For someone who’s not been in the spotlight for almost two years, B.I – real name Kim Han-bin – has managed to sustain fans’ interest in his return as a solo artist. This can be attributed in part to the demo tracks he’s been posting on his SoundCloud account, dating to around a year ago. Three of them have since made it to the ex-iKON member’s debut solo EP, ‘Midnight Blue (Love Streaming)’.
With its “calm piano melody and warm vocal tone”, the singer describes its title track ‘Midnight Blue’ (‘깊은 밤의 위로’ in Korean, loosely translated as “a deep night’s comfort”) as “a track that gives a warm embrace to the audience” in the song’s animated video teaser. And true to its name, the song is ideal for late-night listening, when silence envelopes the thoughts that fill one’s head.
Here, B.I manages to imbue the song with layered emotional states and perspectives, shifting from reflection (“Having grown up too fast / Our hearts are too fragile”) to consolation (“I’ll pretend I don’t know / So go ahead and cry”) and even despair (“Everyone seems to live like that, with a bruised heart”). His delicate vocals are able to convey a comforting assurance, though this is briefly broken during the song’s midpoint with a sudden switch to a harsher rap voice that pierces the gentle cadence. Thankfully, he’s able to refine that balance and make the transitions more seamless as the EP progresses.
“Will you remember me / As time goes by / Even as dust accumulates in your memory?” croons B.I, almost pleadingly, on the second song ‘Remember Me’. Keeping closely to the original demo, this dreamy, contemplative acoustic track – the perfect playlist addition for a chill cafe setting – showcases how measured yet emotionally vulnerable his vocals (both singing and rapping) can be at once.
Listening to this can only make one imagine just how alone Han-bin must have felt during his hiatus. Though up for interpretation, the lyrics for ‘Remember Me’ conjure an image of the singer looking back on the past, wondering now where he stands among those who’d supported him (“Have you forgotten the shape of me? Is there any place I can go back to?”). He eventually comforts himself with the prospect of still being in someone’s consciousness (“I think I could smile / If I’m alive anywhere in the corner of your heart”).
This attempt at self-comfort extends to the final track, an upbeat number titled ‘Blossom’ (but ironically, its Korean title ‘내 걱정’ means “my worry”). Funnily enough, the song’s intro even bears slight similarities to iKON’s 2018 digital single ‘Rubber Band’, a reminder of the impact B.I made as the creative heart and soul of his former group. On it, he appears to come to terms with all that has happened (“I was definitely loved / I will smile when I remember those memories”), though there are hints of him still holding on to the past (“If time allows me, I will visit you like a coincidence”).
It’s interesting how the overall narrative of the EP seems to be slightly reversed, as it altruistically offers listeners a sense of comfort even before delving into B.I’s own journey of self-actualisation. This could also be a reflection of his generosity and how he wishes to “share warmth with one another”, particularly during these unprecedented times. He’s doing just that through this release too, as proceeds of ‘Midnight Blue’ will be donated to support children in crisis across the globe through World Vision.
While each of the featured tracks are completely different in sound and feel, they are also so distinctively B.I – and frankly, it can be hard to shake off the mark he left on iKON’s sound. That said, his dexterous execution of this pensive yet hopeful EP could well and truly bring comfort to those who have missed hearing from him, and keep them looking forward to more.
- Release date: March 19
- Record label: 131 Label