For those who only know SALV Maknae, the YouTube personality, the man who makes commendable K-pop covers, you’re unfortunately missing something special. SALV the artist is a complex and enigmatic entity. Sensitive and incredibly introspective, his music seems almost therapeutic, a means for him to puzzle through what makes him who he is. No work he’s released to this point is more true to that notion than his latest release, “The Monsters.”
The Feeling (feat. Dio C)
SALV has a warm, understated voice that doesn’t attempt to push for more than his range dictates. It’s a welcome tone that works perfectly with the Caribbean-inspired midtempo composition. Though I’m not 100 percent sure the bits of Korean add anything of substance to the song, the sentiment in and of itself is at the very least honest. Wanting to know if someone feels the same as you do about them is universal, of course. However, SALV’s yearning is earnest, believable. A listener can really feel as though there’s something deeper nestling under the surface.
Heartbeat (feat. Uzuhan)
It was a stroke of genius to get rapper Uzuhan to lend his brand of sentimental lyricism and unhurried delivery to this track that is predicated on the way our own bodies keep time. Again, the listener is wrapped up in the warmth and even tone of SALV’s voice. It’s a vocal ripe for modern R&B: approachable, inviting. “Heartbeat” is another instance of composition and voice working in perfect concert with one another.
Love Music (feat. Flight J)
MsBlink’s production is the perfect foundation for a song about letting music wrap you up with the same affection of a lover. What’s more astounding is how even in this shift in compositional focus SALV’s voice excels. It’s not heavy-handed, not overwrought with computer cosmetics in order to sell the dance track trope. It’s surprising that for a first fully realized effort that he can be so versatile. Contemporary dance music (meaning anything post-CeCe Peniston) doesn’t require much of a vocalist. Just place your voice there. The focus is the beat and how the thumpa-thumpa affects the listeners. However, SALV’s soothing delivery adds dimension to the already multifaceted track. “Let’s dance love music” is something of a clarion call for all lovers: get to the dance floor and allow the sounds to transport our dual souls to a higher plane.
“The Monsters” showcases more of SALV’s ability to stretch beyond a single genre. The silkiness of the album’s title track (as in the song bearing the album’s name) calls out to a part of me that will always be a lover of deep house. There are very heavy shades of Jay Denes and his Naked Music. Unsurprisingly, the blissed-out composition houses a message more complex than what most might associate with deep house. This plays on another impressive facet of SALV as an artist: his fearlessness to reveal the “monsters,” as it were, that tend to swim around in his psyche. He doesn’t deny the demons that subdue him in tumultuous nightmares. Instead of battling those specters, he dances the night away and allows the music to be his salvation.
The Voices (feat. TFR)
Thus we come to more examples of how many genres SALV can actually sit in. “The Voices” has a darker slant to it, indicative of much of the harder-edged R&B coming out for the past six or seven years. It’s meant to incorporate more of the trap-influenced subgenres of hip-hop into the smoothness of R&B, and it works for the tone. Again, SALV’s silk delivery at work. His voice could very well get lost in the heaviness of the bass and the thicker lyrical content. Instead we get a well-balanced track that both highlights the evenness of SALV’s vocal range and showcases how well his voice works with the composition.
Dance on Me (feat. JRE, Jode)
Of course, what would an R&B-focused album be without a little grown ’n’ sexy? “Dance On Me” is the typical club fare created to entice a potential lover (either for life or for the night) to the bedroom. At this point, it’s no surprise that SALV’s voice works perfectly with this brand of candle-wax dipped R&B. Perhaps the biggest surprise is JRE’s verse. He’s got a flow that’s actually naturally rendered. There doesn’t seem to be anything put on or overexaggerated for the sake of selling a forced “swag” indicative of the genre. Together with Jode they manage to create a balance that both fits the tone of the track and the maturer topic at hand.
Hold Up, Wait (feat. JRE)
I’m still not 100 percent convinced using Korean in his tracks does anything to enhance them in any way. “Hold Up, Wait” is a brand of rap that doesn’t appeal to me on a fundamental level. It rings unauthentic and mostly disingenuous to my ears. However, while it is more derivative than the others on the album, SALV’s voice is just undeniable. He can make a song that’s meant to inflate the ego seem like so much more underneath the campy surface. That’s not to say that the only the asset to the album is SALV’s voice. But it’s precisely his voice that allows songs that have very little to set it apart from everything else with similar composition or lyrical narrative.
This Is My Jam
The album ends on another ode to his testicular fortitude. Claiming to attract “only the finest girls with the biggest booty,” “This Is My Jam” is a bit of a letdown lyrically, at the very least not something I’d want lingering as the final note of an otherwise thoughtful album. In the end, it left me wanting something … more. I had this deep urge to believe there was something with greater lyrical and emotional weight he could’ve let sit with us after the album ended.
“The Monsters” is a valiant effort from SALV. Though there are the obvious missteps of someone attempting to appeal to a wider audience (namely the typical self-aggrandizing of someone covering up insecurities with forced bravado), on the whole it’s quite a mature piece of work. It’s poignant, universal, but most notably his voice works so perfectly with the production. It’s uncomplex but still incredibly rich in tone and flavor. Something similar to Babyface or Trey Songz: impeccably smooth and absolutely meant to wrap around a sensual R&B track. Yet it’s simple enough to float through multiple genres. SALV has a very bright future paved for himself on the back of this release.