Block B often seems to live or die around Zico, but the other members are also talented in their own right. Through Block B Project-1 in Japan, Tae Il, B-Bomb, Jae Hyo, U-Kwon and P.O get the chance to shine in a different setting through original collaborations with other artists.
U-Kwon and P.O duly carry forth the mantle of Block B's hip-hop sound in WINNER, a hot-blooded track with bombastic beats and a catchy hook. No one would accuse the self-hyping hip-hop bop of being deep and meaningful, but it's the kind of high-spirited musical bragging that's great for blasting at top volume. Though the song's composition and arrangement are on-trend to the point of being too familiar sounding, U-Kwon's smooth vocal performance is on-point and the rap portions leave a strong impression. Collaborating with provocative new-generation female rapper Chanmina makes perfect sense genre-wise, and she more than holds her own with her confident delivery.
B-Bomb, meanwhile, collaborates with hip-hop/R&B artist Ken the 390 for the unexpectedly light and infectious Paradise. Composed by Ricky Hanley and Jon Hallgren, the easy-going urban number has a refreshing summery melody and silky refrain, with breezy and upbeat lyrics to match. Perhaps the song's most inspired touch is an abrupt, assertive and funky middle eight that briefly shifts tones completely before returning to the pleasantly lulling calls of paradise.
Tae Il and Jae Hyo leave hip-hop behind for pure ballads in their collaborations. In the more high-profile duet of the EP, Tae Il joins voices with w-inds.' Tachibana Keita for the breakup love song Lost & Found. The beautiful ballad opens softly with Tae Il's clear voice over a piano accompaniment, while Keita takes the second verse as more beats and instrumentation are added. The two singers' ear-melting harmonization and high notes are a pure display of vocal talents, and arguably the highlight of this entire project.
Jae Hyo's Bus Stop featuring jazz pianist Tanaka Naoko is also a ballad about separation. Produced by Lee Gi, Sweetch and Noh Joo Hwan, the classic slow song has a standard but effectively melodramatic melody and arrangement, reinforced by poetically heartbreaking lyrics about the bus stop at which love was sent off. Bus Stop very much sounds like the grand and emotional ballads on Korean drama soundtracks, and one could easily imagine a Korean version of this song playing in the background of a romantic series.
Despite the language limitations, Block B Project-1 offers a great platform for the group's vocalists plus P.O to shine at the forefront and explore something different and original in Japan besides the usual remakes. Hopefully, this limited project will have a sequel.