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On June 29th 2020, WOODZ released his debut album titled “EQUAL” and while maintaining the same R&B flow heard in previous works featuring producer Cha Cha Malone, this album will have you questioning the realms that exist between genres.

Triumphant and dedicated; the genius that is “LIFT UP” sets the tone for the first half of the album. It starts off with a powerful intro that could easily contend with an award-winning monologue - albeit thirteen seconds short. This power is met by WOODZ with his oh-so-heavenly voice where he is seemingly whispering the lyrics to himself. He mentions a race that has begun and throughout the song, he is determined to win this relay. The lyrics echo his determination with translations like “I have to withstand everything“I will go up even if I’m bitten”. A build-up ensues at an almost alarming rate as soon as the song starts while the backtrack offers a bass-heavy melody paired with delicate synthesized percussion that contributes to the intensity of this song. He manages to fight his way up towards the climax of the song, where he eventually merges with the voice heard in the beginning, completing the race successfully. In a sense the voice heard in the intro is the ideal that WOODZ set for himself, and the song represents the journey endured in order to fulfil that goal; a true masterpiece indeed!

Fans were treated to an incredible live clip performance for the second track off the album, “Accident”, boasting an effortless R&B flow that makes it easy to follow. Captivating and impactful, every word is delivered to its designed destination. Your heart. WOODZ proves his vocal strength with this song and flexes his writing capabilities being the sole songwriter credited. He starts off by singing “it was an accident, not your fault", then he takes you through this journey until he eventually sings “it’s your fault”; this suggests that the character WOODZ portrays in the song was in denial and finally came to his senses nearing the end of the song where he finally saw the situation for what it was. This leads to an eruption of emotion which mirrors the lyrics really well. After he throws vocal punches at your heart, you feel convicted by the vulnerability expressed.

The album takes a groovy turn with the title track “파랗게” (Blue/ENG Title: Love Me Harder) offering a fresh spin on romance. The translation creates a narrative where a lover of sorts inspires a different set of emotions this time around. The original title reflects this notion as he goes on with the lyrics “Our relationship is blue, Everyone else has a red love” insisting that there is a uniqueness to the connection. “gentle”; a word used to describe eye contact between the two involved evokes a strong sense of sentiment that echoes that of soft-hearted love which is juxtaposed by the all-consuming desire displayed in the lyrics “everything about me turns blue”. With an intense storyline, the music video does not disappoint. It follows a relationship that comes to a rather unexpected end with WOODZ portraying two characters. Everything from the acting in the music video, to the songwriting and production, supports the term “all-rounder” that's always being used when describing WOODZ. With an incredibly addictive bassline, this song has you up and moving from the first whistle. It's an easy listen and bound to lift your spirits.

Although not guitar-heavy, track 4 “NOID” beholds a sense of rock & roll whilst simultaneously remaining within the R&B realm. With the consistent discography WOODZ has released after "Equal" we can assume that this is the song that kick-started the incorporation of Rock in his own music. In an interview with Rollingstone Korea earlier this year, he cited Paul McCartney as one of his musical influences who not only explored pop-rock as a solo artist but also with his work whilst a part of The Beatles. It is incredible to see how the next generation of legends are being influenced by music industry royalty; likewise to see the inspiration drawn from these icons bloom into new genres unique to the artists within the new generation, in this case, WOODZ.

This song has a way of feeling like it never ends in the best way possible. WOODZ manages to execute his vocals in a way that honours the lyrics, while the production completes the picture. The message is clear with NOID, “Don't underestimate WOODZ. Don't put his sound in a box. He is the sound and he is ever-changing”.

After a rollercoaster of emotions, the tracklist slows down a bit. “Waikiki” featuring Colde, is the first of two collaborations on this album. It starts off with a minimalistic backtrack while the progression of the song is guided by WOODZ’s voice. It’s only at 00:47 where there’s a change in the composition. The song starts building and Colde sneaks in with a comforting raspiness amplifying the contrasting vocals between the two artists. The rest of the song is well-paced and doesn’t take itself too seriously with playfully placed adlibs. We also have the addition of a groovy guitar and keyboard nearing the end that really brightens up the song. “Waikiki" serves as the perfect R&B lullaby after a tough day.

woodz (조승연) eqaul album shoot
WOODZ 'EQUAL' Concept Photo / Source: melon

Like a jump scare, “BUCK” catches you off guard showcasing hard-hitting exclamations of emotions and offers a thought-provoking monologue; “What’s the matter with you? Money isn’t everything. You think so?” says a naive character, met by WOODZ expressing a rather pessimistic outlook on life. The lyrics paint an exhausting picture where life is just a collection of hardships and that youths are constantly being dealt the raw end of the stick, which is amplified by Punchnello's presence on this track as well. With each listen this song has the potential to become a form of catharsis if only you allow it. It is true what they say, that in some cases music has the ability to work through emotions that we are not even aware of yet.

For the last time, the pace of the album is slowed down and the last track on the album “memories” greets us with a bird song intertwined with piano; it’s as if the piano somehow mimics movement as if guiding leaves through the air like a breeze. WOODZ does a brilliant job at conveying emotion through his voice whilst the lyrics decorate the song with imagery. A warm atmosphere is created with the mention of a lantern and it seems that there is not only light within this lantern but an endless sheet of paper containing memories referred to in the song. This adds a striking sentiment to the song and makes the listener recall their own memories laced with nostalgia. This song acts as the perfect bridge towards tranquillity for those tougher moments in life to escape the chaos we are sometimes consumed by.

EQUAL” could not end on a better note. The album is cohesive and well balanced but if you look at each of the songs individually you wonder how they ended up on the same album. Whatever your soul craves, “EQUAL” surely has hidden somewhere. It's safe to say that WOODZ did a great job at showing what he is capable of and continues to carve out his own path; fast approaching legendary status. It’s such a momentous occasion to find an artist like WOODZ. There is not a single song that I don’t like and I think what makes this album stand out is the fact that your mind fails to recall any other songs to compare it to. Nothing on this album sounds like something else. It's rare to find artists that make you feel like you're the one they're catering for. A treasured discovery no doubt.

RATING: 9.5/10

- Zandri Rossouw

Sources: [1][2][3][4]

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