Cross Gene have been away from the Korean music scene since February of 2017, when they released their brilliantly dramatic Black Or White in tandem with its violent, horror show music video. New single Touch It (달랑말랑) feels like the comeback they should have made last summer when k-pop’s tropical trend was at its peak. No matter how strong the song may be, its overly familiar genre restrictions keep it from sounding as fresh as their best material.
Sometimes I think that I should add a “chorus or no chorus” category to my ratings system. It’s very rare for me to get behind a chorus-less song in any meaningful way, and Touch It suffers from its instrumental riff-as-a-hook structure. Fortunately, the track’s tropical foundations are polished and impeccably produced. Its dancehall beat pounds with a satisfying heft, and I adore the layered vocals placed over the central drop. The guys sound particularly great here, making it impossible not to imagine how awesome Touch It could have been if given an extra spike of melody.
Before the song launches into its familiar tropical shtick, the instrumental opens with a moody, keys-driven refrain that is later revisited as part of the drop. This intro is more interesting than any other production element the track has to offer, and should have been pushed even further into the forefront. Looking back at their impressive discography, Cross Gene have never been a group with a set sound or style. This diverse musical palette has rarely felt beholden to trends. Touch It proves that they can deliver a tropical bop as well as anyone, but isn’t it time to put this overused aesthetic to rest?