Since GOT7’s departure from JYP Entertainment earlier this year, and each member subsequently signing with new labels, Mark Tuan has drip-fed us a handful of collaborative tracks. ‘Last Breath’, though, is his first truly solo post-JYP moment – no other voices, no one else’s feelings being added to the mix. It is, as he sings on the single, his first chance to really “finally let loose” and begin to show the world who he is as a solo artist.
- READ MORE: Mark Tuan on ‘Last Breath’ and the daunting reality of going solo: “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep pursuing music”
If this is a sign of what to expect from the Taiwanese-American singer and rapper in the months and years to come, it suggests what lies ahead is a future catalogue of emotionally raw lyricism that both pulls from Tuan’s own experiences but can be moulded into something more universal without diluting its impact. To the general public, ‘Last Breath’ might seem like an obvious break-up song, but if you read between the lines you can link those feelings of being under control, frustration and trying to break through both to other situations – say, feeling undervalued in your career or boxed in by a life in the public eye (so far Tuan has only specified that the lyrics stem from his experiences in Korea).
“Can’t hold it back, I’m suffocating / You’re controlling me and I can’t escape, oh no,” he sings softly on the second verse. “I wish I would’ve known about your evil plan.” That framing of Tuan versus someone – or something – toxic continues on the chorus, when he adds: “One last breath in me / I know you wanna take it away / You got your hands around my throat.”
Whether the sonic style of ‘Last Breath’ is one the GOT7 member will continue to pursue remains to be seen, but it suits his message here. It balances emo-rap with minimalist hints of pop-punk, both playing up the vulnerability and open hearted emotion in Tuan’s words. It does lack some sparks of originality in the instrumental that could set it apart from the many other artists mining this sound right now but, given it’s still very early days for the star’s solo career, it’s clear he’s still finding his feet. “I’m still trying to find what I want to show the fans, what I want to sound like,” Tuan himself assessed in an interview with NME earlier this week.
Even if he doesn’t know exactly what his artistic identity will be outside of his group yet, ‘Last Breath’ is a solid start. What it lacks in inventiveness, it makes up for in its infectious nature; a simple yet addictive piece of melancholy pop that belies Tuan’s gift for crafting effortless earworm hooks. “It’s hard to inhale when you’re too close / So I only breathe when I’m alone,” he sings as the chorus wraps up. If Tuan is breaking off whatever shackles he’s felt in the past with his solo career, then ‘Last Breath’ must feel like a much-needed breath of fresh air – liberating, refreshing and like a new lease of life.