Idol rock group N.Flying scored a major coup earlier this year, as their digital single Rooftop made an unexpected climb up the charts. As you might expect, I follow the K-pop industry very closely. Yet, this sudden ascent surprised the hell out of me. Even after adding a Produce 101 alum to their roster, the group never seemed to gain much traction. And as solid as I found Rooftop to be, I much preferred many of their earlier title tracks. Korea’s a fickle audience, I guess. Either way, N.Flying’s improved standing in the industry is completely deserved.
Now comes the hard part. Following up a smash hit is no easy task, and pop music is littered with acts who couldn’t quite match the excitement of their breakthrough. In an unexpected twist, N.Flying have taken this opportunity to go more subdued than they’ve ever been. The band has released ballads and mid-tempos in the past, but Spring Memories (봄이 부시게) feels more like the kind of generic seasonal track favored by coffee-shop artists than the freewheeling, defiantly charismatic work N.Flying built their name on.
Spring Memories is perfectly fine, and will appeal to those who enjoy this calm, tea-sipping sound. The pleasant instrumental paints a warm atmosphere, taking a classic guitar strum aesthetic and adding a generous layer of strings and drowsy drum beats. The melody has an expected wistfulness to it, heralded by a catchy whistle hook. Much of the opening verse is delivered in a languid, sing-song mix of vocals and rap — kind of like a super-restrained version of Pentagon’s style. It all adds up to a nice head-nodder, but lacks any of the impact that characterizes N.Flying’s best work. Will this be enough to keep their chart momentum going? We’ll see.