[Review] BACK THEN – KIM JAE HWAN

One of the two comebacks to start off this week belongs to Kim Jae Hwan, the main vocalist from the now disbanded project group WANNA ONE. For those who missed it, WANNA ONE reunited at the end of last year for a special stage at the 2021 MAMAs and a special release of Beautiful (Part 3) in early 2022. Since then, the members have returned to their current solo and group activities. Kim Jae Hwan, in particular, made his solo comeback with Snail back in June of this year, which I have yet to (but will) review at a later date. He then made a quick comeback yesterday with his fifth mini-album Empty Dream and the title track BACK THEN.

BACK THEN is another track from KPOP that has opted for the trending rock genre. But Kim Jae Hwan portrays the genre in a manner in which he could excel in, combining it with a more vocal centric genre like R&B. The rock and R&B track that is BACK THEN feels quite balanced between the two genres. What I did like about BACK THEN was how seamlessly it was able to flicker between a softer R&B approach with the verses and the more intense rock sound in the chorus. The bass in the verse appears to be the thread that brings two the parts together, as it sets up the verses to have some momentum in which the rock in the chorus can then carry onwards. Together, I feel BACK THEN as a whole was satisfying and was very appealing. As mentioned before, this combination feels like a no-brainer for Kim Jae Hwan, as it allows him to showcase his vocals quite well. Given his vocal capabilities, he is able to go that extra mile and add oomph to his vocals to match the energy that the rock, but is also able to express his emotions in both the R&B verses and rock choruses effortlessly. I just wish the memorable melodies of the song extended into the verses, just to give BACK THEN a more profoundness that help make the song stick. I also thought the R&B could have gone a step further a feel more ballad-like to really maximize the impact BACK THEN could of have.

BACK THEN is said to capture the feelings of longing for your ex following the breakup (taken from SOOMPI) and I feel that Kim Jae Hwan had captured that essence in his vocals. Though, I feel like he doesn’t completely capture said essence in the music video. The entire video showed the aftermath, but it just felt lacking. As cliché as it might look and sound, I kind of wished the music video had a ‘before’ breakup and an ‘after’ breakup concept. I think this more typical approach would have really captured the song in a visual sense really well. Aside from that desire, I liked that the music video also captured the rock aspect of the song with Kim Jae Hwan rocking out with his guitar to the song in some scenes and having a band in the background. It made sense to include and I am glad that it did.

As seen in the music video, the comeback is able to flick between a band version and a dance version for this comeback. I do hope we get to see the dance version in full during promotions for BACK THEN. From what I do see, the choreography looks decent. Kim Jae Hwan is still for some of it, presuming so he can hit those notes while performing live. But when he is full participating in the choreography, it appears to be full power, and I quite liked how he and the dancers embody this.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8/10

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