Taeyang released his third solo album last month, on August 16th, and topped the charts internationally. White Night (also the title of his current world tour) is Taeyang’s first solo album in three years, and I think most fans would agree that it was worth the wait.
1) WHITE NIGHT
Taeyang always has fierce intros on his solo albums that openly announce and title the album. White Night is short and lets you know what you’re getting yourself into with strong production and his key tenor vocals. There are shifts from lower throaty vocals into a more notable nasally timbre. The intro slides out with an elegant tail of reverb.
2) WAKE ME UP
The instrumental sounds dark and a bit heavy, met by staccato vocal bits. The dark instrumental stays as it’s joined by lovely high notes. The bass kicks in and extra effects come in at exactly a minute along with the chorus. The album starts off strong with these two songs and Taeyang’s well known falsetto. At about 3:04 there is a chime-y glass falling sound and at 3:15 the song has a satisfyingly sharp stop before one last “Wake Me Up.” It didn’t blow me away at first, but Taeyang’s airy falsetto and the catchy chorus instrumental make you come back to this track after the album has ended.
By far my favorite song on White Night. The piano immediately sounds like it’s telling its own story. His vocals climb, reaching up to give you a sensation of being pulled upwards as the piano keeps your heart on the ground. You get lost in the verses, only to be brought back to the song by the choruses. At around 2:25, an onslaught of new sounds are brought in, including strings that come up evenly but distant for the rest of the song. It makes the bridge just different enough to make you feel like over three minutes of music are shorter than the rest of the songs. The production is spacious but keeps everything concise at the same time. Taeyang’s vocals are ripe with intent and the song is definitely not something you only listen to once. It will stay with you.
Right away this one wasn’t really my cup of tea. It sounds like slightly funky jazz mixed with mellow 80s EDM. This mix is overall very much like early 90s R&B, which is one of Taeyang’s known influences. His vocals are classically “Taeyang” and anyone who likes that sort of tacky R&B vibe of song about sex will love this. I am not one of those people (sorry, Taeyang.) The bridge is solid R&B, including this little tinny count-in that happens before the last part of the song. It all feels very Michael Jackson, which is also one of Taeyang’s most notable influences, so if that’s what he was going for, he definitely succeeded. The fade at the end is really nice.
Honestly not much analysis bubbled up for me during this song. His vocals are clear and the production isn’t sloppy. I don’t find myself wanting to sing along or dance much. But! It’s definitely a “club jam” and I would bet money that DJs are playing this in clubs in Seoul right now. He feels amazing — and that’s the song. Though one thing I’d like to note is that a lot of Taeyang’s music has an almost “sterile” feeling to it. Not to say it isn’t rich with emotion, but his songs are frequently so clean-cut that it can feel too clean. It’s something that makes his music interesting, even during the songs that don’t stick with you.
6) EMPTY ROAD
The guitar is emotionally stirring and his calmer than usual vocals are lovely. It sounds a lot like “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran and it’s a really charming change of pace. Most of the song is sung in a lower register and it’s very easy listening without being boring at all. It makes you sway along, simple and sweet. The parts where he does go higher are brief and well placed in the mellow soundscape. The guitar solo is really smooth and the way everything gets more hectic before the song fades quickly is spot on for the way the rest of the song played out.
The instrumental up until the chorus definitely lends to the sensual feeling of the track without slipping into cheesy adult film industry territory. Taeyang’s vocals lay on top of the instrumental well, and on its own, the instrumental is strong. His voice and the production don’t blend together as much as they do on the other tracks, but the separation doesn’t displace either one. It’s almost like you’re listening to his voice and then the music at different times, but it doesn’t make the song less fluid.
The intro of this one sounds exactly like you’re listening to different songs through a club door. That continues into the rest of the instrumental and stays throughout. The perscussion stands out in the mix as it sounds like a full drum kit as opposed to the usual few drums from a drum machine. Zico’s rap isn’t as muffled as Taeyang’s vocals. The lightly used horns and Taeyang’s drawn out notes make it unenjoyably messy. The bridge is a bit clearer and his belt at the end of it would have sounded better with less compression. The last minute of the song brings all the messy disconnection together in a really juicy way. I had been rather bothered by the sound until exactly 3:47 when the song knocks me straight down. I thought I really wouldn’t listen to this song more than a couple times for the review, but Taeyang’s louder, dirtier vocals along with the properly cluttered production makes me scrunch up my nose and bob my head along and I know I’ll end up listening to it specifically for the ending. It also carries on the tradition of Taeyang’s solo albums having a song that’s very different from the rest of the album as one of the last songs. A good way to end a good album.
White Night has two music videos for the title tracks as well as one for the intro: