At this point, it should come as no surprise that Crush has set the standard for R&B in South Korea...yet again!
What can I say about Crush that I haven't said at least 1,000 times? Beyond the obvious gushing about his musical talents, there's something that folks don't tend to talk about as frequently. How intelligent Crush is with his album construction.
First, Crush comes out the gate on wonderego swinging with a Roy Ayers sample (the lower synth riff that opens the album). Second...harmonies to the GAWDS. But of course. What else can one expect from the multi-hyphenate musician? He seems to be in the summer era of his career, something he’s been playing around with since the “Outside” maxi-single. He’s leaned into it heavily on wonderego, adding action to the “lust” he felt with 2016’s Wonderlust.
Opening track “New Day” informs listeners right away that there’s a new sense of freedom in the music this time around. “Me Myself & I” is the perfect reflection of his new sense of independence, ambition, adventure (“Me, myself and I, feelin’ myself tonight. Me, myself and I, just can’t live a lie”). There’s notable jubilance in his vocal delivery; Crush reaches for melisma easier, finds his way down the scale with so much more confidence.
He continues to find comfort in the easy power of R&B from the 1980s and ’90s. Track “Deep End” (featuring the warm first alto of AMAKA) is reminiscent of duets between Alexander O’Neal and Cherelle, Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack, or groups like Atlantic Starr. Smooth, emotive, a classic R&B ballad that Crush has long proven he’s fully capable of authentically encapsulating.
It’s also incredibly evident how much fun Crush had making this album. It’s in the subtle chaos in some of the music (“GOT ME GOT U” and to a lesser but equally effective extent, the short interlude with Kim Ximya, “Nothing Else”). He’s fully embraced his experimental tendencies, habits we experienced with 2016 sleeper classic Interlude.
Though a bit disjointed in its aural narrative, thematically it all makes sense. wonderego sees Crush at his most open, most adventurous self in the past seven years. Perhaps the switch to P Nation has given him the feeling that he can go for absolutely anything, and he’s done just that. Still maintaining the same quality composition, now with an added frenzy, like a madman who must try every trick at his disposal to bring his vision to fruition. It works for him, because as much as he seems to be swinging from the hip sonically, he’s very intentional about everything on this album (a variety of well-placed samples, using embellishments to great effectiveness, his absolute ruthlessness on that 808). Calculated chaos.
wonderego is a master class in showing restraint despite great experimentation. Crush is a painter, marking the boundaries of his album with a white crayon to make sure his whims and machinations stay within the confines of his vision. It’s an album that’s as smart as it is interesting, and I’m here for it! While not every song hits (and that could very well have to do with placement), one thing this album is not is boring.
I was worried I’d be an emotional wreck listening to Crush’s first full-length comeback since his groundbreaking magnum opus From Midnight to Sunrise. However, this was just a fun piece of music to unwrap, further pushing Crush into the stratosphere of the musical elite in South Korea and holding more than a soft spot in my heart forever.