TVXQ have been busy in both Korea and Japan since both members were discharged from the military in mid-2017. But so far, nothing they’ve released has quite matched their pre-enlistment material in my opinion. Yunho’s recent solo album brought back some of those old-school TVXQ vibes to great success, and will hopefully act as a springboard for new eras to come.
Japanese single Hot Hot Hot doesn’t sound like the TVXQ we’re accustomed to, but it’s their most invigorating J-pop work in years. You’d have to go back to 2013’s Ocean or 2014’s Sweat to find a TVXQ track so relentlessly upbeat. Hot Hot Hot revels in its own cheesiness, offering a sturdy slab of anthemic disco pop. The track opens with chugging synth, building momentum from its very first moment. The verses are relatively reserved, but deliver an ascending melody that compliments the robust instrumental.
Hot Hot Hot’s chorus is widescreen, sing-along pop in the best way. It’s not complex or inventive, but sometimes all you need is a rousing, fist-in-the-air refrain. This kind of melodic sucker punch feels especially vital in the midst of a K-pop summer that seems intent on draining every last bit of joy from the industry. I love how Hot’s bombastic production goes for the jugular, bringing in punchy power pop guitar to give the chorus larger-than-life appeal. This unabashedly big sound used to be easy to find back when K-pop was taking its inspiration from western acts like One Direction and Lady Gaga, but in the age of minimalist trap beats and languid, autotuned vocals it’s become all too rare. Leave it to a beloved second-generation artist to bring it back — in Japan, at least. I only hope that Korea wakes up and takes notice.