Okay, we’re going to have to start an intervention here. We’ve truly reached a breaking point with this tropical house/tropical pop trend. I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s gotten to the point where every other new comeback (especially boy groups) has become a cut-and-paste job with the same beats and the same vibe. It’s not that “tropical” is such a dirty word when it comes to k-pop, but if everybody’s doing it, all that’s accomplished is a loss of identity and an exhausting sense of monotony. UP10TION have proven they can tackle different concepts, but they don’t need a fad-riding song like Runner (시작해) to prove their worth.
And make no mistake, Runner is all about the fad. Strip the song of its tropical influences and there really isn’t much to it. The chorus is underdeveloped and not particularly memorable, and the verses bring nothing new beyond a slavish devotion to following the beat.
Now that my initial tirade is over (sorry, UP10TION… I really do like you!), Runner isn’t completely useless. It offers a stronger spotlight on the group’s rappers than ever before. The resulting performance is solid, if a little generic. And though the chorus isn’t much of a chorus at all, there are some sparks to be mined from the layered vocal arrangement. In an alternate dimension where we were never introduced to the concept of “tropical house,” the supple synth beat might even be a stunner. But compared to the group’s past work, Runner arrives with a thud and a sigh. It’s time to move on, k-pop.