Following self-owned K-pop group GOT7’s ninth anniversary last January 16, lead vocalist and center Jinyoung—the last among the septet to launch a complete collection of his own—welcomed 2023 with Chapter 0: WITH. Beneath his euphonious voice and expressive eyes, the singer-actor reveals a suave assortment of songwriting, composing, and producing skills.
Parting of the curtains
The mini-album is a poetic contraption of “us” packaged in two versions: “ME” and “YOU”. This conjoint presence cements the atmosphere within the mini-album; “ME” features the mature countenance of the artist, and “YOU” is laden with his smiles in soft sweaters.
Since his debut in the industry, Jinyoung has been well-known for his soothing vocals throughout the mix of GOT7’s discography. With this solo album, his artistry is shown to its full extent as his refreshing take on toned and chill R&B tracks is reminiscent of a breath of fresh air.
WITH contains five tracks—each written and produced by the man himself—that create an anthology with intersecting storylines. It explores the different facets of relationships, embarking listeners on the familiar feeling of love and their own romantic stories. With ubiquitous grooves, adlibs, and falsettos in pure Jinyoung fashion, his quiet, explosive artistry becomes more apparent as the album progresses from one song to another.
As his debut album as a solo artist, WITH thoroughly establishes Jinyoung to be the artist to anticipate for tracks that’ll encourage listeners to be at ease.
The grand entrance
The mini-album delves into Jinyoung’s mellow and refreshing sides with little bursts of energy. To lay its delicate foundation, WITH begins with the same feeling that most relationships do: longing.
Animal starts with a slow hymn that overflows with raw emotions; it expresses a calm yet desperate intensity of today’s emptiness and yesterday’s cravings. Jinyoung’s vocal range and eloquent technique are heard throughout the song’s composition where his falsettos and low tones elevated the track’s impact. With the expressive blending of Jinyoung’s voice and choir-like echoes, accompanied by the subtlety of piano and strings, Animal brews dark and cloudy skies—establishing a sublime atmosphere that sets the tone of the album.
Juxtaposing the tempest found in Animal, the title track Cotton Candy immediately soothes the wistfulness of the previous track—exhibiting the blissful counterpart of the album. More often than not, title tracks in K-pop albums are constructed to sound more amplified in order to stand out when marketed and performed on stage, sacrificing the genuineness and heartfelt emotion behind the melodies. Instead, Jinyoung deviates from this expectation and focuses on his gentle croon with a bounce in his step.
Filled with fuzzy feelings and butterflies, Cotton Candy touches listeners with a serene and groovy piano sequence that carefully builds until Jinyoung’s honeysuckle tenor enters the picture, allowing the listener to blissfully get lost in the euphoria of finally getting what they’ve been yearning for.
Dainty final acts
Unveiling Jinyoung’s musicality is Our Miracle, poetically written to discuss themes of fate, destiny, and grounded love. The song serves as an ode to the members of GOT7. As Jinyoung expresses that the chemistry of “the color of you and me” can spread seamlessly, this line parallels the seven colors of the rainbow—one for each member. Whether romantically or platonically, Our Miracle highlights Jinyoung’s lyrical prowess and his ability to encompass different themes of love.
As listeners glide through the latter end of the mini-album, they will find an adoring yet revitalizing hug that resonates a dreamy appreciation for one’s person in the track Sleep Well. Powered by Jinyoung’s silky vocals and subtle synth, the song is a comforting harmony that feels more like a gentle caress rather than an aggressive push of enthusiasm. The final chorus that bursts through the speakers after Jinyoung soothes, “Rest well”, followed by a second of silence, calls for the limelight.
The album ends with Letter, written as a message of gratitude from Jinyoung to his fans who continue to support him during his solo career. Serving as his dedication to the people he loves the most, Letter is the most heartfelt and emotional piece, a fitting denouement to a quiet and peaceful emotional journey.
WITH perfectly encapsulates the essence of what Jinyoung is known for as an artist. Although the mini-album may not achieve the acclaim it sorely deserves due to the lack of gimmicks that pander to mainstream standards, it does its justice by showcasing the overwhelming talent that Jinyoung has possessed since his trainee days. The album’s tracks have their own noteworthy merit and are refreshing to hear, providing a relaxing reprieve amid the current trend of performance-heavy K-pop tracks.
WITH showed Jinyoung’s authentic style, loved by existing fans and capable of luring in newer ones. As his debut album as a soloist, WITH succeeded in reintroducing Jinyoung to the K-pop industry with its originality and freshness that will leave all listeners, new and old, delighted.