If you can get through the oh! you and I without thinking of the chorus of Phil Collins’s “Another Day in Paradise,” you’re a stronger, or maybe younger, person than I.
That aside: this is a lot better than we had any right to expect. From the distant confines of English-only news and gossip, it was hard to tell how far his reputation had fallen after the multiple allegations that led Starship to terminate his contract in the first place. There was no guarantee that anyone was going to be willing to put any money or care into making sure Wonho got decent material to work with.
It also doesn’t start terribly promisingly, only distinguishing itself once the prechorus kicks in. Let the record show that I am a complete sucker for this kind of dark, low-synth, relatively spacious song that clearly owes a debt to Daft Punk; and you didn’t ask but yes “Blinding Lights” is indeed my favorite The Weeknd song, I am that predictable. Lady Gaga’s “Do What U Want” is also in this vein, although a bit busier: here’s the instrumental. (I had to stop listening to “Do What U Want”: the original because I’ve read enough of Jim DeRogatis’s work, and then I didn’t think Christina Aguilera brought enough of a contrast to Gaga’s voice to the song. Maybe we can get it re-redone with Blackpink’s Lisa.)
Back to “Open Mind”: in the grand tradition of Korean idol pop songs all being addressed to the audience, “keep an open mind, girl” might be an unsubtle post-scandal plea to give Wonho another chance. But the whole package is kind of amusing: Korean idol pop rarely talks openly about one-night stands, and the live stages all seem hell-bent on sending Wonho out there as shirtless and ab-flaunting as Korean television will allow. As if there’s an unspoken message: oh, you can objectify this one, ladies, we all already know he’s Damaged Goods, so to speak, the idol you’re not going to bring home to Mother. (To illustrate a little better what I mean, compare Wonho’s styling to that given VICTON’s Seungwoo for his solo debut; “Sacrifice” is not nearly as good or memorable a song as “Open Mind,” but the styling is a lot less simple and more intriguing than Here Be Abs.)
I’m not sure I’m totally in favor of this idea of turning Wonho into a Hyuna for straight women. Hyuna, at least, got to play with the image, even before she left Cube, and hopefully Wonho will be able to expand his. That, or rejoin Monsta X; their last single was impressively unenjoyable.