When it comes to the increased presence of English releases in the K-pop industry, it can be hard for me to decide which songs to review on this site. I very rarely write about English-only songs, whether released by a K-pop group or as a cross-cultural collaboration. I’m extremely picky when it comes to English lyrics, which is why I love writing about K-pop so much. My Korean is at a very basic level, so most of the clichés and trite lyricism within idol music just pass me by without impacting my enjoyment of a song. This is why I’m so opposed to my favorite acts recording English material. I can’t ignore bad lyrics, no matter how stunning the actual track might be.
Coffee Break is largely performed in English, and the content matter is pretty light. Even the Korean lyrics (delivered by NCT’s Lucas) are hard to swallow for a non-native speaker. At one point, he spends nearly half of a verse just listing different drinks you’d order at a coffee shop. But despite all of this, I kind of love Coffee Break’s throwback jazz fusion.
I’m far from what you’d call a jazz fan, but I am an admirer of what most would consider retro music. Coffee Break reminds me of something Stevie Wonder might have released, performed with the vocal groove of Michael Jackson. In reality, it’s delivered by singer Jonah Nilsson, who is also one third of Stockholm based trio Dirty Loops. Funny enough, I wrote about his band five years ago on my old pop music blog. Coffee Break sees him team up with Lucas for a truly dynamic match. The instrumental pulses with a nimble energy, giving both performers plenty to chew on. In a musical climate of overused loops and beat drops, Break’s freewheeling arrangement feels like a breath of fresh air. Its old-school sound won’t be for everyone, but I’d love to see more of this classic approach in today’s K-pop.