Korean-American pop singer Eric Nam’s latest album, “House on a Hill,” released on Sept. 8 and stands out as one of his best works. It showcases graceful and impactful melodies that have the power to invoke deep emotion, introspection and can make you swoon. In contrast to his earlier album titled “There and Back Again,” this one presents a collection of softer tracks that produce feelings of nostalgia and shift the spotlight towards showcasing his lyrical brilliance.
The titular lead single “House on a Hill” encapsulates the vulnerable emotions one experiences during an existential crisis, articulated through the poignant lyrical structure. Each line in the chorus begins with the phrase “What if,” depicting how Eric emotionally spirals from questioning his life, what it means to be truly happy and whether anything will ever be enough. The stimulating pop track mirrors the times in which people often experience unspoken moments of introspection and existential questioning within their daily lives. Despite the dreary yet literal meanings of the lyrics, Nam pairs the verses with a comforting, soft melody that builds into an energetic semi-pop beat, creating sensations of emotional complexity and relatability.
“Don’t Leave Yet” explores the need to fill an insatiable emptiness that often follows a fun night out, and is accompanied with an electric and lively sound. The song initially starts with a simple kick-drum beat, but then introduces a quick snapping rhythm as it builds up to the chorus. While the track encapsulates the universal feeling of attempting to fill an inner void, its infectious cadence invites listeners to momentarily set aside those thoughts and revel in pure, carefree moments on the dance floor.
With well-polished groovy timbres and Nam’s intimately vulnerable voice, “Only for a Moment” diverges sharply from the prominent themes discussed in the previous tracks, which include struggles with identity, materialism and perseverance; instead, it delves into a love story. Upon engaging in a fleeting encounter with another person, Nam falls in love and envisions settling down with them — a nod to the album’s titular track. With addictive hi-hat and kick repetitions coupled alongside Nam’s calming, full-bodied vocals, “Only for a Moment” is a song that you will probably repeat at least once before listening to the next song, “I Wish I Wasn’t Me” — one of the album’s most somber tracks.
“I Wish I Wasn’t Me” delves into a recurring theme of dealing with personal insecurities. The lyrics vividly illustrate the feeling of being trapped within your overwhelming thoughts, which can mimic being in an emotionally suffocating environment. With remarkable authenticity, Nam portrays how fear and doubt penetrated his outlook on life and artfully conveys the challenges of maintaining a facade in public; he uses a metaphor of a “marching band” to emphasize the emotional weight and complexity of this struggle. This melancholic synth-ballad undoubtedly prompts introspection, encouraging contemplation of not only one’s identity but also the complexities of life.
“Undefined” and “Sink or Swim” sprout from the intricate emotions that are associated with relationships, but the songs could not be more opposite of each other. The former dives into the lingering and bittersweet emotions that surface when a relationship comes to an end. With a snapping vibrant beat and heartfelt lyrics, “Undefined” conveys the underlying love one still possesses for their former partner but also simultaneously acknowledges the impossibility of rekindling the relationship.
“Sink or Swim” is the most underrated song of the album, raking in the least amount of Spotify streams as of Sept. 12. With spacey synths and tight beats, this track stands out from the rest as it brings a retro sound to the otherwise contemporarily lyrical album. “Sink or Swim” rhythmically tells the story of the many risks one is willing to take to be with someone they love. The pre-chorus is a lyrical masterpiece with its addictive rhyming verses, such as “Push and pull, Dancing like the ocean sways, Deja vu.” It is definitely the song that is constantly on repeat in my headphones.
The second to last song of the album is titled “Exist.” The lustrous production of the song with a serene melody and airy vocals can make you swoon while appreciating the musical artistry of the track. If the album ended with this song instead of the remixed collaboration of the titular track with artist Em Beihold, it would be a perfect album. I felt that Beihold did not contribute anything substantial to the song, and if anything, diverted attention from Nam’s dynamically delicate vocals.
“House on a Hill” takes listeners on an emotional journey through its carefully-crafted and introspective tracks, exploring themes of existential questioning, love and perseverance. While some songs such as “Sink or Swim” may stand out more than others, the album serves as a testament to Nam’s artistry and his ability to forge a profound musical connection with his listeners. Nam is currently on his “House on a Hill” world tour and tickets can be purchased on his website.