I was quite hard on Kang Daniel’s July debut. It felt too beholden to trends, at the expense of really showcasing his appealing personality. Still, the album was a huge commercial success, cementing his status as one of 2019’s biggest soloists. With new single Touchin’, his ban on music shows has been lifted and he’ll be able to actively perform and promote the track. This couldn’t have come at a better time, because Touchin’ is much more enjoyable than What Are You Up To.
Touchin’ positions Daniel as Korea’s answer to Charlie Puth. But while he’s still aping international trends, this one feels fitting and comfortable. Composed by a cavalcade of writers, the song bumps on a lean funk-pop groove. Its first verse is a bit of a red herring, pulling in those infernal xylophone synths that were all the rage this summer. However, once the chorus hits, Touchin’ unveils its central bassline. From here, the song rarely takes a moment to breathe. I love the shot of guitar that emerges after each chorus. This element could’ve been explored further, but its very presence gives the track unique texture.
As streamlined as the production is, Touchin’s melody is even more scant. This works both for and against the song. On one hand, its simplicity matches the single-minded propulsion of the instrumental. However, the one-phrase chorus threatens to tire quickly. Daniel sells this refrain as best as he can, throwing in a few MJ-esque whoops and nailing the cool confidence that a song like this demands. His vocals are occasionally warped into interesting flourishes of added rhythm, which makes me wonder how galvanizing Touchin’ could have sounded if the producers dirtied things up and really leaned into the funk.
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