There’s something to be said for sticking with a producer for longer than a handful of releases. And when that producer is Sweetune, a group can be assured that they’re in good hands. Though Snuper may not have reaped the same commercial success as some of their peers, they have been the most consistent rookie group of the last few years. Like Infinite before them, Sweetune has masterfully matured their sound while keeping a retro through-line that sets Snuper apart from other boy groups of this era. New single Back:Hug (백허그) keeps their flawless singles run intact, while pushing their material in new directions.
To be honest, the initial previews of Back:Hug made me nervous. On more than one occasion, I’ve complained about the increased influence that “tropical house” has had on k-pop recently, and the last thing I wanted was for the trend to infiltrate Sweetune’s classic sound. But it turns out that I was misplacing my concern. It wasn’t tropical house that I was so tired of… it was the lack of proper melody and chorus that often goes hand in hand with the genre. Back:Hug proves that a strong hook and gorgeous production trumps any trendy genre label.
Back:Hug opens with a fractured vocal riff, sliced into percussive pieces to create a disorienting atmosphere that continues through the first, hesitant verse. But as soon as we hit the driving pre-chorus, we’re in blissful Sweetune territory. The main chorus further enhances the drama, sweeping in with a lush, layered hook that brilliantly mashes up 80’s pop with modern instrumental elements. Snuper’s vocals are heavily filtered in Sweetune’s trademark style, blending into a rush of dreamy reverb that sounds otherworldly and immense. This persists as the song kicks into its second verse, which features the most exhilarating rap verse Snuper have given us yet, as Sebin and Taewoong’s vocals intermix with the busy instrumental. It’s a striking contrast from the song’s more bubblegum moments, and a good representation of Back:Hug as a whole. The song is a bit of the old, a bit of the new, and another defining moment for the most underrated group in k-pop.