There’s no reason why Rain shouldn’t have the number one single in Korea right now. He’s one of k-pop’s most beloved (and most successful) soloists, back after a long hiatus and buoyed by his hosting/mentoring stint on KBS’s The Unit. At this stage in his career, I think it’s more important to remind the public why his music and persona have been so important over the years, rather than try to keep up with current trends. This is what makes Gang (깡) such a baffling choice as a comeback single. There are hints of the Rain that fans have come to adore, but the track’s trendier elements do not go down well.
Rain has one of the most instantly recognizable vocal tones in all of k-pop, and it’s a shame that Gang doesn’t allow him to use it more effectively. The song kicks off with the ugly, siren-like electronic breakdown that will eventually overtake most of what follows. Rain then proceeds to rap about how awesome he is, which feels incredibly unnecessary because his dominance of the industry is not something that needs to be proven over such a limp beat. I’m all for artists trying something new, but Rain isn’t really a rapper. He’s at his best when focused on vocals and dance.
Speaking of vocals, Gang offers a glimpse of that iconic, husky voice in the form of a languid, pre-beat-drop refrain. It’s not a particularly galvanizing piece of melody (in fact, it really slows the whole thing down), but it’s easily the song’s strongest moment. As a burst of soulful background vocals come in to support him, we have an idea of what this comeback could have been. Instead, Rain seems overly intent on restoring a legacy that’s already intact. A song like Gang feels beneath him, especially after March’s triumphant The Best Present.