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Face Verónica A. Bastardo , April 13th, 2023 08:26

The most graceful performer of BTS goes solo with the sounds of trap, pop and a bit of grime

The second BTS took a group break, the eyes of their fans and the media was set on their individual projects. J-hope’s Jack in the Box was a solid first release from the septet while they embark on this “solo music act” trip after ten years as a group, but Jimin’s new album lives up to the expectation too.

Jimin’s Face is, perhaps, one of the most anticipated solo projects from BTS since he is one of those members whose tones we didn’t get to hear so often – only a limited number of times on the solo tracks of BTS albums and one or two songs here and there. While it’s a short EP, it doesn’t disappoint. If anything, he presents himself as a soloist with an unexpected sound for his high-pitched countertenor voice and very far from those earlier ballads we have heard from him. In fact, it’s heavily focused on distorted hip-hop and trap, a tone set already by the first track, ‘Face-off’.

The album begins with something that feels straight from The Hit Crew’s Party music songs, a carnival sound that morphs in seconds into a classic trap tune in which electronic piano sounds walk through the notes of the same octave, creating a loop and a claustrophobic sense of being confined. The structure flows between a peaceful and an aggressive interpretation, like a shell breaking from the inside.

These days, pop music projects are more interesting than ever. They now come with full transmedia concepts that range from cinema-like music videos to videogame events. But these immersive experiences should begin in sound. A good text-painting through music and foleys that puts you on a trip in a parallel universe – perhaps a drowning sensation through bottled filter effects, or even just onomatopoeias accompanied by metal synths music. Something like ‘Interlude: Dive’ or ‘Like Crazy’. Both tracks feel like a score from an 80s film. However, ‘Like Crazy’ adds the flavour of a well-produced synthwave pop track. You can feel how much fun the sound mixer and engineer had while making this track just by counting the amount of dreamy digital metal foleys, heavy electronic drums and the four harmonies between ad libs, backups and second voices.

The imperceptible lo-fi filter – you know, that vintage effect that some new tracks have – follows through the three middle tracks to create a mini essay inside the EP, like in photography some decide to use B&W to let us know some pictures are correlated. The last one of these is ‘Alone’, similar to the ballads we heard from him before and, finally, we hear his distinctive breathy whispered head voice (‘Lie’ from the BTS album Wings comes back to my mind).

This vintage filter comes back in the hidden track you find in the physical EP, ‘Letter’. It’s a surprising second ballad that finishes that format of the album itself, in which fellow BTS member Jungkook’s smooth but even voice contrasts very well as back-up vocals.

Okay, but up there I said “a bit of grime”. And I meant it. ‘Set Me Free Pt. 2’ (a reference to South Korean rapper Agust D’s ‘D-2’ song) is a disturbing hip-hop focused track Imagine Hozier and Labrinth had a musical lovechild. From the sound itself, you can tell it’s a song meant to be performed with a huge dance crew and a gospel choir. From the marching band-style trumpets and the heavy bass drum, to the excessive distortion in his voice in some verses versus the reverb of his melodic parts.

It was such a wise way to close a short but well thought-out first solo album in which Jimin clearly wanted to show a new facet of his sound and colour range. An elegant and slightly sensual approach to hip-hop pop, combining sounds like 80s lo-fi synthwave and the most staggering aspect of some grime acts who go to gospel, electronic guitars and distortion in order to deliver their statement. Face is a reminder that Korean pop acts are not a square sound, but a way to mix arts together on their own terms.