Words can’t describe how happy I am. Today is an exciting day because one of my Ultimate Biases is releasing his first full album. Lee Gikwang finally makes his solo comeback and it is with the full-length album Predator and the title track of the same name.
Before we get to enjoying the album, allow me to relate how Gikwang became one of my favorite Korean artists.
By 2009, I had already become fully engulfed in the Korean wave. I was listening to more and more K-pop and getting to know many more artists. One of those artists I stumbled upon was a soloist going by the name of “AJ.” His title track “Dancing Shoes” was a pretty catchy song. But it wouldn’t be until he debuted in a new group called BEAST later that year that I would really begin taking notice.
When the new group debuted, one of the members seemed awfully familiar. And it turned out that it was indeed AJ, but now going by his birth name Lee Gikwang. (Or “Kiki” to many of his fans.)
Sometimes it’s hard to describe what makes someone your “bias.” There could be tangible (though subjective) qualities like someone being a great dancer or performer or have great vocals. Maybe there’s something in their personality that draws you to them. Or they could be someone you look up to and admire in both their talent and hard work.
I think for me, all of that applies to Gikwang. Back in 2009, 14 years ago!, there initially was that indescribable something that drew me to him immediately. But as I got to know him, I grew to really admire and appreciate him. He’s always been an excellent and charismatic performer. He was one of the most attention-grabbing performers of 2nd gen K-pop. Always showing off his dance skills on variety shows. And that popularity led to several acting projects for him as well.
In addition to his obvious talent, he just seemed like a nice guy. Someone you could just hang out with. That’s always very refreshing in the industry. But Gikwang had (and still has!) a bright, friendly personality. And he’s definitely fitness goals too.
So with all of this, Gikwang would quickly become my BEAST bias. But later on, I realized he was my bias, not just in the group, but K-pop wide as well. I don’t think there was the idea of “Ults” back then. But I can definitely say that Gikwang is one of my ultimate favorites, for the aforementioned reasons above.
Over the years, it’s been fun to learn that Gikwang was also the bias of two of my other group biases: Heo Chan formerly of VICTON and ATEEZ’s Wooyoung.
And it’s certainly not hard to see why, especially with this album. It is a diverse mix of tracks, all pulling from Gikwang’s more than decade-long experience. Predator is like a mix of his previous solo releases while also being able to step forward for Gikwang as an artist and performer. There are R&B and pop tracks with touches of hip-hop and electronic dance. Gikwang himself has a hand in writing most of the tracks on the album as well.
The title track “Predator” opens the album and it is an atmospheric synth-infused dance track. Gikwang exudes his sexiness and charisma while bringing the dramatic lyrics to life with his captivating performance.
“Favorite” is next and it is a similarly dreamy and romantic song. Gikwang’s soft vocals really add to the song’s vibe. “I Can’t Do This” is a pop song that offers up an interesting contrast between the relatively brighter melody with the more dramatic lyrics. “Anxiety” is the fourth track and it is a groovy R&B beat that will surely delight everyone.
Track #5 “I’m Not You” is probably my absolute fravorite track off the album And will most likely become one of my favorite songs of 2023. The alternative pop track is an emotional confession after the end of a relationship. And Gikwang’s vocals glide across the melody for a passionate performance. I definitely hope he will be able to perform it live.
Next up is “Out of Control” with its trap beats and Gikwang expressing the other end of a relationship. That is, the confession of feelings instead of a break up. It’s a nicely flirtatious performance. “Universe” continues along the same vibes with its midtempo R&B melody. There is a dreamy feel to the song where Gikwang’s vocals are directed toward the someone that is next to him as he sings the playful lyrics.
Synth-infused track “Jealous” and the funky “Goin’ Down” effortlessly set the mood along with the alternative R&B track “Blind.” Meanwhile, the dramatic “Religious” is an unexpected, but welcome change of pace in the album and as a performance from Gikwang. And the album closes with R&B pop track “Dive,” a fittingly romantic conclusion.
As a big fan of Gikwang, the album Predator is everything I could’ve asked for, and then some. A diverse mix of tracks that showcases Gikwang’s many talents. Whether that is in singing, dancing or writing.
And as if I needed a reminder, but this album is certainly the kind of satisfying showcase that would make anyone appreciate Lee Gikwang’s well-rounded talent and personality. And for me, a reminder just why he is one of my Ultimate Biases. Congratulations Kiki!