EXO’s CBX sub-unit was one of last year’s best surprises, giving us a collection of bright, classic pop when many of their peers were going dark and/or trendy. Seven months later, they’ve returned with a debut Japanese mini-album. EXO has enjoyed quite a bit of success in Japan despite never releasing an actual album in the country. It’s kind of surprising that a sub-unit would get there first, but CBX’s fun-loving sound is a perfect match for the spirited realm of mainstream j-pop.
With that said, Ka-Ching is one of the album’s weaker tracks. CBX’s best music — like Girl Problems or last year’s Rhythm After Summer — relies on a strong melody to lend focus to the guys’ freewheeling performance. Ka-Ching‘s chorus is twofold, with the first half simply a repetition of the title. This feels like a missed opportunity to go somewhere more interesting. It also blunts the power of the melodic hook that follows. The beat-heavy production is there, but it’s begging for a more complex melody to really bring it to life.
Ka-Ching‘s verses mirror Shinee‘s dance-heavy j-pop material, punching forward with a hip-hop-influenced beat that incorporates punctuations of brass and cash register sound effects. In many ways, the almost robotic, staccato delivery of these segments hearkens back to classic SM title tracks, but things feel slightly more scattershot and forgettable here. The rapping is endearing in a silly sort of way, and the surging vocal firepower of the pre-chorus sets things up nicely. But once we hit that “ka-ching, ka-ching” hook, the energy just kind of fizzles. It’s a song that’s fun in fits and starts, but it never comes together to create something truly significant.