[Album Review] Absolute Zero (1st Mini Album) – BAEKHO

Apologies for the lack of song reviews – it has been a slow week in KPOP due to the Korean New Year. I will be reviewing two comebacks from this week tomorrow. For now, here are some album reviews I have pre-written, but for some reason failed to pre-schedule.

The next album to be reviewed on this blog is BAEKHO’s solo debut mini-album, Absolute Zero. This mini-album dropped in October 2022, over 10 years after BAEKHO made his debut as part of NU’EST (which sadly disbanded earlier this year). Featuring the title track No Rules and five additional side tracks, this mini-album made me think about why we didn’t get a solo release from BAEKHO sooner. This entire mini-album is testament of BAEKHO’s artistry and potential, and it is truly disappointing to know that it has taken 10 years for his company to give him an opportunity to shine and put himself out there. Absolute Zero has some really great tracks, many of which I would recommend to people who want to discover a new artist. Hopefully, there are more great tracks from BAEKHO on the way, as PLEDIS Entertainment definitely has a strong artist in BAEKHO. For now, continue reading my review to discover some gems from BAEKHO.

Absolute Zero Album Cover

1. Festival in My Car – While it has been a while since we heard from BAEKHO, I am sure he did not sound like this in the past. Festival in My Car brings out a raspier and huskier tone and lower register from BAEKHO that I am absolutely digging. This paired with the rock guitar (that creates a wonderful centerpiece in the instrumentation) and the band instrumentation creates such a piece that has soaring potential. Also soaring is the momentum and intensity once Festival in My Car hits the chorus. All of this helps create a strong number to kick the mini-album off with. (9/10)

2. LOVE BURNLOVE BURN is next up on the mini-album. Synth-pop and guitar riffs come together to create the backing piece of LOVE BURN. While I am unsure what came first, the instrumental pairs extremely well with the melodies of this track, which I think is the highlight of the song. The melodies just give LOVE BURN so much character and personality, which I think is enough reason to say that LOVE BURN edges out the previous song. Throw in passionate and husky vocals from BAEKHO, and you have yourself another strong and captivating track to enjoy. (10/10)

3. No Rules (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of No Rules. (8/10)

4. We Don’t Care No More (ft. June One of Glen Check) – Collaborating with June One of Glen Check, We Don’t Care No More delves into groovier and funkier territory. But the track still falls into the synth-pop realm and features guitar riffs, just like the other side tracks on the mini-album before it. Both BAEKHO and June One brings something different to the song during their respective verses and choruses. BAEKHO has a nasally tone in this track, whereas June One brings out a hollower tone to his vocals. Yet when they sing together, they blend really well with one another to create what felt like one person singing. Melody and hook-wise, I felt We Don’t Care No More definitely excelled. (9/10)

5. BAD 4 U – Taking the album into R&B territory is BAD 4 U. I did like the beat to the song and how natural the song felt for BAEKHO. The melodies and lines just flow so smoothly from BAEKHO. However, it is the most standard sounding track on this mini-album. It isn’t really the most innovative track out there. I am also not a fan of the ending, which felt abrupt for my liking. (7/10)

6. WANNA GO BACK (ft. Sik-K) (변했다고 느끼는 내가 변한 건지)WANNA GO BACK is the mini-album’s most powerful track, bringing forth a punkish rock sound to the mini-album. I liked how BAEKHO’s vocals becomes hoarsely, which really compliments the punkish rock influence. Sik-K’s rapping is autotuned, which I thought was interesting initially. But his rapping definitely adds an even rougher texture to WANNA GO BACK. I do wish the instrumental went a bit harder into the rock influence, just to give that wow factor. The guitar solo at the very end is definitely a step in the right direction. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.5/10

Absolute Zero Teaser Image

[Review] No Rules – BAEKHO

One of the major focuses this week will be solo rookies. I have covered female and male rookie groups to a degree, but I haven’t even picked up any of the artists that recently kicked off their own solo careers. Well, that changes this week with me covering a few rookie solo artists. First up is actually someone who has been around in KPOP for a while now – 10 years to be exact. The artist is none other than BAEKHO, who made his solo debut last week with No Rules and the mini-album Absolute Zero. For those who don’t know, BAEKHO was a former member of the now disbanded NU’EST and also participated in Produce 101 Season 2. He remains at Pledis Entertainment, following the disbandment of his group earlier this year.

No Rules is another groovy track to add to the ever-growing list of groovy singles from this year alone. While I will admit that No Rules pretty much sounds like a song we have heard time and time before and plays it safe, I still quite enjoyed the the track nonetheless. It is just a no-nonsense display of BAEKHO that just sounds great. I quite liked how profound the groovy undertone is in No Rules, brought forward by the electric guitar (otherwise described as a ‘rock sound’) and an undeniable foot-tapping beat. I also like how there isn’t too much else to the instrumental, which allows that groovy undertone to stand out even more and not become masked by the rest of the backing. Similarly, this also allows BAEKHO’s vocals to fully stand out, as it isn’t complicated (or masked again) by noisy instrumentation and such. BAEKHO himself brings a mature and sensual vibe with his approach, which just suits him and feels more natural. If I was to suggest a way to make the No Rules better, a stronger melody would have been top of my list. While No Rules does have its own individual charm, I do feel that the song could have been more memorable. And the melody would have been the most optimal to get this across, given that I think the rest of No Rules is pretty solid. But that is just my two cents on what I think could have taken No Rules to the next level. Overall, No Rules is a nice and straight forward solo debut for BAEKHO.

The cinematography is probably the best aspect of the music video for me. It pretty much felt like movie-quality to me. Usually, I find this level of cinematography is reserved for videos with a much bigger or meatier plot line to get through. But for this video, I couldn’t really piece together a story. The jumping into pools and the ocean was a bit confusing for me and I am unsure of the meaning behind the temperatures on the wristwatch. My understanding is the song is about wanting to escape, so all of these elements in the music video must be linked up somehow to this desire to run away. Aside from that, I see that BAEKHO’s fit body was on display throughout the video and I am not entirely surprised by that.

As for the performance, the aesthetic was what took the cake for me. It isn’t necessarily sensual (despite some of the outfits suggesting otherwise), but it was definitely mature and different. And I quite liked that impression the performance leaves on me. None of the moves really stood out, but I thought the chairs were a good touch. They aided in giving off that impression/aesthetics and they really make the performance feel whole. Also, that chair flip at the end was very sexy.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 7.5/10
Overall Rating – 7.9/10