Solo idol stars are a tricky proposition in k-pop — a genre that thrives on a constantly morphing, assembly line style of dynamic group performance. But Chungha has the weight of Produce 101 and I.O.I behind her, lending an instant hype to her solo work. Rather than branch out and establish herself as a unique voice within the idol scene, Why Don’t You Know borrows yet again from the trendy tropical sound that’s currently bulldozing k-pop.
Though I’m personally tired of this particular sub-genre, I try to keep an open mind when listening to new music — especially a big debut like this. Chungha is undeniably captivating as a performer, and her light tone compliments mainstream pop well. Unfortunately, Why Don’t You Know feels pitched too high, resulting in a chorus that veers toward screechy when it should be cool and subdued.
The instrumental starts strong enough, with some sunny guitar adding a unique twist to the been-there, done-that dance beat. The verses are closer to a series of breathy coos than an actual melody, but their restraint allows Chungha the chance to gradually draw you in. The pre-chorus adds an extra touch of percussion, building nicely to the vibey hook. But then we get to the actual chorus, which feels strained and oddly tuneless. The instrumental cries out for something more driving and staccato, but the performance veers in a completely different direction. The first time through, I actually thought Chungha had hit a few bum notes. The progression just feels off, causing the end result to sound sloppier than you’d expect. It’s a shame, because there’s potential here.