JAY B – ‘SOMO:FUME’ EP review: a smooth-sailing, star-studded affair

The GOT7 singer enlists the help of several famous friends for a risk-averse but enjoyable ride

Unlike his bandmate BamBam’s solo debut release, GOT7’s leader and vocalist JAY B has decided on a slightly different approach for his. Titled ‘SOMO:FUME’ – an acronym for ‘Style Of My Own: Fume’ – the singer’s first EP is chock full of cameos from the who’s who in K-R&B and hip-hop.

It’s a strikingly star-studded affair for a release that only features six tracks: among the guests include MAMAMOO’s Wheein, rapper Sokodomo, vocalist g1nger, JUNNY and H1GHR MUSIC head honcho Jay Park. Not to mention production credits from hitmakers GroovyRoom, GRAY, WOOGIE and Cha Cha Malone. JAY B’s chemistry with his collaborators is palpable, each guest bringing their own flavour to the songs while also matching his vibe.

Yet for a project that boldly proclaims to be a style of its own, there are times when ‘SOMO:FUME’ doesn’t quite live up to its expectations. The GRAY-produced ‘AM PM’ sounds more like a Dean release rather than JAY B’s, while tracks like ‘B.T.W’ and lead single ‘Switch It Up’ rely too heavily on Cha Cha’s repetitive production.

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Granted, the songs on ‘SOMO:FUME’ are evidently different from the GOT7 singer’s boyband days. It aims to be a proper reflection of JAY B as an individual, but there’s nothing on here that truly distinguishes him from other artists in the game such as Wonstein or Penomeco. There’s also an overlap between JAY B and his other musical monikers like Def. and JUS2, his group with bandmate Kim Yugyeom, projects which have already established the singer’s abilities to draw from genres like R&B and hip-hop. While JAY B had previously stated to NME that “there will always be a connection between all my personas because it is always Im Jae-beom at the very core”, the attempt here sometimes feels a little too self-conscious and apprehensive.

Instead of it being an artistic exploration and extension of his past work, the EP tends to fall back on tried and tested formulas in K-R&B and hip-hop. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – the songs on ‘SOMO:FUME’ are pleasing to the ears (the silky g1nger-assisted ‘In To You’ is proof), but the sense of familiarity on the record makes it sound less fresh and innovative. After being relieved from JYP Entertainment’s shackles to pursue creative freedom, you would expect the singer to use the opportunity of having a plethora of new producers and collaborators at his feet to experiment greatly, but the end result is neutral and safe.

When JAY B does do something out of the ordinary though, the revelation always gets cut short. The brief but enjoyable ‘FAME’, featuring JUNNY, finds the singer tapping into his boyband side to deliver an addictive lovestruck jingle. His personality shines through the quirky Ariana Grande-esque ad libs that are tossed in for good fun. “So tell me what you want (yeah, yeah) / Whatever you want I’m gonna make it right / Just right for you (woo-oh!),” a beaming JAY B winks over GroovyRoom’s bouncy production. Running just slightly over two minutes long, ‘FAME’ is notably the shortest song on the EP – but thankfully, the winning production combination returns on ‘Count On Me’, the final track and only solo offering on the digital edition of ‘SOMO:FUME’.

Helmed by the omnipresent Park Gyu-jung and Lee Hwi-min of GroovyRoom, with co-writing credits from JUNNY, ‘Count On Me’ ends the EP on an unexpectedly nostalgic note. It’s a refreshing modern take on 2000s R&B pop hits; the opening melody recalls ‘Beautiful Soul’ by Jesse McCartney while the flicker of sultry Spanish guitar on the bridge is reminiscent of Craig David’s ‘7 Days’. It’s a strange mishmash of styles on paper, but it surprisingly works. JAY B also finally gets to claim the spotlight for himself, a much-needed respite from all the earlier collaborations. He blissfully conquers the track with ease, his vocals floating atop the irresistible arrangement.

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As he declares on the outro, “I’ll show you all”, let’s hope that’s also a promise he intends to keep for future releases. JAY B’s a superstar brimming with potential and it’ll be a shame to watch that all go to waste. The last time the singer spoke to NME, he expressed his desire to dabble in alternative rock. Guess, for now, we’ll just have to count on him to deliver that, and maybe with a little bit more time and patience, he’ll find the style he’s been searching for.

Details

JAY B Somo:Fume cover art
  • Release date: August 26
  • Record label: Warner Music Korea/H1GHR MUSIC
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