I am never more biased than when I’m writing about the work of my favorite k-pop producers. And number one on that list is Sweetune, who have very rarely put a foot wrong. Their lush, ultra-melodic style is instantly recognizable, yet completely enduring. As trends ebb and flow, they’ve been an anchor of classic pop songcraft. I’ve been thrilled with their resurgence over the past couple of years, even if it’s been relegated almost exclusively to rookie groups from smaller agencies.
Target is the latest rookie to receive the Sweetune treatment, but with a far different sound than groups like Snuper or Top Secret. When Target first came on the k-pop scene in late 2014 (!) with Please Love Me, they were billed as a moody hip-hop idol act. In many ways, Awake doesn’t change that. The symphonic, electric-guitar fueled instrumental is pure Sweetune, lending a theatrical bombast that really sets the song apart from others within the hip-hop genre. However, Awake‘s heavy focus on rap doesn’t allow the producers to flex their melodic skills.
What we get is fabulous (that tense, ever-rising build of a pre-chorus), but it only makes me long for more. The layered chorus augments the song’s trendier elements with a rush of pop bliss, similar to what Sweetune did with Snuper’s excellent Back:Hug. But again, I want more. Awake plays like an extended album intro, constantly sputtering towards a climax that never arrives. We almost get one right before the final chorus, when a second wall of vocals fades in to collide with the first. It’s brilliant moments like these that are a testament to Sweetune’s incredible skill, even within a slightly underwhelming song.