It’s not your fault indeed if you’ve not heard of Dvwn (Korean name 다운, pronounced ‘da-woon’) prior to this review. The 28-year-old singer-songwriter – not to be confused with former Pentagon member DAWN (better known as Hyuna’s other half) – started out under the moniker DA₩N with indie collective Vintage Vibe. His soulful voice soon caught the attention of rapper Zico, who signed him on in late 2019 as the very first artist under his label, KOZ Entertainment. ‘it’s not your fault’ marks Dvwn’s longest official release yet at eight songs, and also his first EP since joining KOZ.
As with his previous releases, Dvwn continues to display his talent in writing crushingly relatable lyrics and weaving them into delicate contemporary R&B-inflected jams. “What should I do when it all ends?” he muses on the opening track ‘dot.’, which depicts the complexity of shifting post-breakup emotions. Its pensive acoustic beginning leads into a vast orchestral ambience that eventually circles back to its original question: “So what should I do when it all ends / Between us?”
This lyrical relatability is also most felt on the breezy, jazzy title track ‘Yeonnam-dong (연남동)’, which melodically captures the chill vibe of its namesake Seoul neighbourhood, known for its cool cafes and small independent shops. In it, Dvwn represents those with a melancholic association when walking familiar streets alone (“Because I’ve walked with you / These streets have become sad”), even singing a secret, subconscious hope into existence on their behalf (“Bump into you just once / Is that what I want?”).
With a stand-out feature from rapper and Show Me The Money 9 winner lIlBOI, this song is a welcome (albeit temporary) departure from Dvwn’s moodier tunes. Although the singer did admit to The Korea Economic Daily that he chose the song as the title track because he “thought it would be the most relatable and popular song in the album”, the brilliance of ‘Yeonnam-dong (연남동)’ shouldn’t be downplayed so easily. The track manages to be comforting and sad at the same time, a skill Dvwn has seemingly applied throughout this project.
‘Hostel’ is another track that centres on Dvwn’s vocals and even features some interesting use of Vocoder. Yet, the haunting tune seems to be a much better fit for co-writer and guest artist Jane, whose textured voice complements the sombre track. There’s also the fully English song ‘Home’, likely meant to be that song for fans to sing along at his concert (whenever that will be), with a line that Liverpool fans would be rather pleased with (“You’ll never walk alone”).
When it comes to this album’s musical composition and arrangements, Dvwn worked with long-time producer-collaborators such as brightenlight, No2zcat, DUNK and m/n to create stirring soundscapes that hold their own and complement the band elements in his music at the same time. These include the airy, electronica-fused ‘Humming’ (featuring CHE) and the dreamy, symphonic crescendo that closing track ‘Mirror’ reaches towards its end.
For all of his explorations on this album, ‘Goodnight’ (Korean title ‘이름’ or ‘Name’) returns to familiar Dvwn territory: by simply allowing his emotive, wistful vocals to take control and steer listeners through the song’s emotional core (a la ‘phobia’ or ‘Last’). Coupled with the mature vocals of 23-year-old singer Kwon Jin-ah and a rousing chorus of “Don’t get cold feet” towards the end, this track is indeed a reassuring one. And a relatable one too, especially with its references to the real-life nerves brought on by online romances (“Where you and I live / Is a made up place, full of pixels / It’s too cold of a world / In each other’s arms that won’t touch”).
“When considering the loneliness of someone else, perhaps someone in a similar situation as you, would you be able to say ‘it’s not your fault’ to them?” Dvwn asks hypothetically in the Korea Economic Daily interview, after explaining how he’d learnt to “look more deeply into loneliness and sadness” through making this album. One can never fix the loneliness of another, that much he acknowledges; and as much as ‘it’s not your fault’ appears to have a ‘glass half-empty’ outlook, Dvwn extends an emphatic hand through resonant songs filled with relatable, assuring words.
- Release date: April 26
- Record label: KOZ Entertainment