With new Korean enlistment laws going into effect, VIXX are approaching that precarious moment when some of its members will have to take an extended leave from the group. Whether the guys enlist one at a time or all together, Reincarnation will likely be their final 6-member Japanese comeback for awhile. It’s no surprise that the song embraces the styles and tone of their recent Korean work, but its fitful approach crystallizes much of the criticism I’ve had toward their post-2016 output.
Reincarnation’s first thirty seconds are exhilarating, with a dynamic percussive loop driving the song forward on its inventive rhythm that seems to pull equally from drum and bass and swing music. This introduces an off-kilter rap verse and brief build before the track collapses into one of my least favorite tropes of modern pop. The instrumental transitions to a languid blend of synths that robs Reincarnation of any energy it may have been building.
The chorus sees a return to percussion, but in a more tentative (and less engaging) manner. There’s not much of a melody to be found here, leaving Reincarnation feeling oddly hookless. Things improve as the song grows, with moments of inspired production lifting the instrumental out of its despondency. But compare this to earlier hits like Hyde or Chained Up and the difference couldn’t be more stark. It’s possible to tether a dynamite song to a darker tone, but Reincarnation is held back by its inconsistency.
akaksdkdk WHAT AM I LISTENING TO? W h a t. Did they really put a house kind of synth over variation of THE drum n bass drum machine loop?? W H A T. AND THE MELODY IS JUST Ravi and the sub-vocalists TALKING??? That “flasback” bit with Hyuk and the gated instrumental is a laughably good recreation of what I think of as acid rave music (though I’ve never been to an acid rave), which is so aggressively out-of-place in a VIXX song, especially when not 5 seconds later there’s an R&B breakdown. As you said, the chorus kind of comes back to the beginning, but not until the second half of it does it really sound like a hook- I mean all of the actual singing is just really generic blues-styled stuff, and the bridge is totally useless too. It mostly just makes me want to remove all of the singing and just have the talking (but of course, that would fail as a strictly pop song entirely). It bothers me because VIXX get so, so close to having a standout but it misses the mark equally as much.
One might think that successfully creating a drum n bass kpop song is impossible, I mean how does one even nix melody, have drum n bass textures – which all sound invariable the same – without simultaneously sounding hackneyed, all while having enough for the group to even sing? The answer, of course, is to be Dreamcatcher. Last year, DC released a song called “Sleepwalking” on their Fly High album, an album which you famously never wrote a buried treasure for despite it being a relative gold mine. I could also use the example of Red Velvet’s seminal work “Rookie,” which is of course literally 75% talking, but then I would have to admit that blues-scale vocals are permissible when they aren’t front-and-center, and I don’t want to do that. “Sleepwalking” is such an impressive song because not only does it manage to screw around with drum n bass, an almost impossible feat, but it actually sounds fantastic. Why is this, you ask? Because, like any good kpop knockoff of an old genre, it rips all of the good bits, and ignores all of the flaws. Sleepwalking pushes like 150bpm or something otherwise ridiculously fast, while the rest of kpop is stuck in languidness, and the bass riffs are heavy, prominent, and a lot more important than the melody, which is just kind of one, extended note. VIXX, however, are trying to pull off really kind of textures that were overplayed decades ago while centering vocals while having absolutely no riffing focus. I mean, a song like Rookie rides 100% on the bass line, Dreamcatcher does the same, and VIXX relies on? nothing really. It’s novel in that certainly expect the thirty seconds, but that really just does drift into disappointment a little later. “Reincarnation” needs like +75bpm, a prominent riff to center itself around, and like, all of the singing just erased or significantly constrained.
“Generic” is indeed a good way to describe the chorus, and you’re right that it never even feels like one until the second half.
Absolutely love Sleepwalking, and it definitely would have been an ideal candidate for Buried Treasure. I must have been really busy with other reviews during that time. I’d love if DC would promote something like that as a title track. Mix things up a bit.