On Jan. 9th, almost a year after the release of his mixtape “R.EBIRTH,” VIXX’s lead rapper and songwriter, Ravi, gifted fans his first EP. “R.Eal1ze” seems to be the next in a series of albums the idol rapper intends to release, no doubt as an extended solo project to fully unpack the various sides of his persona. Where “R.EBIRTH” was a low(er)-key reintroduction to Ravi as an artist, “R.Eal1ze” suggests he’s started to come into his own, has begun to chip away at his perceived self and tap into what makes him who he really is.

1. “BOMB (feat. San E)”

There’s no denying this song has the kind of appeal that gets people on the dance floor. However, even in that vein, it lacks scope and even originality. The argument could be made that, especially in K-pop, nothing’s truly original. But even for a genre whose entire existence is predicated on the music of another culture, there can be moments of nuance. “BOMB” offers none of that, instead being nothing more than a splice-together amalgamation of songs without a solid core. There are obvious parallels to both T.O.P and GD in terms of delivery, and Suga’s “Agust D” in lyrical intent and musical focus. It’s all posturing and bravado, which ultimately contradicts the album’s supposed aim—for Ravi and his fans to fully realize who he is. While San E’s verse was somewhat interesting, it too was lacking anything that would make the song (or its feature) memorable.

2. “Rose (feat. Ken)”

From the chaos and machismo of the lead single to a song that’s all sugary-sweet sentimentality, we get “Rose.” It’s nothing unfamiliar as far as pop albums go: a cloying love song that speaks of the sensuous virtues of a girl who’s caught our protagonist’s eye while in the same breath declaring an undying (read obsessive) addiction to her very presence. Bandmate Ken joins Ravi, adding more brightness to the track but ultimately very little dimension.

3. “Ladi Dadi (feat. Microdot & Jero)”

We loop back around to the club tracks with “Ladi Dadi.” Paying loose homage to the Slick Rick classic of the same name, this song has a certain level of familiarity—from the composition to the vocal construction and delivery. There’s nothing exceptional to take away from the track, being at once a typical party song and the quintessential “bro bop,” dripping with male posturing and an almost childlike desire to prove who’s got the brassiest globes.

4. “Home Alone (feat. Jong Yong-hwa)”

The back and forth between bops and delicate love songs continue with track “Home Alone.” This time around we get the rough prettiness of CNBLUE front man Jong Yong-Hwa. While his voice does add some much needed texture and depth to the flatness of the EP thus far, it does little to differentiate “R.Eal1ize” from any other mini album already out there. Here we have another lover’s lament, our protagonist going on about how much he misses his love interest. A cute song with some vocal depth, but nothing more to make it memorable.

5. “Do the Dance”

We’re taken full circle, another song in which Ravi flexes his bravado—and another regrettable instance in which the song parallels that of another artist. It’s particularly unfortunate when our protagonist decides to talk a little basura and purports to be badder than any rapper who’s ever dissed him or his group. (Sound familiar?) The composition is intentionally simple, mirroring most faux diss tracks-cum-club bangers to get listeners to focus on the lyrics. Sadly, once you move past the construction, you’ve got very little to grab on to.

6. “Lean On Me”

The last couple songs are the EP’s strongest in terms of lyrical content and musical composition. “Lean On Me” does the job of showcasing Ravi’s softer side a bit more successfully than the dewy-eyed pop of the previous tracks. Instead of our protagonist declaring some misguided undying devotion to his love interest, he swears to protect her from the excuse of a man who mistreated her in the past. However, while the track’s composition does stray from typical “bops” or drippy love songs, it still lacks direction. The attempts at combining deep house with typical K-pop dance conventions muddies up a track that could’ve and should’ve, been the moment we finally dug deeper into who Ravi is artistically.

7. “Moebius Strip (feat. ESBEE)”

It’s unfortunate we had to get to the last part of the album to finally see something resembling an honest look into Ravi’s mind. While the previous tracks were either haphazard attempts at shedding his idol image or scrambling to put the lovey-dovey mask firmly back in place, “Moebius Strip” gave us an unfettered peek into the inner workings of a man constantly plagued with questions of who he really is and what his place is in the universe. Our protagonist is in a constant dream state, where he’s not sure if he’s actually awake or still lost in his own ruminations. Made even dreamier with the wispy voice of ESBEE, “Moebius Strip” is conscientious, honest, and effortlessly beautiful.

Unfortunately “R.Eal1ze” doesn’t make good on its namesake. Barring “Moebius Strip,” the EP fails to tell us anything we a) didn’t already know about Ravi, or b) haven’t already heard from other artists with better execution. This mini is unfocused and lacks any sense of real identity. Perhaps that was the point, to illustrate that Ravi hasn’t truly found himself. But the actual lack of musical nuance makes the narrative arc a reach at best. Hopefully, the next part of this elongated road to self-discovery will “R.EVEAL” something more substantial about Ravi than the first two efforts.

[Images via Jellyfish Entertainment; YouTube.]

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