Hotshot are one of the established acts standing to gain from Wanna One’s early-2019 disbandment. Come February, main vocal Ha Sungwoon will be back with the group, presumably bolstering their brand with his increased star power. In the meantime, the remaining five members have tried to keep things chugging along, briefly promoting last summer and challenging KBS’s idol rebooting series the Unit over the winter. Now, they’ve returned with their final release before next year’s reunion.
In the past, Hotshot have been most strongly tied to a hip-hop dance sound. At its best, their music has explored more club-friendly textures, but I Hate You (니가 미워) retreats into brooding, dirge-like territory. It’s an oddly downbeat choice, as if the guys are already resigned to a life of K-pop industry struggle. The song is like Wanna One’s Beautiful, but without the charm — or BTS’ Spring Day without the resonant hook.
I Hate You gives us three and a half minutes of navel-gazing, mid-tempo balladry. The guys are in fine form, and pull off the track’s meager melodies with polish. But apart from pleasant vocal tones, I don’t see a reason to return to a song like this. The tonal ground it covers has already been tread over and over this year, but there’s no real hook amidst all the moodiness. The melody is too vanilla, making it hard to recall even moments after the song has ended. The guitar-fueled bridge points toward more interesting directions, but I Hate You feels the need to shoehorn in trap-influenced snare whenever possible. If the song had found one defining direction, that sense of confidence might have countered the melodic mush. Instead, I Hate You remains hopelessly murky throughout.