By: Claudia Siregar |

In the K-pop industry, the boygroup BTOB is known for their vibrant, skillful vocals and songwriting skills (aside from their members’ quirky, comical personality). Earlier this month, main vocalist Lee Changsub, better known as Changsub, released his first Korean solo mini album “Mark”, after previously releasing a solo song for BTOB’s special project “Piece of BTOB” and his Japanese solo album “BPM 82.5”. Changsub presents us with five brand new tracks, showing us what appears to be a vocal and lyrical explosion from a member of a critically acclaimed vocal and songwriting-focused group, just a month before his army enlistment “due date”.

As a singer-songwriter, Changsub took part in writing all of the lyrics he sang and co-composing three of the tracks. All of the tracks seem to be heavily rock-influenced with a relatively mid to slow tempo, with the guitar and 80’s rock-inspired synth sounds being the most dominant elements of the album other than Changsub’s voice. It’s pretty rare to see a K-pop idol come up with a slow rock solo release (the last widely renowned one being WINNER’s Kang Seungyoon’s solo work in the early 2010s), yet very refreshing.

The mini album opens with the track “Way”, a track very reminiscent of mid 80’s pop rock, with a lot of electric guitar sounds and Changsub’s airy falsetto decorating the chorus, continued with “Miss You”, a more modern-sounding slow rock ballad that starts with a lighter acoustic sound, climaxes with Changsub’s high belting during the bridge, and ends with heavier electric guitar riffs and drum sounds. The next song, “Shelter”, still a slow rock ballad, involves synth-pop influences and lots of powerful adlibs from Changsub, continued with “Ever”, a guitar-driven track that highlights Changsub’s lower register in the beginning of the song. The last track and the hit single of the mini album, “Gone”, presents us with a somewhat more vulnerable vibe, mainly piano-driven, with Changsub’s powerful high notes giving it a special touch. In addition to the melancholic-sounding melodies and rock influences, themes of longing, pain, and loss seem to dominate the mini album.

Changsub’s contribution in writing music for BTOB and vocal skills as one of the two main vocalists seems to have raised expectations for the mini album, and it appears that he has fulfilled those expectations with the five self-written tracks and his exploration into the slow rock genre instead of going down the usual pop ballad route main vocalists-going-solo usually go. Though this mini album came across as a little unorthodox for a K-pop idol’s solo work, this unorthodox-ness and how it strangely fits Changsub’s voice and skills as a songwriter is exactly the real reason why “Mark” is worth listening to.

Favourite track: Miss You

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