“Ars longa, vita brevis” – this is a quote that Youngjae is known to favour. The GOT7 vocalist even has a tattoo of the Latin phrase – a rough translation of it being “art is long, life is short” – on his right bicep. That has translated to his songwriting moniker ‘Ars’, through which the singer-actor has been showcasing original songs and productions on his personal SoundCloud account, alongside credits on a handful of GOT7 releases since 2016.
Fast forward five years, Youngjae – who is the last GOT7 member to release solo material after the group left their longtime agency of JYP Entertainment – is officially stepping into the spotlight for himself. All seven tracks on his debut solo mini-album ‘COLORS From Ars’ were written and produced by him, together with producers like Boytoy, Disko and more.
Just like how there’s a sequence to a rainbow’s colours, there appears to be an order to the offerings in ‘COLORS From Ars’. The album kicks off with warmer hues on opening number ‘Beautiful’, an upbeat, laid-back tribute to “a beautiful girl in this beautiful world”.
Youngjae next shifts his groove into gear with the city pop-meets-R&B jam ‘Tasty’, which is indeed quite a treat. ”So tasty, we are like / Two strawberries that fell into honey”, he croons on the stand-out saccharine love song, switching effortlessly between smooth, bassy low notes to higher-range melisma, particularly in the second pre-chorus.
For all its strengths – musically and vocally – it’s a pity that ‘Tasty’ wasn’t delectable enough to be picked as the mini-album’s title track. The honour instead goes to ‘Vibin’, a serviceable, if somewhat derivative, slice of dance-pop sunshine with a simple message: “Enjoy this moment, this feeling you have right now”, as explained in an interview with L’Officiel Malaysia.
The mini-album then slowly dips into cooler tones and mellower tunes, a vibe that the vocalist is more than familiar with. There is a tender touch to his voice in the soulful ‘Roses’, as he recounts how a blossoming love is what “gives him wings every day”. On the flipside, final track ‘Lonely’ delves into the despair of being left alone by someone, with a desperation that leaves him all but gasping for air (“My room is completely sinking into the deep sea”).
They also shine on the uplifting ‘Eternal’, the lyrics for which he wrote by himself, soaring against its piano melody. Meanwhile, he taps on his higher register for the dreamy, romantic ‘Moonlight’. Both ballads sound like they could have come straight off the soundtrack of a Korean drama, but above all, they are testament to his ever-growing emotional depth and range.
“[The album’s title] refers to ‘my own colour’ which makes up who I am, so for each song, I focused on my vocal tones,” Youngjae said of the record in a reaction video for ‘Vibin’ – and it shows. The singer’s successful approach here seems to have been to mold the songs around his voice, with band or piano-driven melodies dominating much of the record, allowing his vocal spectrum to truly stand out.
“I would like my fans to see me growing as an artist by realising that Youngjae also has this kind of voice and he wrote these types of songs,” he mused in the L’Officiel Malaysia interview. With the confidence in his craft shining on his maiden solo effort, Youngjae can be assured that the “colours” that he set out to show are indeed coming through.
- Release date: October 5
- Record label: Sublime Artist Agency