I’ve been watching K-Pop Star since it’s been on the air, but I’ve always been surprised out how few bona fide stars it actually produces. Apart from Akdong Musician and Lee Hi, the show has become more closely associated with indie acts. This isn’t to say that an artist with a less pop-influenced style can’t be a “star” of some sort — I mean, look at the success of balladeers like Baek A-Yeon and Jung Seung-hwan — but very few of the series’ top ten contestants have actually debuted with the type of mainstream sound indicative of your stereotypical “k-pop star.”
I mention all of this because Sam Kim really exemplifies the series’ trend. He was one of the more lively contestants during season three, but it was clear that his musical interests fell within a more acoustic-minded sound. Nothing wrong with that, but I think the restrictions of the indie genre have kept his music from really blowing up the way other solo artists might. Despite its trendy title, Think About Chu retreats even further into this groovy, unadorned sound. It’s one of the quietest title tracks released so far this year, rarely straying from the jazzy, mid-tempo bop that drives the instrumental.
Sam has a gorgeous vocal tone. It’s nuanced and warm, and Think About Chu spotlights this more than any other element. It’s the kind of track you’d expect to hear at some cool coffeehouse in the city, performed at a level just audible enough to add mood without distracting from conversation. In this way, the song meets its goal, but its general lack of a chorus hurts it in the long run. Instead, trying to find a dynamic melody is like grasping at smoke. It’s beautiful smoke, with an abundance of charm and character, but it dissipates nonetheless.