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V makes a smooth alt-R&B landing on ‘Layover’, his first solo album

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A lot can go wrong when a performer endeavours outside of the group that made their career. In the case of BTS baritone V, a lot can go right, as well.

Layover, the first solo album from V, is moody, smooth alt-R&B, a collection of songs that feels true to the performer – and offers a glimpse into his oft-considered mysterious interiority.

First came the two singles, the bilingual Love Me Again and Rainy Days – the former, languid pop with V’s voice high in the mix, the latter, a syrupy, lo-fi post-breakup ballad. Blue and For Us connect the two. Slow Dancing is a standout, with its impromptu flute solo at the song’s coda.

Layover is V’s first solo album, but BTS ARMY know this is in no way his first solo experience: he’s released a few with the band, including 2016’s Stigma and 2020’s Inner Child.

But it is Singularity, V’s opening cut from BTS’s 2018 album Love Yourself: Tear, that stands out. “The illusions that torture me are still the same,” V sings. “Did I lose myself, or did I gain you?”

At the time, critics theorised that V was referencing the Greek myth of Narcissus – it certainly wouldn’t be the first time this K-pop group pulled out an academic reference point – but all seemed to agree that when given the opportunity to perform on his own, V has a particular musical magic, a kind of soulful, sensual approach to R&B. Where harmonies dominate, his husky tone cuts through, demanding attention. In that way, Singularity is the antecedent of Layover.

Historically, when an artiste goes solo, it is symbolic of a new chapter. Maybe it’s a boy band member leaving to become a man-musician, individuating beyond the support network that built them, not unlike a child leaving home in young adulthood. Maybe it’s a cry for creative freedom – to no longer feel their identity is tied to their fellow performers. But the members of BTS, history-makers and record-breakers that they are, offer an alternative.

They’re not on hiatus; nor have they broken up. While its seven members take turns fulfilling South Korea’s mandatory military service ( Jin and J-hope have enlisted; Suga has begun the process ) the others will release their own individual records, allowing fans to spend more time with them in the process.

In the case of V, it’s an opportunity to experiment – and it’s yielding great results.

Concept photo from V’s first solo album ‘Layover’. PHOTO: TWITTER/BIGHIT_MUSIC