Deep Cuts: INFINITE, iKON, Chungha, SF9

Deep Cuts will just be a feature where the best Korean songs that don’t get promoted will be revealed. Simple enough, right? Right.

Now if you want an idea of how much of a lazy piece of shit I am, this feature was supposed to debut in 2017, and I’m only now starting it up in 2018. Better late than never, I suppose. I’m working on catching up … probably.

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INFINITE – “I Hate”

A hard rock effort from the same duo (Ollounder and Leez) that can be credited with Dreamcatcher‘s sound, the odds were against me not liking this. Sure enough, the generous helping of aggressive guitar and creative insertions of electronic elements blessed my ears. The verses are the standout here, with changes in tempo utilized well, especially at the start of the second verse.

The melody isn’t as outstanding as it could be, relying heavily on the momentum already generated by the verses to that point, but it powers through effectively and the refrain of “hate you, yeah I hate you, but I love you” is solid. It needs to be noted that the performance of INFINITE themselves throughout the song elevates it as a whole, and like with Dreamcatcher, this sound just seems tailor-made for them. “I Hate” is something I can easily see having staying power for me throughout the year, and while I understand why INFINITE would never use this as a single, this track was definitely something that stood out.

INFINITE – “Pray”

A fascinating and beautiful release, “Pray” starts as an orchestral piece seemingly made for a ballroom dance scene in a movie, and I have no idea how it has not been used in that capacity yet. That sound thankfully underpins the instrumental, and it later only amps up the drama as the strings and guitar swell and crash together to create an intense and turbulent spectacle.

INFINITE‘s performance over this backdrop is equally as important, as they match the swells and crashes blow for blow. At times it’s almost a desperate performance, which is an impressive nuance to find in something that otherwise requires so much force and aggression, and that only serves to elevate it further. Sweetune clearly seem to know how to get the best out of the group, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise they were behind the best effort off INFINITE’s album. It’s extra as hell and I love the result.

iKON – “Love Me”

If you follow me on Twitter, you know by now that a while back iKON stans got incredibly salty at me for not liking the popular “Love Scenario” (“Lots of people like it, therefore you can’t not like it!“). Then they found out I didn’t really like any of their singles, and I was embroiled in a hilarious mess where I was exposed for having the temerity to not like the releases. Truly a moral failing on my part. I will reflect and return as an improved asshole.

On that note, one of the nice things about starting this feature is that I get to talk about music from artists beyond their singles, and groups like iKON benefit from that, as they have releases like “Love Me” on their album. From the first note, “Love Me” demands the listener’s attention with its fresh, upbeat hip-pop sound. The bouncy verses keep things pumping along, ranging from adequate to good, and this serves as another example of how Bobby is exponentially better when he tones down that artificial gruff shit in his tone. The melody of “Love Me” works because it’s catchy as hell, but more impressively, it ends up being captivating thanks to its addictive “nobody lo-oh-oh-oh-ves me” refrain. This is definitely the kind of sound I prefer iKON strive for, but we’ll see going forward.

Chungha – “Do It”

Do It” is a surprising mix of genres that I didn’t expect at all from Chungha, fusing reggae and trap elements to create a rather comfortable pop number. The build is perhaps the most pleasant surprise on the initial listen, as the song starts with a relatively chill vibe until it eventually peaks with an explosion in the chorus. The “do what you doing” refrain is almost screamed at the listener, and while it definitely toes the line between repetitive and effectively embedding an earworm, for me it achieved the latter.

This should’ve been Chungha’s single, but I’m guessing the reason it wasn’t is because the lyrics are basically telling her lover to keep fucking her right, and it’s not subtle. While I’m not convinced the back-end of the song comes together cohesively as well as it could’ve, thus limiting its ceiling a bit, it’s both a powerful and fun effort overall.

SF9 – “Go Back In Time”

Go Back In Time” starts with a relatively sullen atmosphere but eventually fits in with general preferences of mine, as it has a bit of drama and edge to it. There’s an underlying beat that has solid pace, but it’s the background guitar and strings that separate this from more generic sounds.

In particular, the “lalalas” of the pre-chorus were an intelligent choice, as one usually would associate an element like that with something that comes after the chorus hits. Instead, it was used to effectively set the table for the “tic tic tic” gimmick. The chorus uses that to kick-start a melody that’s upbeat and bright but which also has a distinctively darker underpinning that works musically and thematically, ending with an appropriate “go back in time” refrain. The bridge was another pleasant surprise, as it interrupted a chorus and launched into a rather aggressive rap that worked well. “Go Back In Time” becomes an expansive-feeling effort by the end, and SF9 find more than enough addictive pop elements to make this well worth your while.

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