Though they’ve never found the mainstream success their music warrants, Cross Gene has been a reliably strong k-pop group since their debut in 2012. For their latest Korean release, they’ve mashed two pre-release tracks into one hybrid title track. The approach is more interesting than enjoyable. I felt the same way when Shinee experimented with this idea during their Sherlock era. I’d rather just have three new songs rather than one single and two glorified remixes/outtakes. But outtakes aside, Black Or White is itself quite solid.
Kicking off with a powerful blend of frantic, horror-show strings and pulverizing electro beat, the song’s verses are an absolute thrill. They chug along with flourishes of electric guitar and an aggressive sense of propulsion. The chorus is similarly bombastic, borrowing heavily from Shinee’s immense 2012-13 sound. It’s a style that’s been largely absent from k-pop for the past few years, and has been very much missed.
In contrast to the euphoric pop explosion at Black Or White‘s core, the song’s pre-chorus is an unfortunate dud. The verses build so much energy and drama, but rather than expand on that, the pre-chorus retreats into a trap-influenced non-event. I understand the need to incorporate hip-hop, but pulling back on the instrumentation during this moment absolutely kills the song’s intensity. Had this segment done a stronger job bridging the excellent verses and chorus, we’d have one of the best tracks of 2017. Black Or White is still very strong, but this small misstep effects the entire thing. Luckily, the song’s climactic moments absolutely deliver, blending soaring vocals with that massive hook to invigorating effect.
* Warning: Don’t watch the music video if you’re squeamish or uncomfortable with needlessly violent material.