When I think of the current K-pop climate, UP10TION are an interesting case. I wouldn’t consider them to be one of my personal bias groups, yet they’ve managed to score a place in my year-end top 10 songs list for two years straight. They’re also a group who swings from one collaborator to the next rather than seek to develop a signature sound. This has resulted in an uneven singles run that offers a little something for everyone but never adds up to a cohesive whole.
“Candyland” may be most notable as the comeback that reintroduces member Wooshin after an extended absence served in penance for one of K-pop’s notoriously nonexistent “scandals.” Unfortunately, the song itself doesn’t feel as important or meaningful as this moment would demand. I’m thankful that it doesn’t recycle the trends of the moment (a tactic that marred last year’s underwhelming “Runner“), but “Candyland” falls into a different trap. It’s surprisingly generic and throwaway.
The song kicks off with a strong hip-hop beat outlined by a touch of brass. This instrumental choice is refreshing when stacked against today’s EDM landscape, but never takes full advantage of the funk lying just underneath its exterior. Something about the production feels unfinished, as if the song is missing a few extra elements to lend greater contrast to its various segments. The same can be said about the melody, which feels too unambitious for its own good. The chorus of “Candyland” is catchy, but in an obvious way that grows quickly tiresome. That’s a shame, because the guys attack the track with a lethal combination of force and charisma that goes a long way towards selling this subpar material.