There’s one very simple way to describe Woosung’s debut studio album: immaculate vibes (and that italization is part of it). From beginning of the ‘Fireflies’-esque synths on opening track ‘Hangover’ to the warble of his voice at the end of closing song ‘Island’, Woosung’s new record ‘GENRE’ is an atmospheric, emotional ride that circles on itself and, more importantly, worms itself into your head.
It’s hard to pinpoint a single influence on ‘GENRE’ because, for better or worse, it’s just so diverse. The songs on here range from the synthwave-driven ‘Dimples’ – which Woosung previously told NME was a sound that “just happened” while working on the album – to the EDM-inspired ‘Oh’ with Ashley Choi of Ladies’ Code to the chill-hop ‘CWS’ with KARD’s BM. But despite the seemingly disparate genres, there’s a very genuine and emotional through line about the messiness of young love that ties the project together like a beautiful giant pink bow.
The best example of this might just be the rollercoaster ride that is the standout track ‘No Strings Attached’. The song dips between laid-back verses to a frenzied, chaotic ’80s dance-pop chorus (“I wanna dance with you and somebody / Can I just go dance with anybody? / Girl, you can dance with Johnny, Tommy / Maybe we can dance with everybody / Cut it loose”) and back again and repeat, mirroring the lawless way romance works in modern times – “all’s fair in love and war”, as they say. The equally fantastic ‘Dimples’ falls in the same wheelhouse as ‘No Strings Attached’, though the former is definitely the more intense listen of the two.
On the flip side, however, there are the chill songs and, coincidentally, all three are collaborations. The choice pick of the bunch is the freeing ‘Oh’ with Ashley Choi, which recalls the best of The Chainsmokers and Zedd, but minus the kitschy quality that has been applied to their greatest hits in the years since: “Oh lie, liе, lie, it’s too obvious / Oh bye, bye, byе, only twenty six / Oh lie, lie, lie, say it’s okay / Oh why, why, why did I care so much.” And any opportunity to hear from the Ladies’ Code singer, who handles the bridge, is always welcome.
Then there’s the Reddy-assisted ‘Lazy’ and aforementioned ‘CWS’, both of which can be pretty great in their own ways. The former – with its opening ’80s-esque guitar rhythm, synth-heavy chorus and rap feature – sort of encapsulates the entire album’s all-over-the-place sound. Meanwhile, ‘CWS’ – which stands for ‘California West Side’ – is an ode to both BM and Woosung’s home state. But for better or worse, the song seems to cater more to BM than it is to Woosung, especially with those trap snares and the KARD member’s almost comical ad libs.
And about those “immaculate vibes” that were previously mentioned? That comes in the form of Woosung looking back at these songs – which were written “a couple of years back” and are “stories from the ages of 25 to 26”, he told NME – with new eyes, the passing of time and some distance. The record has been painted with this sheen of acceptance that only growth can give, and that just makes ‘GENRE’ feel like a perfect listen for the winter.
Perhaps the best part of ‘GENRE’, however, might just be Woosung’s unique voice. Although its yelpy quality might not be to everyone’s tastes, Woosung sure knows how to twist and turn it to express every ounce of sadness on the heartbreaking closing track ‘Island’. “I land on ground feeling empty / A night without you, I cry like a baby (wah, wah) / I land on ground feeling 20 / You and I were not afraid, I remember lately,” he croons. And when he sings that last note acapella – chills.
Release date: December 9
Record label: Woolfpack