B.I, also known as Kim Han-bin, has released his first solo album Waterfall, after departing from the Korean boy group iKon. The work is just as heart wrenching as anyone who listened to the single “illa illa” would expect. It’s about pain, and growing from pain, with hints of romance.
The title track gets listeners ready for the overall theme of the album. B.I has been open about his struggle with depression previously, releasing a statement after drug possession allegations were made against him, letting fans know that he was having a “hard time”. B.I makes it clear that this album will serve as an outlet, and he isn’t holding back.
“My name’s monster, my name’s sinner// My name’s hypocrite, my name’s crook… // I got a lot of pain// Life is a bird song// Endless agony// A journey to fill the void of the mind// If I wash away all of the shameful past”
It’s as honest as an artist can get with their fans, letting them know life might not be as glamorous as they would expect. But a dance beat that comes in at the last 20 seconds of the opener lets fans know it isn’t quitting time. B.I is just getting started.
B.I continues with the theme of water, using it as a metaphor for the emotions he feels so strongly that they surround him. And drown him.
“Oh, at the end of my sleeves is a beach// ‘Cause I wiped out the water flowing on both cheeks// Oh, at the end of my eyes is a beach// ‘Cause of the warm bubbles that pervade”
B.I seems to be mourning the absence of someone he loved, that has left him with a void in his heart.
“Thanks to you who taught me how to cry and disappeared… // I can’t take a comfortable walk on all the roads that we had walked together// ‘Cause you who hugged me so deeply is no longer here// I rub my eyes with my sleeves and hate it because it’s not a dream// Where are you going leaving me like this”
Again, B.I doesn’t leave listeners without letting them know he is still trying. He offers some hope before the track ends.
“Though I know it will crumble// I’ll probably build a sandcastle again// Stargazing by the rolling waves// I won’t shed new tears// Though I know it will crumble// I’ll probably build a sandcastle again”
He wants to attempt building meaningful relationships again, and will fight through discouragement.
If the track sounds vaguely familiar to any music nerds, it may be the guitar line that is ringing ears. The sound is similar to Cage The Elephant’s “Trouble”. This may be a testament to B.I’s array of music knowledge, or a complete coincidence. Either way, it is a welcomed surprise.
The track opens with sweet melodic vocals from Lee Hi, a fellow Korean artist.
“Did I have a long, long dream? Everything is just unfamiliar// Probably because I feel so many emotions// Did I have a long dream?// Your memories were too sweet for me to forget easily”
The vocals prepare us for B.I, who is still mourning the loss of his relationship.
“Time is twisted, a day feels like a year// I now understand the meaning of the breakup, uh
Your face looks foggy in my head// With a dry sigh, I wipe away my gloomy face// The soft corners of my lips folded down without hesitation// I’ll weep every night in the grave of memories”
It is likely that any artist that has long been a performer can relate to this track.
“Nothing is fun these days// I have nothing to be sensitive about// Just in a quiet room… //I’m getting more and more numb// The world I live in is getting colder// My face that used to pretend to be ok is now distorted”
Artists are no strangers to faking emotions, especially when thousands of fans expect a smiling icon (no pun intended) to take stage.
“I feel so numb// Neither sad nor happy// So numb// Neither boring nor new”
Whether it was intentional or not, “Numb” brings attention to the mental health of performing artists.
B.I continues with the themes delivered in “Waterfall” up to this point. “Ilusion”, “Flow Away”, and “Help me” reflect B.I’s struggles with mental health and sustaining relationships. The production continues with the use of trap beats, guitar riffs and piano keys that listeners hear B.I lean on.
The track starts with production that sounds reminiscent of a ‘90s video game and blends in with trap beat drums that B.I clearly enjoys.
“On the perfect day of the season// Will the sound of our laughter remain?// I saw your eyes counting stars// Have you forgotten the shape of me?”
Lyrically, the song has an innocence to it that suggests B.I yearns for nothing more than companionship. A theme many will surely be able to relate to.
The track is a shift in gears as far as production, with more upbeat sounding guitar strumms. Lyrically, the track is proactive. Instead of mourning a breakup, B.I is asking his counterpart to “stay”. With the help of Tablo, a Korean-Canadian hip hop artist, B.I begs for another chance.
“I’m already missin’ you, missin’ us// And in here somewhere// I’ll go missin’ too straight disappear into thin air// So can’t you just…?”
B.I saves his romancing for the final track of “Waterfall”. And he lays it on thick.
“I’ll always be there for you// So you can put your heart at ease// With the warmth of spring in my arms// I’ll find you wherever you are// Let’s meet again”
It’s the promise of infinite love, an undying companionship. It is what B.I has been telling us he wants throughout the entirety of “Waterfall”.
The themes of loneliness and longing are easy for all listeners to relate to. In an almost post-pandemic world, most people will have learned that the bonds we hold with one another are immeasurably significant.
For those that haven’t learned this lesson, don’t worry. B.I is here to teach you.
Waterfall is now available for streaming.