5 MIN READ
LeeHi released her '4 ONLY' album on September 9, 2021. The long-awaited album signifies the K R&B singer's first full-length release since her 2013 album 'First Love'. It also marks a new milestone in the solo artist's career as it represents her first album under Jay Park's label AOMG which she signed to in 2020. The ten-tracks see LeeHi further perfect her R&B style, and from songs produced by the likes of GRAY and CODE KUNST to features from B.I, Yoonmirae and Wonstein, it proves to be an immensely fresh piece of work.
The dreamy track 'Savoir' kicks things off and draws the listener into LeeHi's world. At the start, soft synths and rudimentary drums accompany the singer's angelic vocals as she expresses how she and her lover "get along so naturally". One could almost be fooled into believing that this is a straightforward love song. However, lyrically she gives a raw look at the highs and lows of relationships, and the complexities and imperfections that come along with love. There is a sense of tension created by the lyrics and it is only heightened by a Spanish finger-style guitar solo on the post-chorus. It opens up the track, and creates space for rapper and LeeHi’s long-time friend B.I to make a smooth entrance with his heartfelt rapping. What shines through is the unmatched chemistry between the two that has been created over the years. The accompanying music video also enhances the sense of their closeness as it sees B.I staying by LeeHi's side through tough times. One could ascertain that in a certain way, they have been each other's savior.
The following song 'Intentions' sees LeeHi take the opportunity to show off her soulful side. The only musical accompaniment on the song is a woody acoustic guitar which leaves the song with a very stripped back feel. However, it does not feel empty as the Korean singer’s more husky tone manages to reverberate, and coupled with beautiful harmonies on the chorus, it fills up the space well. There is a classic R&B feel to the song yet the sonic choices give it a unique twist. Her voice is soft yet packed with emotion as she relays frustrations about her uncertainty of her partner's intentions, making it easy for the listener to empathise with her.
The tracks 'Waterride' and 'Bye' see the introduction of a retro vibe to the album. A groovy bass line, bluesy guitar licks and the added effects of claps on 'Waterride' give it a bright feel. Matching the energy, LeeHi brings forth powerful and lingering vocals. Contrary to the song's upbeat melody, its darker lyrics see the singer delve into her feelings about a lack of trust in relationships which creates an interesting mood. The production of 'Bye' sees legendary AOMG producer GRAY bring his expertise to it to create a funk-inspired track on which LeeHi demonstrates her range. The verses consist of the singer sticking to her lower tone however, as she hits the chorus, she switches things up and uses a sweet falsetto. The 80's style synth, vintage-sounding bass and ad-libs also add the track's funky mood.
The addictive title track 'Red Lipstick' moves away from the uncertainty of relationships and presents a feel-good song. It pays homage to the disco-funk of the late '80s / early '90s and is full of instrumentation from this era. There is a "live in the moment" vibe that is conveyed through the lyrics and it feels as though the song represents being able to finally enjoy time with someone, without having worries. There is a collaboration with rapper Yoonmirae on this track and her rap feels like the perfect addition to the song. She rides the beat well and effortlessly takes over from LeeHi's playful singing to deliver a fun, rhythmic rap. Listening to the song almost feels like it can transport the listener back to the past, and the song's music video plays into this feeling as there is a strong 90's theme present throughout. The lyrics call on one to dance and if the previous songs didn't already do it, then this song will surely make anyone move to the music.
LeeHi slows things down and creates a laid-back mood with 'H.S.K.T.' and 'Safety Zone'. There is a lo-fi feel to 'H.S.K.T.' created by the use of airy rhythms overlaid with vocals that are both silky and seductive. Coy lyrics like, "Have you ever seen a woman like me?" exude confidence and see the singer present a new side of herself. Wonstein graces the track with a feature and brings it to another level with his melodic rap style. The tone of their voices blend together well and the interplay between them add a sexy feel to the song. Despite being one of the more mellow tracks on the album, it's one that has been on heavy rotation.'Safety Zone', produced by CODE KUNST, provides a seamless transition from the previous track. It is also quite relaxed and has elements of jazz laced throughout it. As expected of anything that CODE KUNST creates, the beat is quite intricate and uses heavy reverb. It leaves the singer with plenty of room for her voice to shine through on this track and she manages to bring delicate vocals.
The softer feel of the album continues with the song 'What is Love?'. It features a chorus filled with electric guitar, rich major chords and effects of snaps. LeeHi delivers enthralling lines as she expresses her anxiety about wanting to get things right in a new relationship. 'Darling' on the other hand has a '70s feel to it and sees a bit of a rock influence. The singer's deep, and at times breathy vocalisation also helps to keep things engaging for the listener.
'Only', the album’s final track, brings things to an intensely romantic close. A soft piano and honey-like voice cover the first part of the song. However, things intensify as the drums enter, with LeeHi belting out impressive high notes before heading into the hypnotic chorus. The song feels like it's straight out of a romance film and seems like it would be the perfect inclusion to an OST. The music video for the song satisfies this feeling as it depicts a beautiful love story between a couple. The track feels very balanced as LeeHi's raw low notes are mixed with higher ones and at times even falsetto. The inclusion of violins also increases the dizzying romantic vibe of the song. It perfectly captures the emotions of finally being able to fall in love and is a strong end to the album.
'4 ONLY' demonstrates LeeHi's growth as an artist and her ability to produce a cohesive body of work. With her lyrics, and evocative vocals she takes the listener on a journey, teaching them that love is not one-dimensional as it includes trials and tribulations, but it is the ups and downs that ultimately make it special. It is an album that feels complete and rarely has any dull moments which is sure to attract new fans to the singer. The album represents a huge next step in LeeHi's career and is certain to be revered.