Earlier this year, I picked HIGH4 as the most underrated boy group in k-pop. I really root for them, and I was thrilled to see their Makestar crowdfunding campaign become such a big success. But with this said, I have no idea what they’re doing with this HIGH4 20 sub-unit.
The duo is composed of rappers Alex and Youngjun, and is a complete departure from any sound the group has worked with before. That’s saying something, because HIGH4 has been a bit of a schizophrenic group, bouncing from one drastically different concept to another. This has been a frustrating move, and likely one of the reasons why they’ve had trouble nailing down a sizable fanbase. And now, almost a year since they last came back, they’re once again throwing something totally leftfield at us rather than reestablishing a core sound and image for themselves. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if HookGa (Hook가) was a strong track, but unfortunately it represents the worst of Korean idol hip-hop. The bubbling synth beat has been done a million times before (most recently by EXO), and the obnoxious breakdown that comprises the song’s “chorus” does the guys no favors.
Mamamoo’s Hwasa features in the laziest of ways, tacked on to the end of the track in an attempt to add name recognition and help bolster the sub-unit’s chances for success. But it’s quite clear that no real interaction happened here, as her verse feels detached from everything surrounding it. They would have been better served using her vocals to cobble together something resembling an actual chorus. HIGH4, I want to love you. I absolutely adored last year’s D.O.A, and I’m counting on a full group comeback that will build on that sound in a memorable and meaningful way. This is definitely not it.