The color blue is ascribed to many meanings. In English, the color often metaphorically refers to feelings of sadness. But blue is also the color of the summery sky, the ocean, and many other things that are usually positive and hopeful. In Blue Letter (2021), the Korean singer, songwriter, and producer Wonho explores “blue” in all its possibilities. The result is a refreshing and enjoyable work that is short but vivid just like summer.
Blue Letter is the second EP, and overall third release by Wonho as a solo artist (he is a former member of the K-pop group Monsta X). While the art in his previous album covers was also predominantly blue, the color also informs the lyrics and production of the tracks of Blue Letter (all of which are co-signed by Wonho).
The introduction, “Seasons and Patterns”, is an instrumental track that synthesizes the feeling of Blue Letter gorgeously. It is driven by a simple motif made of two melody pieces, each one played in only three notes. The first piece is played in low notes, and the other is played in higher notes. It suggests a conversation between sadder and happier shades of the same emotion. These feelings are intensified halfway through the piece when a stronger beat and strings take over. By the end, a key change elevates the mood to a happier one. It’s all in there: all the emotions of blue, the highs, and the lows.
Wonho begins the album by diving into the melancholy that the color blue represents. But he overcomes it through pop songs that embrace the hopefulness of summer and youth. That’s the sentiment in the album’s lead track, Blue. His voice holds a melody smoothly through a straight line, with no need to use much vibrato or variation. Each song and vocal performance in Blue Letter seems to aim at conveying simple and raw feelings. Maybe that’s why they ring true and sound good.
The poetic license of youth to justify impulsive decisions is a recurrent theme in Blue Letter. “Blue” is anchored in the lyrics “We are young, we are dumb”. In “24/7”, Wonho also aims to convince his loved one to be with him by saying they could stay “forever young” together. Many lyrics in Blue Letter read like tiny, heartfelt love notes: “Can you come over tonight?” (“Come Over Tonight”), “I’ve been thinking about it all day” (“Stranger”), “Can you talk to me again?” (“No Text No Call”).
Blue Letter thrives within its raw, soft approach. This is a person reaching out his hand to someone, wanting more from them. But instead of love desperation, Wonho’s delivery comes across as if he’s wondering if he deserves to ask for so much. This vulnerability lends a genuine element to the simplicity of the love songs. The delicateness shines modestly in songs like “Come Over Tonight”, whose melody recalls doo-wop songs.
Even the absence of communication inspires good moments in Blue Letter, like in “No Text No Call”. Unpretentious in production and composition, “No Text No Call” takes the crown by stealth with its honest lyrics about losing a lover without warning. Next to “Blue”, it’s the catchiest song in the album.
Blue Letter goes from pop ballads and dance to R&B. Wonho sounds at home with the funky grooves of “Blue”, as well as the hip-hop beats of “No Text No Call”. But he also does a good job in slower tracks (such as the acoustic song, “Stranger”) and in the EDM track “24/7”. Yet, Blue Letter does not sound as busy as its genre classifications make it seem. It’s more like a soothing summer breeze that is there to enhance a perfect summer blue sky.