[Review] Golden Child deliver an authentic burst of joy on “Pump It Up”

Golden Child have spent the past year exploring a musical trilogy that pulled their sound in darker, angstier directions. This resulted in some stellar songs, but the Golden Child I first fell in love with made their name on a bright, energetic style. Once K-pop boy groups journey down a moodier route, they tend to lodge themselves there. It’s extremely rare to hear a song like Pump It Up at this point in an idol group’s career. But, Woollim Entertainment knows what the fans want, and Golden Child’s debut-era charm makes a convincing return here, buoyed by the guys’ raised profile and newfound experience.

Pump It Up is so catchy that it’s been stuck in my head for days before even hearing the full song. Its teasers proudly unveiled the chorus, and that was enough to make this mega earworm stick. That’s a potential liability, as this kind of “catchy” can easily turn into “novelty” – the stuff of TV jingles. And, Pump It Up veers dangerously close this this territory, especially as it goes on. It’s quite repetitive and single-minded.

But, this is where Golden Child prove themselves invaluable. When it comes to a song like this, you’ve gotta sell it. The energy needs to feel believable, not some forced move from an uncaring agency. This is where Golden Child have always excelled. Bright concepts rarely get the credit they deserve when it comes to just how difficult they can be to pull off. These guys are such endearing goofballs that Pump It Up – as silly as it is – feels totally authentic.

The track embraces old school funk-pop, driven by a rhythmic instrumental that instantly reminded me of The Jackson 5. In a rarity for K-pop, the production makes generous use of vocal samples, incorporating them as part of the song’s unyielding rhythm. This works well, except for the cheesy ad-lib that echoes the first chorus. Even better is Golden Child’s harmonized pre-chorus, which blossoms with a cheerful energy. Pump It Up isn’t much of a vocal showcase, but these moments allow the guys to harness their skilled line-up of diverse tones.

Elsewhere, rappers Tag and Jangjun get the opportunity to ham it up in ways that never distract from the track’s through-line. Even so, the various elements don’t come together to forge the kind of knockout climax that characterized past hits like 2018’s Genie. I kept waiting for one big power note — or at the very least, that dynamic synth that was present in the song’s teasers. But, in a year where music of this style is very hard to find, Pump It Up is a needed burst of joy. Add my inherent Golcha bias into the mix and you’ve got another surefire standout from the group.

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IATFB: Definitely reminds me of an old-school K-pop track devoid of cynicism that’s just meant to be fun. Not quite as sold on the chorus as TheBiasList, but certainly a welcome addition to their discography.

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