There is exactly one reason to check out Toheart (Woohyun & Key) without knowing anything about their music; the fact that it’s a cross-group project group. The group treads totally new territory in K-pop, since Toheart happens to be the first cross-company project group, which means that this is the first group where the singers are not only from different groups, they were trained in totally different environments with totally different musical styles. If those aren’t enough firsts for Toheart, it is also the first group to exist simply because the members are good friends. Based on all of this “groundbreaking” stuff, I knew I would have to say something about the duo in some capacity.
Toheart on stage turned out to be a bit of a mess, which in some ways is not unexpected. Off-stage chemistry is off the charts, that’s for certain; but on-stage chemistry is a dark black hole of nada. Woohyun is part of a group famous for being perfectly in line and balanced with each other, while Key’s is not like that at all…and those unique performance traits show. The duo have an awkward stage presence where Key is overly relaxed and Woohyun is tighter and sharper with his delivery. Unfortunately, their polarity is only amplified by their sun/moon concept.
The best explanation I can come up with for this problem is that everything about “Delicious” is flamboyant and Shinee-like, and Woohyun is having difficulty conveying the playfulness inherent in the song. He’s totally out of his element, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. On the flip side, “Tell Me Why” is not working for Key, which takes the Infinite route of classic boy-band. He isn’t able to convey the song’s strengths as well as he could.
“Tell Me Why”
The rest of the album faces the same sort of friction. Some of the tracks invokes Shinee, some of it Infinite. Oddly enough, it works; not in the “OMG this is genius” kind of way, but the accepting sort of way. Since Sweetune is the producer behind Toheart, I wouldn’t be surprised if his flourishes got thrown into the mix as well to produce the hodgepodge musical identity that is Toheart.
The title, “Delicious,” takes the modern TVXQ fire and ice concept and injects youthfulness into it. The song itself shows characteristics of both Infinite and Shinee, even if it visually resembles Shinee more. Vocals are definitely SM-like, but the song’s structural elements fit Infinite’s discography better than it would Shinee’s.
The second track, “Maze,” continues with musical concept that “Delicious” started. It’s a bit on the bizarre side for the album, though it has the old K-pop vibes going for it. Bluntly put, this is as filler as filler can get. It’s weak on many different fronts, but worst of all, it’s weak because it’s doing neither Key nor Woohyun voice any favors by being one note in melody. Literally. One. Note. The line, “My only girl,” is the only thing I remember about the melody after listening to it.
“You’re My Lady” is the most defined song on the album, and probably the one that sounds most like Infinite. The rap, the melody, the bridge, etc, is very straightforward. This kind of melody isn’t entirely foreign to Shinee, but it certainly isn’t normal for them the way it would be to people more familiar with Infinite’s music. It still manages to be one of my favorite tracks on the album, just because it’s so easy to approach.
The same goes for “Tell Me Why,” which I like way better recorded than I do as a live track. The first time I came across it was during the duo’s showcase for Loen (I’m never calling it 1theK, ok?) and was really disappointed. First of all, the song is not my type of track, and second of all, it felt super generic.
The recorded version is still generic, of course, but the production does wonders for making the song more palatable. The small guitar riffs (the instrumental in general, actually) totally make the song, elevating it from basic to something with semblance of dimension. Lives disproportionately emphasize vocals, so hearing the balanced full track was the key to my enjoyment of the song. (Goes to show, songs aren’t always about the voices singing them.)
“Departure” is the remake track of the the album, and it’s truly well done. The production quality is really good (that instrumental break!), and the track doesn’t sound like either Shinee or Infinite. My biggest problem with the project group as a whole is that it tries to mash styles together instead of creating an identity for Toheart independent of the members’s respective groups. Retro’s never a bad route to go down, and I really like how the group really made the old song their own. Then again, the voices don’t actually make that happen, so I guess the accolades go to the arranger, sound engineers, and producer. Pat yourself on the back, BTS folk.
All and all, we have ourselves a decent album. Unfortunately, that’s all we get, and I can’t say that I’m not disappointed that Woohyun and Key (and their respective company/companies) didn’t make the most of this huge opportunity.