INFINITE do their best to make the surprisingly subdued “Tell Me” work

As a long-time (some might say obsessive) fan of Infinite, “Tell Me” is not the kind of song I wanted from their return. The group has been inactive since September of 2016 — the longest they’ve ever gone between comebacks. And with all the anticipation built up from that absence (and the fact that this is their first album as six), I wanted nothing more than for them to throw down the gauntlet with a track as enormous as the best material in their discography. But as each teaser seemed to indicate more and more tropical house and EDM elements woven into the song’s tapestry, my expectations began to plunge.

Composed by BLSSD, “Tell Me” steers Infinite toward much trendier territory. BLSSD is one half of production team Rphabet, who have crafted every one of the group’s Korean title tracks since 2014’s Back. And as much as “Tell Me” explores new stylistic tones, its overall atmosphere is very much in keeping with their work for the group. The difference here comes down to the song’s energy level and impact. Rather than hit you over the head with orchestral swells or sledgehammer beat drops, “Tell Me” unfolds like a synth-drenched fever dream — seeming almost to move in slow-motion. Its tropical elements are (thankfully) buried in a mix that’s brimming with chopped vocal samples, complex percussive shifts and inventive harmonies. Though the arrangement could certainly use a bit more punch (or a climax of some sort), the lush synth soundscape that underlines the chorus is an absolute winner.

“Tell Me” actually sounds more like something I might have expected from a solo Sungkyu comeback rather than from the group as a whole. Given this, it’s no surprise that his vocals easily become the star of the show. Gone is the high-pitched register that The Eye demanded, replaced with a much more comfortable tone that lends the song needed character. It helps that the hook feels stronger than any of their title tracks since “Back”. It’s not immediately compelling, but the repetitive melodic structure (coupled with that killer pre-chorus) grows into a sticky bit of can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head songcraft. This is where skilled vocalists, with incredibly idiosyncratic tones, can elevate what might otherwise feel generic. “Tell Me” may borrow heavily from some of my least favorite trends of 2017, but if any group can twist them into something worth hearing, it’s Infinite.

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