Debuting in the oversaturated K-pop landscape is never easy, least of all when you’re the former member of one of the scene’s most talked about new groups. Such is the case with JINI, who triumphantly shares her debut body of work An Iron Hand in a Velvet Glove this week, after she ambiguously departed from the extremely hyped (and polarizing) JYP group NMIXX in December 2022, due to mysterious “personal circumstances”.
An Iron Hand in a Velvet Glove – which has surely got to be one of the most brilliantly convoluted album titles, even by K-pop standards – comes together across five tracks as a somewhat conceptual formation to display multiple facets of the newbie: one side is the ‘Velvet Glove’ which “encompasses the soft and beautiful sides of JINI” and the ‘Iron Hand’ side is to show “her strength and toughness,” her agency ATOC explained to Korean media.
Impressively, JINI has landed a rare guest verse from the critically-acclaimed rap star Aminé for the title track “C’mon”, which comes in both Korean and English versions. The breezy, bubbly electropop number lends itself well to JINI’s airy vocals, while the chants of “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon!” throughout the song is a hook that pop dreams are made of.
Elsewhere on An Iron Hand in a Velvet Glove, opening track “Here We Go Again” steers quirky bass slaps into a slick, punchy chorus; “Bad Reputation” is good, not great (despite having renowned hitmaker MNEK attached). With its sultry bass grooves and hook-laden chorus, “Dancing With The Devil” certainly feels like the standout amongst the B-sides and offers an intriguing blend of the ‘iron’ and ‘velvet’ elements to JINI’s artistry.
Overall, An Iron Hand in a Velvet Glove effectively delivers on what it sets out to do and is a genuinely promising debut from JINI – proving that second chances are not always bad and that there’s plenty of space for her to grow into an exciting new soloist for K-pop fans to discover.