Things have been relatively dull in K-pop over the last month or so aside from maybe a few standouts, and at least I’m not alone in that feeling since Korea seems to mainly be listening to last year’s hits as well. Enter Rocket Punch, who started off a bit slow in their careers while searching for an identity, before really coming on in 2021 to find their groove.
Their identity is now primarily based off retro themes and synth-pop, something that dominated last year and has started to wear on many, yet the way it was utilized on “CHIQUITA” injected a bit of needed life into the year.
“CHIQUITA” is primarily about that addictive synth riff and the immediate attraction it has for a listener, something that’s been so lacking this year. Not having to really loop a song over and over to figure out ways to appreciate it and instead just enjoying that bright synth humming along was refreshing, and it’s something that shouldn’t be a rarity in an industry like K-pop.
Anyway, while the synth boldly declares its ambitions from the start, truthfully the verses aren’t anything to write home about. They’re much crisper the second time around than the first, but basically just keep things moving along with peppy energy. Eventually though, the swelling pre-chorus enters and hints at what’s to come, which is thankfully Rocket Punch delivering a rare 2022 payoff for the listener with an actual chorus that tries to be a big pop song more than a mood or vibe. It’s highlighted by a synth blast that has 80s written all over it, and the “chiquita chiquita” and “ooh oohs” serve as the primary hooks that do just enough, but in the end it’s that unashamed retro riff that makes the track memorable and addictive.
Additionally, it’s hard not to mention the effective close, which works because it basically cuts out all the fluff and just amplifies the chorus, which really buoys the whole thing to leave a great final impression.
Retro synthpop, like trop house before it, has settled in as a safe option for K-pop groups. That’s basically targeted to people like me, who have an affinity for the sound and would have a base enjoyment from a decent instrumental if nothing else.
Yet it’s always clear when a song tries to achieve more, and “CHIQUITA” does this by working much like “Ring Ring” before it (and “Ride” as well): taking a familiar sound that many others use and elevating it with an extra kick of energy, a bit of punch to the riff, and a chorus with even a touch of ambition to make something that stands out. It seems like a simple and replicable formula, and yet it’s Rocket Punch getting more mileage out of it than most others.