Chungha has been one of the bigger success stories from 2016’s Produce 101 group I.O.I. While most other members have been reshuffled back into their respective groups, she embarked on a solo career. Last Summer’s Why Don’t You Know wasn’t my cup of tea, but it held onto the charts for much longer than many would have predicted. With new single Roller Coaster, Chungha changes up her sound quite drastically. The song is stronger this time around, but it’s hindered by some very familiar issues.
It’s not easy to maintain a successful solo career. With idol groups, pressures of performance and promotion don’t usually fall on only one person, and a variety of vocal tones and skills ensures a final product that feels diverse and dynamic. Chungha possesses all the charisma necessary to captivate on her own, but I just don’t think her voice works by itself. In I.O.I, she was able to contribute brilliantly to the larger tapestry of sounds. In Roller Coaster — as with Why Don’t You Know — the song’s key forces her into an overly shrill delivery that lacks power and impact.
This is a shame, because Roller Coaster itself feels quite impactful. Produced by Black Eyed Pilseung (of Twice fame), the track melds a big electronic dance beat to calypso-like percussion. I love that it never slows down, spinning off energy with an addictive sense of propulsion. It’s all anchored by a soaring pop chorus that is undercut by its delivery. I don’t want to sound like I’m disparaging Chungha’s ability as a performer, because I think her voice can be quite charming. This just wasn’t a particularly good match between artist and song.