The music video to ‘Make Me Happy’ starts and ends with butterflies: a solitary white butterfly soars through a verdant tunnel in Whee In’s mind’s eye. At the end of the video Whee In bursts into not just one, but hundreds of pink and blue butterflies. Whilst it is a beautiful motif throughout the entire music video, it also serves as a great representation of the artistic growth and liberation to be heard in Whee In’s second mini album, WHEE.
When Whee In, who rose to fame as a member of powerhouse girl group MAMAMOO, announced last June that she was leaving the company (RBW) that had formed and managed the group since 2014, many fans were left wondering what was in store for the vocalist’s solo career. Though she will still remain an active member of MAMAMOO until December 2023, Whee is her first release as an artist under THE L1VE LABEL, and what a glorious release it is.
Title track ‘Make Me Happy’ (오묘해 in Korean) is a tender pop song that whisks the listener away on a bed of piano chords and light beats that compliment the gentle vocal tone that Whee In is known for. The song is paired with a music video that is visually stunning, with no expense spared when it comes to intricate, flower-laden sets.
The tone of the rest of the album follows accordingly; ‘Pink Cloud’ sees her use breathy vocals to reflect on both her self-confidence and how she yearns to achieve her goals. ‘Letter Filled With Light’ is the classic guitar track of the album, where sprinklings of an angelic chorus of oohs and aahs give the simple song a reverential quality.
Whilst the first half of the album moves along at a very relaxed pace, track five is the album’s most upbeat song ‘Pastel’, where Whee In reflects on the excitement that surrounds the possibility of love. Soulful ballad ‘Paraglide’ rounds things off not by being a romantic serenade, but instead a celebration of existence, contentment, and going with what feels right. All beautiful, gentle music to well accompany a rainy spring day just as much as a sunny one.
One of the most interesting tracks on the album is ‘Deserve (Interlude)’: 33 seconds of R&B goodness filled with whisperings and hints of Whee In’s vocals. As brief as it is, it also makes you wonder if this is but a teaser of what may be to come from the singer in future records. Whee In’s vocal tone has always lent well to ballads and R&B, and it’s no surprise that Whee sees her move a step further away from the slightly poppier stylings of 2021’s Redd towards the more chill R&B-pop that she seems to both enjoy and that compliments her distinctive vocal abilities.
THE L1VE LABEL’s founder and in-house producer RAVI’s fingerprints are all over this album, where he is credited on four of the tracks, including the Interlude. From this record alone we can see why Whee In chose his label to be her new home; he clearly understands how to work well with her voice so that her vocals shine across all six tracks.
As a consequence, WHEE is potentially one of the most beautiful records of the year so far, and a wonderful showcase for what Whee In is artistically capable of when paired with a team that understands closely where she artistically sees herself. Redd was already a great debut record, and WHEE has built on everything great about it. The album is full of many things to love: songs so earnest that they bring the listener instant comfort, beautiful vocals that take you to another plane, and perhaps most importantly, complete optimism, even in the record’s lyrically darkest moments.
WHEE is an album title with a double meaning that makes you smile: whilst it is the first character in Whee In’s name, onomatopoetically it’s a joy to say, a syllable that suggests liberation and openness. When Whee In sings ‘You make me happy, you make me happy’ in ‘Make Me Happy’s catchy chorus, you somehow feel that she is just as much singing about herself: freer than she has ever been before, and excited for all the new possibilities that have now been gifted to her.