It’s been eight years since CNBLUE made their debut. After so long, it’s got to be hard to keep new material fresh. I imagine that rock groups find it particularly difficult, as the k-pop world affords them a smaller selection of concepts compared to their more performance-based peers. And as much as I have enjoyed CNBLUE’s past few singles, I worried that their music was getting a bit bland. They’ve always veered much closer to soft rock than label-mates FTIsland, and there’s really only so much you can do with that genre.
Luckily, new single Between Us (헷갈리게) offers a jolt of experimentation just when the band needed it most. CNBLUE has incorporated a more electronic sound before, but Between Us seamlessly weaves it into their existing style in a way that feels complimentary to the group’s identity. The song opens in dizzying form, as the first half of its punchy chorus crashes in. Initially, its lurching rhythm turned me off. It seemed as if this was the group’s attempt at emulating the glitchy tempo changes that made recent releases from groups like GOT7 and Victon so frustrating. But set against a guitar-rock backdrop, the rhythmic shifts work well.
With that said, the song’s absolute standout moment is during the second full chorus. The beat kicks in double time, lending a ferocious drive of energy that hints at just how soaring the track could have been if CNBLUE had stuck with this all-out production assault. When the instrumentation pulls back afterward, it’s a bit of a buzzkill. Fortunately, Between Us‘s verses do a solid job building momentum with their anthemic, guitar-chugging arrangement and assured performance by frontman Yonghwa. Like most groups of their age, CNBLUE is likely past their commercial peak. But Between Us is the best title track they’ve given us in quite some time.