I feel pangs of guilt every time I sit down to write a review of Chungha’s music because I just can’t be very objective. I try hard not to be biased against artists or groups, even if their work has been universally awful. Chungha’s music has not been awful at all — it’s actually been quite solid. But, I’ve struggled to enjoy most of it because of the way her vocals have been arranged. She’s clearly a talented singer, but most of her material seems to force her voice into styles that don’t suit it.
Gotta Go (벌써 12시) switches things up from her usual dance-pop sound, opening with a synth sample that feels as if it could have been lifted straight from BLACKPINK’s Ddu-Du Ddu-Du. It’s a welcome twist for Chungha, and harnesses her undeniable charisma. The instrumental feels almost as if it had been designed for a 2018-era boy group, lurching and rattling with trap-influenced percussion and atmospheric electronics. As exhausted as I am with this aesthetic, it’s kind of cool to hear a female performer tackle the moody sound.
Unfortunately, Gotta Go doesn’t really go anywhere. I applaud the song for drawing out its two-part chorus rather than resorting to an instrumental drop, but the melody here is too hesitant. Rather than kicking the song up another level, it kind of gets lost in the shuffle. More expressive production would have helped, as the core synth sample quickly grows repetitive and loses its impact. But just as I would have expected, it’s the vocal that ultimately loses me. I wish I could enjoy it. I want to enjoy it. But, something about the particular register they’ve got Chungha singing in just hurts my ears. Shorter phrasing (Love U), layered arrangements (Cherry Kisses) and a groovy airiness (Whatcha Doin’) have all helped tease out the best from her vocals in the past. With Gotta Go, I feel like Chungha and I are back to square one.