Gikwang - What You Like
Lee Gikwang is a veteran in the K-Pop industry, having technically had a solo music career since 2009 and being a core member in Beast/Highlight for just as long. Having said that, he hasn't released any solo material within that eight year span, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear that he was making a solo comeback today. I'll refrain from saying too much on the whole Cube separation incident, but it does seem that the boys of Highlight are delivering a lot more content to their fans on a far more consistent basis.
"What You Like" features a melody that takes a solid crack at taking a more hip-hop-centric baseline and twisting a few of its elements to effortlessly shift the song into a more poppy, upbeat chorus. Within the first few seconds of the song, my ears were pulled into what I could tell was going to be an earworm of a song. Several synthetic instruments crop up throughout the course of what's actually a fairly short piece of music, clocking in a little under three minutes total. These small variations and the shorter duration add to its addictive nature, and left me wanting to click the replay button instantly after the video was over.
The song absolutely bleeds a sense of (and I hate to use this word) "swag." There's just something fundamentally stylish that flourishes through both the instrumentation and the vocals. From the bits of melodica to the piano that interrupt the mostly computerized sound, I don't think there's a single part of this song that I found to be jarring or problematic, which is actually surprising to me. The combination of styles in the song have been attempted and executed poorly before in other songs, but Gikwang manages to escape what I thought to be an unending trend of harsh,l disjointed transitions. I love the slow and steady introduction of new instruments at the start, the easy-to-miss background vocals, and the seldom recurring synth supplements that accent variation at just the right times.
The video itself is where I'm just a tad disappointed. The production values aren't that low, but there's a clear lack of variety in what is going on. There's not an intricate plot, and a majority of the entertainment factor comes from shots of Gikwang dancing in an assortment of fun outfits. One of the standout factors of the video for me was the choice to use bright colors that really helped make everything visually pop. Pure white fabrics coupled with bright hued reds and blues looked hip and stylish while the checkered button-ups brought out a lively sensation as Gikwang and his dancers flaunted the choreography.
I will say that there were a few shots that looked like Gikwang was candidly enjoying himself and not just smiling for the cameras, and that's something that I love to see in music videos. There were a few interesting things going on in the background as well, such as the lady with balloons and a dog painted on the sides of a building, or the oil drum that had "DON'T LET THEM TAKE U ALIVE" tagged on it, though I'm not sure if they were put in to add to the video or were things already at those locations. The skateboarding clothing brand "Supreme" got a ton of promotions throughout the video, though it wasn't done in such a way as to turn me off. Overall, the video was fun, though I can't say it was something that added much to the song for myself.
So if I hadn't made myself clear just yet, I'll end by simply saying that I really enjoyed "What You Like" as a song. The video could have been better, but it also could have been much worse, so I'll just say it passes as good enough. I think that the timing of the song's release is probably a little too late in the summer cycle, and it may hurt how popular the song is overall. Even still, I think this is one of my favorite tracks of the year, and I can't wait to check out the rest of Gikwang's mini. (If you want to know my thoughts on that, check back in a few days and I should have it reviewed.) If you haven't been paying attention to Highlight still, now might just be a good time to start.