The rise of Kim Chungha has been astonishing to watch. While she finished in the top four of Produce 101‘s first season, she always seemed to be overshadowed by some of the bigger personalities of her I.O.I group members. Yet, while many Produce-related girl groups struggle to find their place in K-pop’s crowded marketplace, Chungha has quickly established a very successful solo career.
I’ve been critical of Chungha’s vocal tone in the past, and I realize that this is a very subjective issue. So before digging into Love U as a song, I want to point out that her vocals feel more assured than ever before. The chorus still stretches her tone a bit too high, but she seems to really be settling into her style as a performer.
With that said, Love U has one big obstacle to overcome. The song is firmly within the tropical genre, and doesn’t attempt to do anything new or novel with it. This is a problem, as we’ve heard this exact sound hundreds of times over the past few years. The soft guitar in Love U‘s verses feels like a callback to her debut, and the resounding island beat that takes over the chorus is right out of KARD’s playbook. I would have preferred Chungha to evolve the melodic dance style she established with January’s Roller Coaster. Retreating to more generic material doesn’t do justice to her potential. Still, Love U is competently constructed, delivering a beautifully breezy pre-chorus and a sun-kissed hook that sparks an unexpected level of excitement from its well-trodden course. In the vast world of tropical K-pop, the song slots comfortably within the upper half. It’s just difficult to get excited about this sound anymore.