2021 has no doubt been a busy year in B.I’s universe. Along with having multiple releases under his belt, including the recent global single ‘Lost At Sea’ – a remix of his song ‘illa illa’, featuring Afgan and Bipolar Sunshine – the 25-year-old multi-hyphenate also held his very first solo online concert in October, performing his debut solo album ‘Waterfall’ in its entirety. He’s even made time for features on other artists’ releases, the most notable being Lee Hi’s ‘Savior’ from her ‘4 ONLY’ album.
- READ MORE: Lee Hi – ‘4 ONLY’ review: a long-waited, soulful homecoming from one of K-pop’s most elite
As the year gradually approaches its end, B.I – real name Kim Han-bin – has shown no signs of slowing down. In fact, he’s continued to keep his creative fire burning all this while, culminating in his latest half-album ‘Cosmos’. On the self-penned, seven-track release, he “explores the love that makes [him] dream about eternity” along with the “different forms of love-fueled passions”, according the description of a teaser for the album.
Where B.I’s harsh self-reflection in previous opener ‘Waterfall’ brought him to his knees, the opening track here, aptly named ‘Alive’, has him standing tall again. He delivers his initial bars at double his usual rate, as if getting listeners up to speed on his current frame of mind: of acceptance and moving forward (“I needed to lose everything to know what it’s like to be truly free”). This sense of liberation is also best felt through its ascending piano melody, remaining constant through interspersed hip-hop beats and samples. Its fresh, hopeful feel is what gives the song its soul, particularly in the transition into a light, jazzy interlude towards the end.
The rapper next turns his attention to “the beauty of youth” and all its romanticised notions. “I don’t wanna be responsible for anything / I don’t wanna be a pitiful adult / I’m not ready yet”, he laments in ‘Nineteen’, a relatable anthem for those reluctant and resistant towards adulting. In ‘Nerd’, a self-declared “arrangement of ambiguous sentences”, he enlists the help of R&B singer Colde to blow the dust off a long-buried confession. This is paired with faster-paced – if almost jittery – synths, eventually capping off with a floaty, psychedelic outro.
B.I’s exploration of love forms the basis of two other numbers, one being the swoonsome title track ‘Cosmos’, on which he sweetly croons: “You are my cosmos / My universe”. As someone who’s previously named The Beatles’ ‘In My Life’ as his all-time favourite song, it’s only a matter of time before the old-but-gold influence came through to his music. Here, he injects a contemporary take on classic doo-wop vibes in the song he simply describes as being “about eternal love”.
Things then take a slightly darker turn in the sensual ‘Lover’, a “provocative love story” that likens him and his paramour to the notorious historical heist duo Bonnie and Clyde. He switches up the mood and the flow of the track towards the end to address her more forthrightly, calling her ”the only heartbreaker that can ruin me”.
In the ‘Cosmos’ message film teaser Keep The Fire Alive released in late October, B.I partially revealed ‘Alive’ in a mash up with sixth track ‘Flame’. “I had already written a song about a waterfall, so why not something about fire?” was what he recalled of his thought process, as shared in a live album launch countdown segment. With both tracks bearing a complementary energy, they would have worked just as well as a cohesive song. On its own, ‘Flame’ is still very much a highly-synthesised force to be reckoned with: a reflection of his fiery determination to continue pushing himself up and onwards (“I’ve hit rock bottom but good luck / Trying to guess how high I will go / I am hard headed, aiming for the sun”).
The CD-only final track ‘Buddy Buddy’ (or ‘친구해요’, meaning “let’s be friends” in Korean) has him courageously asking to start a friendship with someone he has his eyes on. “Let’s be friends”, he reassures her, “Nothing more, nothing less / Just that”. However, with this song’s absence on music streaming sites, ‘Flame’ makes for a more impactful ending overall; even with the album’s cosmic moniker, fire seems to be much more compelling as an overarching theme.
With every release, B.I continues to blaze through his own creative stratosphere, his artistic bravado long taking him light years ahead of his peers. This multifaceted artist may have started his ‘Cosmos’ expedition in search of love and passion, but his discoveries ended up becoming as vast as its namesake; among them, a desire to be a voice for the youth. One can only look forward to how much further he can go in his next release – because he keeps proving that his limit goes far beyond the sky.
- Release date: November 11
- Record label: 131 Label