Shinhwa have a long history in k-pop, ranking as the longest running boy group in the genre with all of its original members intact. They’ve also written the template of how to stage an effective comeback after years away from the scene. Their music since their return in 2012 has been a masterclass in how to stay relevant amidst younger, trendier groups while retaining what made them so great in the first place. This achievement makes a song like Orange (오렌지) incredibly baffling. By falling into many of the musical traps that often plague older groups, it seems to undo much of what the group had been building towards these past few years.
It’s not like a group of Shinhwa’s caliber needs to prove anything to anyone, but Orange just feels inexplicably throwaway. If the point was to have a bit of fun, then surely they could have drafted a stronger song with that same freewheeling sound to it. Though Orange has a memorable hook, it’s complete milquetoast — the kind of thing you’d expect to hear soundtracking the credits of a drama aimed at middle aged viewers. The melody and rap surrounding this chorus feel aimless — almost improvisational in nature. I assume this was somewhat intentional, with the hope of giving the track an authentic, uplifting vibe. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. None of the elements are strong enough to stick, or overcome the song’s ultimately generic sound.
Coming off of something as exciting as 2015’s Sniper, Orange is entirely underwhelming. The fact that it’s been nearly two years since their last comeback makes it even more so. The song’s light, 90’s-esque production is an admirable step back to the group’s debut days, but instead of taking some of the interesting tropes from that decade, the track borrows many of the forgettable aspects of dated teen pop. It would have made a fine album track or even special commemorative release (orange is their “official color,” after all), but compared with their past three comeback singles, this just doesn’t come close to matching up.