Kwon Hyunbin Rebrands as VIINI
The final member of the sextet of JBJ has officially debuted! Fans of the project group have been waiting patiently for the last member to make his appearance, and on August 19 Kwon Hyunbin officially returned to the K-Pop scene with mini-album DIMENSION and a new stage name, VIINI. As far as the title “Genie” is concerned, well, you can definitely tell what agency he’s currently working with.
The Title: “Genie”
Going into this release, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Hyunbin, considering his role as the rapper of JBJ. If he were to continue down that route, I would have expected a heavily hip-hop influenced track, though there was always the possibility that he’d go in an entirely different direction. And while not a complete 180 from his original position, he certainly went somewhere I hadn’t anticipated. While the beat and melody is definitely hip-hop influenced, Hyunbin spends most of the song singing rather than rapping. It comes as a surprise, especially considering he hasn’t released anything vocal-driven before. He also spends a lot of time in his higher register, contrary to his normally deep voice. That being said, I wouldn’t classify it as bad by any means—it’s just surprising. Based on the beat, it’s easy to tell that this is a production of YG Entertainment, with a similar sound to many YG solo artists and a clear alignment with their usual musical influences.
The video follows this formula as well, with just enough weird to fit a YG directed video, without going overboard. There is a lot of focus on Hyunbin’s visuals, with him often dressed in an extremely low V-neck in both black and white. The story arc of the video revolves around a relationship between him and an unnamed woman, with different romantic imagery. In certain shots he is also surrounded by a sextet of female dancers, who perform complementing choreography. It’s not surprising that Hyunbin is not involved in these choreographies, considering dance has never been his main focus.
With four tracks in total, DIMENSION offers a new perspective on Hyunbin. The album kicks off with “Bittersweet,” a modern reggae pop track that has a catchy beat, but is quite reminiscent of “Genie.” “Bad” has a bit more of its own flavor, with a much more hip-hop heavy beat that offers more of Hyunbin’s rapping compared to the first track. Finally, DIMENSION finishes out “Affection,” which has a darker tone and goes down the same route as “Bad.”
Overall, the tracks sound very similar and allow for less of a need of vocal skill to round out the song in comparison to other genres such as ballads or traditional pop songs. With the predictable reggae and hip-hop influenced beats, it’s easy to add a little bit of autotune to Hyunbin’s voice and call it a day.
In general, I’m not sure how to feel about “Genie” or the entire album as a whole. It’s not bad, and this new shift in his sound is somewhat jarring considering where he came from. I’m a little put off by the obvious YG influences, but that’s just a personal bias. Of all the members of JBJ, Hyunbin may have the hardest time with gaining attention and crafting a successful solo career, mostly because there is still some bias around his participation in Produce 101 Season 2 and his skills in the area of music. Still, I do hope to see him grow and mature into a strong solo artist going forward.