5 MIN READ
One song that I have had on repeat for the past month is Bernard Park’s ‘Bad Influence’. Prior to this mid-November release, I did not know much about Park’s previous discography; from his come-up through winning a vocal audition programme, (leading him to sign under JYP Entertainment), building a solid roster of ballad songs under his Korean name NakJoon, and even having collaborated with Changmo before taking a long-term hiatus. For these reasons, Bernard Park’s career seems like it existed quietly outside of the K-RnB scene.
But his exploration of RnB has begun with a double single, comprised of title track ‘Bad Influence’, coupled with ballad song ‘Easier’. The format of this single gives Park a chance to work through and explore his duality; writing from familiar and unfamiliar territories of sound, by mixing his Western influences with his experience of making music in Korea. What develops out of this exploration is an interesting sonic and cultural clash, which appropriately reflects and embodies Park’s own identity as a Korean-American.
Listen to the EP here:
Between the two songs in this EP, ‘Bad Influence’ is my pick; it's a sensual RnB track, heavily inspired by Frank Ocean’s ‘Pink Matter’, as described by Park himself in an episode of the Get Real Podcast. This is most recognisable in the track’s production.
The beat is rooted in conventional elements of RnB, leaning into blues; with a boozy bassline and an echoed saxophone tapering in the background. Park sings in an almost whispered, breathy falsetto that balances out the low tones of the instrumental. This proves to be a great technical choice for the vocals, as it adds a layer of intimacy to a song that is already sensual and urges you to lean in to hear the essence of his voice.
The lyrics become perfect grounds for Park to merge language together with meaning and intent; the song is primarily in Korean, but intertwined with English as part of the chorus lines; “You’re no good for me, such a bad influence // Hurts so good, don’t know what's gotten over me”. It describes being deeply infatuated with a lover, all the while recognising the dangerous possibility of losing yourself completely to them. And as mentioned, the breathy falsetto that Park sings with has a great effect on the delivery of these lines as a voice that is both vulnerable and willing.
Park’s music rests on the balance between the distinctly American sonic influences while employing the Korean language. This is certainly not uncommon - especially as several Korean-American artists amongst a wider community of Korean artists born, raised and living overseas - have released songs with similar formats. But the musical content that is produced here seems to occupy a unique cultural space, marking out a multicultural experience and understanding of music, unafraid to experiment with foreign sounds as integral to their personal musical identity.
The only downside of this song is that it feels a little too short. At just under 3mins, this serves as both a blessing and a curse for the listener; it will leave you wanting to continue leaning in and grooving. But this also guarantees a lot of replays to satisfy the ear.
- Nina Ito