It’s been a long wait for Lee Hi fans. After being locked in the notorious YG Entertainment dungeon for the last 3 years after the release of album “Seoulite,” she’s finally returned with new content. And whilst it may only be a mini album five tracks in length, it’s safe to say that any new music from the singer will be welcomed with enthusiasm. Were these songs worth the radio silent wait? Well, in the simplest sense, yes. Lee Hi’s vocals are still wonderfully unique and rich, adding identity to the tracks on “24°C” that no other artist could replicate. However, it can also be said that some of the music here doesn’t allow that voice to shine. Whilst each song is produced to a very high standard, there are moments missing, the pervasive feeling of opportunities missed. These are saved by some high points that balance out each track, proving that Lee Hi is still a force of an artist to be reckoned with.
Opening with the title track, ‘No One’, which features B.I. of iKON, it’s instantly clear that there are some recent trends we aren’t going to be escaping from. The familiar tropical house sounds that have wound their way into Kpop over the last few years are present here too. The intro and first verse don’t get too carried away with this, instead allowing Lee Hi’s vocals the spotlight. Her voice is rich and warm, filling in the empty spaces of the backing track. It’s when the chorus hits – and a drop occurs – that she is pushed aside somewhat for the almost brass sounding synth line. When she comes back in, it’s with an undeniably catchy hook, one that will easily get stuck in your mind. To B.I.’s credit, he does not try to outshine Lee Hi here. His sections are frantic, a real contrast to the laid back feeling in Lee Hi’s vocals and the overall track, giving short staccato bursts of excitement. For Lee Hi’s vocals, there’s a moment of acapella bliss to be found in the bridge. This doesn’t build to anything, but it’s a nice moment all the same.
‘No Way’ follows this up with another featured artist, this time seeing G.Soul take up the role. And it works beautifully when the two vocalists harmonize together. This is an unashamedly laid back track, the piano and low bass the driving force. Lee Hi sings a little higher than he soulful voice usually suits, but she pulls it off well, the vocals suiting the easy-breezy nature of the song. This isn’t designed to shout for attention; this is a song to get drawn into by gentleness with a hint of soul.
‘Love is Over’ holds some great showcases for Lee Hi’s voice, even if they don’t particularly stretch her abilities. The jazzy, swung rhythm of the track keeps it interesting, though it is just as laid back as the song preceding it. By the time the bridge arrives, the change in melody is welcome. It isn’t a dull song, nor is it particularly repetitive. There simply isn’t anywhere that it travels. The vocals and brass tones are lovely to listen to, but this isn’t one that will stay in your mind for very long.
The next song offers a small breath of upbeat fresh air. An appearance from Choi Hyun Suk of Treasure is short but sweet, though does feel a little out of place as he doesn’t return later in the track. The fast beat comes as a surprise when the chorus hits. It’s not quite fast enough to feel as though it doesn’t fit, the tempo matching well. Yet paired with the relaxed melody and singing style, it does take a few times to get used to. Nevertheless, it does work, making the song that much more replayable. It stands out from the rest of the album for this very fact – by trying something different and having it pay off.
Perhaps saving the best, ’20 Minutes’ rounds off the mini album in delicious vocals and sumptuous guitar. The only song for which Lee Hi has lyric writing credit for, it’s good to see that it’s one of those that suits her voice the most. Even in the first verse, the echoes of certain lines in the background sound great with the sparse backing track. Even better, Lee Hi’s delivery is quick and quirky, fitting with the guitar perfectly. By the time the water drop effect comes in with that low base, the time of the song is established is something playful yet sensual. That the loose beat in the background isn’t consistent only adds to this playfulness. This track might just have the most personality out of all on the mini album.
So is Lee Hi’s return worth the three years it took? Yes. Whilst this might not be the bombastic album that some would have wanted from her, it’s a relaxing, well-made effort in which there are moments that truly allow her to shine. Trends do slip in here in and there, but there is always something that Lee Hi has over other artists to avoid falling into the pitfalls of those trends: her voice. Hopefully, it won’t be quite as long a wait for her next one.