switching between first-person and third-person points of view, it very much retells Ilhoon’s story, more specifically his career’s impact on his relationship with his mother. “Always” is an emotionally charged song, but not one that makes us sad—rather, it leaves us with a slightly melancholic, yet sweet feeling, despite the story of separation the song carries.