“In English, when one says ‘I feel blue’, the word ‘blue’ is used [to describe feeling depressed or sad],” Wonho told NME in an interview ahead of the release of his third mini-album ‘Blue Letter’. “I wanted ‘blue’ to serve a double meaning of ‘feeling blue’ and… to flip the meaning of feeling blue to ‘feeling loved’, in context of the album.”
Just as there are many different shades of blue, with this record Wonho takes our immediate emotional associations with the hue and beautifully expands the palette. It’s a soul-stirring, sensitive release that gently shifts between shimmering celebrations to reassuring moments of encouragement and emotional vulnerability, each tone standing out in its own distinct way.
On the title track ‘Blue’, the singer is in jubilant mood. “I’m drowning down into the blue,” he begins over ticking percussion and a rubbery bassline, but this isn’t a dive into melancholia. “It feels amazing / Swimming high up to the sky, am I going crazy?” The hook that drops by later, effortlessly infectious and nonchalantly feel-good, bottles the sparkling mood of the song in a great earworm: “We are young, we are dumb / We just party all night long / When you feel the blue.”
The intro track, ‘Seasons And Patterns’, is uplifting in a different way, the instrumental two-minute fragment sounding as if it’s ushering us into Wonho’s own K-drama. Twinkling piano weaves around soaring strings that take you gliding through a sun-dazzled sky. The gently euphoric electronics of ’24/7’, meanwhile, find the star mixing shades, swirling synth-y optimism with lyrical reassurance. “I’m here for you 24/7,” he vows. “Let’s stay forever young.”
As you might instinctively expect of something blue, though, there’s sorrow present here too. The softly sad ‘No Text No Call’ laments a lack of communication from a former lover, Wonho sighing: “We used to talk all night to the morning, but now we don’t.” It’s a shame it follows immediately after the towering ‘Blue’, because its impact feels dampened in its neighbour’s shadow.
If the titular colour is a joining thread throughout ‘Blue Letter’, so is the biggest mass of blue on Earth – the sea. It pops up throughout Wonho’s lyrics, at once a symbol of fun, beauty, safety and peace. “You just have to take care of yourself and let it out,” he instructs on ‘24/7’, “I’ll be a wide ocean for you.” Over the rippling acoustic guitar of ‘Stranger’, he narrates: “The night is deep without you / The blue sea is asleep / I close my eyes and sketch you.”
If it wasn’t clear by now that the singer is a big softie, this record offers irrefutable proof. ‘Come Over Tonight’ starts off as a sultry slow jam but swiftly switches gear into something sweeter. “Can you come over tonight? / Promise I’ll hold you so tight,” he coos, before confounding expectations: “I can’t sleep without you / I’d be nothing without you.”
Just over a year since Wonho made his solo debut with ‘Love Synonym Pt. 1: Right For Me’, ‘Blue Letter’ showcases an artist growing rapidly in both confidence and his striking abilities. While the star has been involved with the writing and production of all of his releases so far, this record marks the first time he’s contributed his skills to every song on the tracklist. The results are impressive – particularly ‘Blue’, which would be an instant radio smash in a just world.
‘Blue Letter’’s songs might add more depth to our connections with Wonho’s signature colour in their sounds and sentiments, but there’s one more feeling we can now link back to blue thanks to the record as a whole. That’s excitement, because it’s hard not to listen to this mini-album and feel the exhilaration of watching a star in bloom.
- Release date: September 14
- Record label: Highline Entertainment