Feb 5, 2015

Jung Yong Hwa Explores A New Side In "One Fine Day"

Yong Hwa - One Fine Day

Oh, Yonghwa you brilliant man. Having been CNBlue's main composer for quite a few years now, there's no doubt he's got talent, and now he's been set free to use it only for himself. I don't think that Yonghwa in any way dislikes writing for his band, but I know he has said that when doing so he still has to have the group's sound and image in mind and can't do exactly what he wants. Finally, the big moment has arrived.

Being a CNBlue fan myself, I've always been impressed by Yonghwa's skills as a songwriter but I wasn't quite sure what his own music would sound like. My guesses were not as rocky, not as heavy on the guitar and not as upbeat. In general, he seems like a pretty calm and collected guy, and that's kind of were I saw him going with his music too.

The first full track on the album is the main single as well, titled "One Fine Day". I really wish I could do a review on the video alone because it's simply gorgeous, but I honestly don't have the time right now. Anyhow, the song is quite sad, to put it short, as you can tell by not only the lyrics but by the dramatic string instruments and emotional vocals.

Yong Hwa - One Fine DayI think Yonghwa does a great job conveying the burning, desperate desire to go back to that one day were all was good and peaceful, however, this song sounds way too much like any generic OST for me to actually enjoy it that much. Is it a beautiful song? Yes it is, but I always find it a bit underwhelming when the title tracks are ballads, especially OST-sounding ones.

Next song "Cruel Memories..." features singer Yoon Do Hyun as one of the many collaborations on this album. This song has a rockier feel to it, but it's still quite mellow and slow-paced, matching the melancholic lyrics. I wouldn't go as far as calling it rock ballad, but it has those kind of tendencies if you get my drift. Personally, I enjoy this song because I enjoy rock music and electric guitars and Yonghwa's and Yoon Do Hyun's wonderful harmonies, but it's actually quite anonymous. That doesn't mean that I don't like it because I do, but objectively it does fall a bit short.

The rock ballad mode continues with "Energy", but there's more ballad and less rock in this one. Lyrically it tells the story of a broken man in desperate need of energy, but it's actually less corny than what it sounds like.

But strangely, I have no strength today
Everything seems meaningless
I'm looking for the reason but I don't know, no I don't know

I'm out of energy
I'm breaking down, can't you see?
All the weight of the world is on my shoulders
Pressing me down here
I'm falling, falling, falling

Although the continued use of the phrase "I need your energy" may sound a bit weird for non-native Korean speakers, the actual lyrics are much more thoughtful and also much more depressing. He's singing about lacking motivation in life and feeling all alone all at once, and it speaks to me on a highly personal level. However, the melody and composition of the actual track leaves much to be desired, and I don't think that Verbal Jint's rap part fits in at all, which is a shame.

If we're talking about rap portions incorporated the right way, "Milage" certainly lives up to those standards. This was actually the pre-release track, as it was a hint of what fans could expect from Yong Hwa's solo effort. Again, the video is very well done and Yong Hwa looks better than ever, and I really enjoyed the fact that it was a collaboration and not just a featuring.

The song is laid-back, cool and based almost entirely on acoustic guitars which is a nice change. YDG's extremely relaxed rapping matches the mood of the track perfectly, and I would say that overall it's a well thought-out, polished tune. My only issue, and it's quite a big one, is the lyrics. The fact that they're singing about wanting a reward (spending the night away from their partner), for being decent boyfriends and fathers just boggles my mind. Not cool, guys.

The third (!) video released for a track off of Yonghwa's solo album is for "Checkmate", which is probably my favorite song on the entire album. It's a collaboration with veteran Chinese singer JJ Lin, and I'm especially excited that the song's sung in both Korean and Chinese because it instantly makes the dynamic of the track heaps more interesting. JJ Lin also happens to have one hell of a voice, so that's that.

To be honest, I have a hard time understanding what the song and video are about, but there's definitely a darker feel to them. Lyrics such as "In this world, there are foxes and snakes, spewing red lies and poison, everything's being ruined." makes me think there's some kind of "us against the world" theme, but either way the song's awesome, so I don't care to know the exact details.

Yong Hwa - One Fine Day"Without You" is a song about denial, and listening to the lyrics makes for some serious heartache as you hear Yonghwa sing about how everything's actually better now that he's alone, only to admit the opposite as the song reaches it's finish. I'm sure it's a feeling many can relate to, because all you want to do is convince yourself that the break-up was for the better, but sometimes it still hurts letting go. Musically, this song turns down the tempo a notch and the instrumental is rather simplistic, but Yonghwa's vocals are enough to bring life to this otherwise quite bland track.

Another slower song takes place in "Last Leaf", but unlike the previous one, this one is surprisingly dynamic and that only calls for bonus points. The verses are quiet and careful, but once the chorus hits you the slow build-up is long forgotten and the emotional impact of the few meaningful lines is all that counts. The lyrics are a bit confusing, but still kind of beautiful and I love how subdued yet powerful the vocals are. To conclude the song in three words: a truly pleasant surprise.

Yong Hwa - One Fine DayCheeky and playful are two adjectives I would use to describe "Goodnight Lover", but although it's cute and romantic in it's own way, there's not much happening in this track. Another acoustically based song, this one is rather forgettable and not at all as instantly catching as "Milage" for example. I can imagine fans going crazy over Yonghwa with his guitar and singing "Goodbye lover, meet me in my dreams" with his sweet voice, but it really doesn't do anything for me.

The final track on the album is "27 years" and it's a trip down memory lane as Yong Hwa reflects on his life, both the past an present. There's a bitter-sweet feeling to the song, as he seems regretful and nostalgic but also isn't too sad about his life the way it is now. He does want time to slow down though, a feeling many people can relate to, as growing up sometimes isn't all fun and games. I mean, even I wish I could go back in time and relieve my younger days.

Lyrically, I'm more than pleased with the last song, and I think it was a smart way to for Yonghwa wrap up the album, but other than that the song isn't too much worth celebrating. Even more stripped down than the previous track, it relies heavily on the lyrics and vocals, but I'm kind of bored listening to it, no matter how sweet the message is. Thus, I am slightly conflicted as to whether I actually think it's a good way to end things on.

Overall, I liked Yonghwa's solo effort. No more, no less. I did expect this kind of outcome so I'm by no means taken back or disappointed, but my opinion still stands. I would have liked less ballads and more upbeat tracks as well as less acoustic guitars and more electric ones, but I guess that's what we have CNBlue for after all. My favorite part of the album is the lyrical beauty that penetrates almost every track, and even manages to turn a relatively bland song into a powerful one. I applaud Yonghwa's songwriting abilities, as he co-wrote all 10 songs on the album (including the unmentioned intro), and I hope that now when he has had a chance to let out all his own ideas he can get back to writing awesome music for his band.

Highlights: "Cruel Memories", "Checkmate", "Last Leaf"
Total Score: 3,65/5

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