I would like to call this a triumphant return from an established veteran, and in many ways, this could have been, but given the caution with which former-2NE1 member Minzy decided to tackle her solo debut, it’s understandable to walk away from Minzy Work 01 UNO with cautious optimism for the foreseeable future.
Something didn’t quite click on this mini-album, and the longer you listen to it the more puzzling it gets. It’s like raising the sails of a boat with no wind to move it. It’s the beat that never dropped; for a performer like Minzy, who hails from one of the most explosive girl groups ever, that’s a tragic misstep to debut with.
Lest you forgot, Minzy shattered the hearts of many last year when she left YG Entertainment to pursue a solo career, a decision that is widely speculated she made because of creative differences and a lack of solo activity. It’s interesting, then, that Minzy chose to stick closely to the sound that made her in the first place. You get the best sense of this in her lead single, “니나노 (NINANO),” featuring rapper Flowsik.
“NINANO” never quite gets off the ground. It’s a devastating dance song that lacks momentum, a memorable hook, and any sign of a proper climax. It takes most of its stylistic pointers from 2NE1’s marquee urban sound, but rather than give it a fresh spin (something 2NE1 desperately needed already before their undoing), “NINANO” is flung through a time portal to 2NE1’s earliest music.
While “NINANO” could have functioned as a solid up-tempo on 2NE1’s first mini-album, maybe even their second, nostalgia alone isn’t nearly enough to excuse its emptiness. “NINANO” attempts to sell a ferocity that just isn’t there. Flowsik’s rap break interjects with the right idea, and admittedly is a pretty solid moment in the song, but it’s weakened by a clunky instrumental.
Had Minzy (and by Minzy I mean her production team) taken bigger risks with the song’s arrangement and kicked the 2NE1 safety cushion to the curb, perhaps this might have allowed her to flourish both as a singer and a dancer and given her the killer debut she deserves. As it is, “NINANO” accomplishes neither.
If “NINANO” is as far as you got before booking it, then you’ve missed Minzy at her best on this mini-album. Where this EP gets things right is when it has a sense of direction. Minzy has always been treated favorably on R&B jams and she comes through on the Jay Park collab, “Flashlight.”
It’s a basic R&B song with a deep early 2000s vibe that invites Minzy to show off. And show off she does. She sounds both comfortable and confident belting on this mid-tempo, taking full ownership of the song, even with Jay Park’s charisma leaking in from time to time. And for his part, Park does well as a supporting voice elevating the overall tone of the song far better than Flowsik’s involvement in the lead single.
But nowhere does Minzy prove that she could indeed find her footing as a soloist than in the album closer, “Beautiful Lie.” The Minzy singing on this track is the Minzy to look out for. Her heart is in this, more so than anywhere else on UNO. It’s a mighty ballad that Minzy delivers with raw conviction. And that’s ultimately what this album could have used a little more of: Conviction and a finer tuned ear for slicker production value.
In the end, Minzy Work 01 UNO is largely unremarkable, drawing most of its inspiration from 2NE1’s signature swag and back catalog. Maybe that is Minzy’s style, and it just happened to translate poorly on this album. Where Minzy does shine best is when she narrows her focus on her talent as a singer rather than on watered down style alone. Minzy has a long way to go from here, but if you listen closely, you’ll find hints of potential hidden in the murkiness worth tapping into.
Genre: Dance, Ballad, R&B/Soul | Release Date: 4/17/17