Good things come to those who wait. And wait. And wait.
Seriously, I spent most of this year moaning about how long it was taking for Golden Child to make a comeback. Injuries, acting schedules and other agency pursuits combined to create an unbearably long, thirteen-month hiatus. I was fearful that my favorite group had been forgotten. But, Woollim Entertainment finally came through at the very last moment, dropping a web-sitcom (!), followed by the announcement of the group’s first full album.
As much as I talk about wanting more bright energy in K-pop, I don’t think it’s Golden Child’s brightness that appeals to me. It’s the anthemic heft of their songs. The big choruses. The unabashed pop melodies. When it comes to these characteristics, I’ll have to get my fix on the rest of the album, because Wannabe is a very different beast.
Golden Child are not lying when they use the word “reboot” to describe their new image. Produced by in-house Woollim creator BLSSD, Wannabe takes their sound down a new avenue that’s much more in line with recent Infinite title tracks like The Eye and Tell Me. The instrumental and structure borrows many of the elements I’m sick of in K-pop, but twists them in appealing directions. Opening with dark, atmospheric synth, the first verse is a slow burn of rising intensity. There’s a lot of empty space here, which allows for focus on the group’s underrated vocals. Whatever quibbles I have with the song, I appreciate that it gives the members a chance to shine in new and unexpected ways.
From here, Wannabe moves into a more percussive segment, as the pre-chorus is joined by an understated groove. The actual chorus is more intense, layering vocal chants over a distorted electronic beat that goes on to forge a fitful dance break. I would’ve preferred something even more dynamic, but I’m delighted that the instrumental is more idiosyncratic than the trap retread it could’ve been.
Wannabe’s second verse switches things up by playing with both melody and structure, injecting a rap break at an unexpected moment. This keeps momentum climbing, which is a rarity for songs of this style. Wannabe constantly ebbs and flows, but never collapses or stalls. That’s key to the track’s success. But even at three and a half minutes, the song feels too short. I was really hoping to hear it build to a peak for its climax, but it fizzles out after only two choruses. This is going to take some getting used to.
In the end, I’m delighted to have Golden Child back. Wannabe is not the style I’d like to hear from them, but they manage to bring their unique energy to the track in a way that sets it apart from the many “dark” boy group offerings cluttering the market. With some refinement here and there, this could prove to be a very exciting second act for the guys. Now, bring on an album repackage with that Chaser-esque Sweetune track we all know you’re capable of!
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