Song Review: Forever Only by Jaehyun (NCT)

Jaehyun has one of my favorite voices in K-pop. Husky, thick, and warm, his voice stands out in the sea of K-pop Main Vocalists. (I’m surprised people often forget that Jaehyun is a Main Vocalist, possibly because he is overshadowed by Taeil and Doyoung who are more capable ‘belters’). Unfortunately, I feel that he is quite underutilized within NCT songs, and the lines that are given to him are often not challenging enough to show his true capabilities. Additionally, the fact that he is very visually attractive often overshadows his talent, whether it be singing or dancing. It is quite unfortunate, so when I heard that Jaehyun was finally getting his first solo release, I was very excited.

While Jaehyun has written lyrics before, having writing credits in NCT 127’s debut song, Fire Truck, as well as a solo song called Lost (if I’m not mistaken), Forever Only is his first official release through SM Station. I’m very happy to say that it exceeds my expectations.

When the song’s teasers came out, I wasn’t sure what to feel knowing that it was going to be a mid-tempo RnB track. I am honestly not the biggest fan of such songs within the K-pop setting, usually because I feel that their melodies often lack clarity and memorability, or the production is too predictable. Forever Only is among the few within the genre which I enjoy.

The song’s hooks are deceptively alluring. It starts by teasing its chorus, which is easily the song’s strongest melody, making for an extremely effective introduction. This melody in particular acts as a motif for the whole song, which gives it a strong foundation to build upon. The first verse feels confident and self-assured, although not exactly memorable. Fortunately, it don’t overstay its welcome, and when the chorus was revealed, I could not stop smiling. It is solid and catchy, even on the first listen. It also thrives under the particular atmosphere that was created by the chords chosen and the intervals between the notes of the melody. I was hooked.

Again, the 2nd verse does not overstay its welcome and quickly proceeds to the chorus once more. I am a big fan of the melancholic and lonely vibes that it emanates. It strongly matches the apparent intention of the song too, which is apparently to capture the feelings of loneliness (according to an article from NME). After the second chorus, it proceeds to its singalong hook, ‘be my, be my, be my forever only’, which admittedly, is very catchy and it flows out your tongue nicely. I won’t get it out of my head for at least a few days, or perhaps much longer, depending on how the song ages.

Where it falters slightly is the bridge. I feel like it is a bit underdeveloped, even though it is already good. A few tweaks in the melody would have made it amazing. The first part’s melody lacked focus and I don’t really remember whatever happened there except for the fact that he sung it in falsetto. The second part, mixing up some of the notes of the main motif while stripping down the production even further. Thankfully, they spiced things up by changing the song’s key after the bridge ended, I also feel like it isn’t a typical + 1 key change either, I think it was probably a + 2 key change because the difference in the pitch is quite significant compared to most key changes, at least that to me. (+ 1 means the key went up by one semitone, for example, from C to C#). That kept my attention on the song till the very end.

The song’s production is much more interesting compared to the typical RnB track. One thing that separates Forever Only is its sense of groove is very apparent due to the rhythmic guitar that holds the song together. It makes the song seem faster than it is, which gives it a sense of propulsion, giving the impression that the song has the intent and a clear direction. I highly appreciate it when songs feel like they know where it is going. There is a good amount of dynamics to prevent it from being one-note, along with enough switch-ups between the sections to keep it from being boring. When the key change came along, the production also pumped it up slightly to match the new energy and uplifting feeling that the key change provided to the track.

For the most part, Jaehyun’s vocal performance was great. He sounded like he felt the lyrics and matched his delivery to them. I can tell that he wrote the song himself. Jaehyun’s voice also excels in this particular range in which he sang this song, so he sounded at his best. My main complaint is going to be regarding his vocal agility. It is clear to me that it isn’t very developed. His runs are unclear, with the notes sliding against each other, lacking clear separation and rhythm. If Jaehyun is going to continue pursuing this style (RnB) in his future solo career, I hope he will work on improving his agility.

All in all, I highly enjoyed his solo release, and I am surely going to keep a look out for what he will pull off next.

Hooks – 9
Production – 8
Vocal Delivery – 9
Overall – 8.75

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