It’s only been a short while since BTS emerged from their late-summer break, but J-Hope is already gracing fans with a surprise single — the trilingual Becky G collaboration Chicken Noodle Soup. The song is a cover of the insipid, siren-filled original from Webstar and Young B. At the very least, J-Hope and Becky G’s version makes marked improvements. That’s a low bar to cross, but it’s still worth noting.
I’m not usually a fan of these Korean/American collaborations. Few have felt like anything but quick cash-ins eager to capitalize on K-pop’s growing presence in the States. However, BTS made it work with Halsey for April’s Boy With Luv, and Becky G makes a similarly compatible match. Much of this success rides on the strength of Chicken Noodle Soup’s production. In our current pop climate, it’s rare to hear this kind of upbeat hip-hop. Nary a trap beat is found, replaced with a funky, bass-heavy groove that feels reminiscent of an old Missy Elliott track. There’s more than a little bit of Work It here — and Soup is all the better for it. I only wish the tempo didn’t stagnate during Becky G’s melodic moments.
Unfortunately, this version of Chicken Noodle Soup is still beholden to the obnoxious hooks that drove the 2006 original. It’s built around a pair of irritating English-language catchphrases, aiming for “cute” and “clever” but landing closer to “cloying.” This is why I rarely listen to English-language pop music anymore. The meme-ification of lyrics just doesn’t sit well with me. J-Hope and Becky G do what they can with the material, adding Korean and Spanish verses as well as some extra melody. It’s not enough to make this version of Soup feel vital, but the instrumental’s addictive bounce might at least have me coming back for seconds.