Road Boyz impressed the hell out of me with their debut last winter, and kept that excitement more-or-less alive with Be My Love. But like most newly debuted groups of their limited stature, they’ve dramatically shifted their sound for Shake It Shake It, and unfortunately it’s been shifted in a direction that touches on some of my least-favorite production elements.
The boys have tackled a big-band swing concept for this comeback. When I first heard that news, my eyes glazed over in disappointment. Big band is a fine genre on its own, but I’m not a fan of melding it with kpop. For me, it just never works. That’s not to say that any element of brass is a bad thing, because there are dozens of examples to counter that point. But, an entire swing rhythm is a very different thing. It’s a tightly structured form that feels at odds with the looser, more propulsive aspects that kpop does so well. It really takes over the song and makes it feel gimmicky. To Road Boyz’ credit, they make it work a bit better than I would have thought, particularly during the verses and bridge, but it still feels very dated and overly themed — like some kid’s birthday party act rather than an actual song. Shake It Shake It becomes more beholden to its concept than its melody.
Still, I can imagine this appealing to many listeners, and it certainly stands out among more traditional kpop releases. The chorus, as obvious and leaden as it feels, does provide an instantly catchy hook, supported by the old-timey piano that provides the backdrop for the entire track. Elements of dubstep and hip-hop work their way in pretty seamlessly, but it’s just not enough to convince me that this is anything more than a novelty. I hope it’s a one-off, and Road Boyz returns to its previous sound for the next release.