Though primarily focused on a trendy (at the time) high energy dance pop, Turbo has always shown the potential for a more retro-inspired sound. Their 90’s mega-hit Twist King was entirely indebted to this nostalgic appeal, and in some ways Hot Sugar (뜨거운 설탕) feels like its successor. Of course, flash forward twenty years and the k-pop genre has evolved into something very different. In a summer of tropical house and languid hip-hop, is there room for Turbo’s decidedly cheesy sense of carefree retro pop?
With producers Duble Sidekick and Faces of Glory (Glory Face?) involved, the potential seems rife. And though Hot Sugar borrows much from decades past, it includes just enough modern touches within its DNA to feel fresh. Frankly, I’m delighted that Turbo didn’t jump onto the tropical bandwagon. That style of production fits Kim Jong-kook’s flute-like vocals well on the album’s b-sides, but Hot Sugar offers a more concentrated burst of what makes summertime special.
With that said, the song is not something to take very seriously. At times, it seems like more of an excuse to gather as many of the group’s famous friends in the accompanying music video than an attempt at an enduring musical comeback. Hot Sugar is lightweight, for sure, and made even more so by its overly familiar melodic turns. Still, the pre-chorus injection of chant-like rapping provides a brief jolt of excitement, breaking apart the melody’s tendency to err towards the generic. More of this might have given Hot Sugar an additional layer of texture, but I’m still content to take the fun burst of throwaway pop that it is.