Last time San E and Raina paired (back in 2014), they gave us the ubiquitous mega-hit A Midsummer Night’s Sweetness. It only makes sense that they’d re-team in an attempt to repeat their success. And while I don’t see Sugar & Me having nearly the same effect on the k-pop zeitgeist, it’s still a decent track for a laid-back summertime playlist.
San E has so many personalities as a rapper. He can go hard (but really shouldn’t), and he can be incredibly playful. Here, he coasts on “smooth and romantic,” even crooning a few lines here and there. His performance is always best when it’s on the lighter side, and Raina’s airy, girlish vocal performance certainly brings that out. I worry that Sugar & Me is perhaps a bit too light, to the point where it feels inconsequential. Of course, Midsummer Night also felt slight until it took over the country, so it may just be a case of needing to live with the song a bit more.
Even so, Sugar‘s midtempo shuffle is a little more generic than I’d like. It’s a fine r&b bounce, but misses the shimmers of acoustic accents that made Midsummer such a treat. There isn’t as much vocal interplay as I’d expected, with both participants seemingly playing it safe. An unexpected hook, or layered refrain, would help add the dynamism that’s missing. Instead, we get a mature, easy-listening chorus that sounds more like a Sistar b-side. The quirkiness is definitely played down. That’s not 100% a bad thing, but it does dampen the excitement. It feels as if any male/female duo could have recorded this and sounded much the same, and we all know that San E and Raina are anything but your typical duo.