Eric Nam may be one of the K-pop scene’s most underrated talents, whose pursuit of musical growth has been overshadowed by his public image as a “boy next door.” Despite his versatility, most of his previous work has been feel-good music, which eventually became somewhat lackluster gradually eliciting the response “Yes, this song is sweet, exactly like him.”
But let’s salute Nam, who has finally shed his old skin and unleashed a more genuine self in his new EP “Honestly.” This self-created album is an outright betrayal to those who have expected another sweetness from Nam. It‘s about fading romance, and the lyrics and melodies are no longer upbeat. Uncannily, however, it offers a whiff of freedom. The Atlanta born-and-bred musician previously revealed his difficulty with fitting into the K-pop music trend, that he just couldn’t resist his musical roots influenced by his background. And Nam decided not to feel guilty about it anymore. Instead, he fully revealed his pop-leaning musicality and made the best lemonade out of it.
All of the five songs from the album are trendy, or overly poppish, in that they sound straight out of the Billboard chart if it hadn’t been for the language. But it doesn’t mean they sound typical. Each song is a unique blend of Nam’s signature mellow vibe and the sophistication of pop, while a song like “Potion” gives a feeling of Ed Sheeran due to its use of guitar riff and synth similar to that of the US pop singer.
Lead track “Honestly...,” where Nam confesses his honest feelings about ailing love, probably offers a sound closest to K-pop, opening with Nam’s toned-down vocals and expanding to more rhythmic synth beats that incorporate tropical sound. Nam chills down a little with the relaxing ballad “This Is Not a Love Song,” but his pop soul explodes with two English language tracks “Lose You” and “Don’t Call Me.” “Lose You,” where Nam wails about the struggles of a long-distance relationship, is a real bop in this album, using a shimmering background synth that harmonizes perfectly with Nam’s velvety high notes.
There is no recognizable vocal artistry in this album. But maybe it didn’t need one, as Nam took the biggest stride forward as an artist, by finding his true identity.