[Review] Golden Child eschews darker trends, returns with pop bliss in “Genie”

When it comes to boy groups, it seems like the majority of international fans prefer a darker, more brooding concept. I’m the exact opposite, which makes Golden Child a gift straight from K-pop heaven. I’ve seen some online chatter hoping that the group will quickly transition to a “dark child” concept, presumably tackling moody sounds like trap and future bass. I couldn’t disagree more strongly. Obviously their music is going to mature as the guys do, but the last thing I want to see is Golden Child blending in with every one of their peers.

Thankfully, “Genie” is another shot of unadulterated pop bliss. There are influences of today’s trends (some tropical noodling in the introduction, a deep house rhythm during the verses), but by and large “Genie” is classic pop songcraft, delivered with verve. Pulling back on the guitar-driven sound of this summer’s Let Me, “Genie” pulses with a light-on-its-feet electronic energy. Greater prominence is given to the group’s rappers this time around, which adds to the rhythmic drive of the verses.

In keeping with their agency Woollim Entertainment, the vocal layering during “Genie”’s standout chorus gives off baby Infinite vibes. The falsetto here is even better, taking advantage of underrated main vocal Joochan’s emotive tone. But my favorite of the song’s surprises happens during the bridge. The instrumental seems headed into a lurching trap breakdown, only to slam back with renewed vigor. This dance break could honestly have gone on longer and carried into the final chorus, but luckily a few well-placed power notes spark excitement during the song’s climax. An unashamedly upbeat group like Golden Child won’t be for everyone. But they are 100% for me, and they haven’t disappointed yet.

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