Generally, I’m a huge proponent of a group finding a well-matched producer and sticking with them as long as they can. But what happens when an act attaches itself to a collaborator that I’m not so fond of? Such is the case with VIXX, who have worked with Devine Channel since last summer and overhauled their core sound. I’m likely in the minority on this, but it feels like the group’s last few comebacks have focused more on atmosphere and concept than actual songs. New single Shangri-La (도원경) follows suit. It possesses a stunning music video but leaves me craving the big, dramatic hooks the group used to supply on a regular basis.
The song fuses elements of traditional Asian instrumental to a lurching future bass track. Despite the name of this website, I try to keep an open mind when it comes to varying genres. But future bass is a personal black hole. It just does absolutely nothing for me. All the stuttering fits and starts of the instrumental blunt VIXX’s considerable power as vocal and performance powerhouses. Rather than build to anything that might match the gorgeous visuals of the music video, the track creeps forward without ever paying off. It’s a tense structure, but tension works best when it climaxes in some form of release. The instrumental is almost too hesitant for its own good, scared to fully embraced the East Asian ornamentation that lies just beneath the track’s bristling surface.
Shangri-La‘s best bit of melody is its chorus, which is delivered in a percussive, shout-along style similar to both Fantasy and The Closer. Its bombastic arrangement is as close as we get to an apex within the song itself. In contrast, the meandering verses are too forgettable to land any solid punches. For a group that supplied epic melodies with songs like Error and G.R.8.U., these segments feel almost hookless in comparison. Shangri-La may have its impressive aspects, but it sounds more like a b-side to VIXX’s more essential work.