TVXQ’s Max Changmin has been taking teasers to a whole new level for his upcoming album. First, he gave us a taste of b-side Fever through a live performance. Now, we get a proper music video for Maniac. Title track Devil has a lot to live up to because this new track is fantastic.

Maniac uses rock sounds and structure to go full-on musical theater. It’s the most refreshing change of pace I’ve heard from K-pop in some time – particularly from an agency as huge as SM. One of my favorite Changmin solo tracks has always been Japanese b-side Rock With U. His powerful vocals excel when paired with R&B material, but rock music feels like an equally strong match. For Maniac, Changmin drops his guard and leans into theatrical bombast. Maybe he’s been listening to Queen lately?

The song is a rollicking good time, bounding along an exciting beat sprinkled with a generous flourish of piano. Backing vocals create a choir-like fervor as Maniac builds to an incredible, multi-part chorus. The first half sees Changmin’s vocals climbing upward in a musical game of chicken. From here, the instrumental falls away and we’re left with vocal and piano, delivering a playful resolution. But even in its more straightforward moments, Maniac is stuffed with this unpredictable energy. It feels alive and malleable, not some plug-and-play production created by a laptop. It’s a spirit I’ve missed during K-pop’s past few years. Leave it to industry royalty like Changmin to bring it roaring back.

(The music video is also excellent.)

Hooks 9
Production 9
Longevity 9
Bias 9


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Publisher: Nick