It’s a testament to Korea’s love affair with generic Western musical trends that Shaun’s Way Back Home became one of 2018’s biggest sleeper hits, despite the fact that it came from a virtually unknown artist and wasn’t even meant to be a title track. I could debate the actual quality of that song, but in the end it doesn’t really matter. To me, its success represented all of the industry’s worst, trend-chasing instincts.
With this in mind, the appropriately titled Bad Habits (습관) has a lot to answer for as this year’s first notable release. If I had to suffer through 2019 kicking off with yet another tropical synth squiggle, I’d be ready to fast forward to 2020. But approaching Habits with low expectations and a whole lot of cynicism turned out the be the best thing for the song. It still feels generic in its own EDM way, but I quickly found myself won over by the straightforward pop melody and dramatic, strings-assisted instrumental.
The synth-driven beat has a satisfying, chugging propulsion to it, and never resorts to the kind of cut-and-paste drop it seems to be building toward. Instead, the chorus unveils a more fleshed-out blend of electronics, supporting a simple — but effective — vocal hook. However, Habits’ secret weapon is a final-chorus key change, where both the instrumental and vocals surge upward to create renewed interest in a melody that threatens to flatline two-thirds of the way through. It’s an unexpected burst of power that ends the song on a high note and gives it the kind of impact that many of these EDM-style tracks lack. I guess I’m a convert to Shaun’s trendy music, and that’s 2019’s first big surprise.
The most surprising thing about “Way Back Home” was that it was actually decent, so it comes as no shock to me that this is also honestly really good. Shaun plays synthesizer for a different band called The Koxx, who are also consistently good! As a fan of his band, I hope he keeps up the success tbh; this song isn’t even that trop house- it only sort of borrows the textures, and if anything is written around most of tropical’s worst instincts.
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I wasn’t much of a fan of Way Back Home (as if you couldn’t tell!), mostly because it just came across as really faceless to me, but I’m honestly liking this track more each time I hear it.
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