VERIVERY were one of my top three rookies of last year, and much of that had to do with their distinct new jack swing sound. But, like almost every boy group in the history of K-pop, 2020 sees them “maturing” that sound into edgier territory. Not only have they switched styles, but they’ve brought in new producers as well. The result is a hit-and-miss bid to sound like their peers.
Lay Back is mostly solid, and maintains enough of their funky influence to come across as a natural progression. But, the song has trouble maintaining its momentum. In these deep house days, the electro-bass hook feels too derivative. Yet it’s a catchy little chorus, pulling from both VERIVERY’s own charm and the darker textures of agency-mates VIXX. I like how it opens up during its second half, infusing a renewed sense of melody as rhythm guitar adds a sticky groove.
In contrast, Lay Back’s verses are… there. They don’t do much at all, and are difficult to recall even moments after they’ve passed. Worse yet is the song’s awful second-verse rap break. This trope has become so predictable that it’s practically a joke by now, but Lay Back’s swaggy interlude is particularly problematic. It’s unconvincing, lazily phrased, and completely kills the track’s energy. The ascending pre-chorus is much more enjoyable, and salvages some of the momentum. But, Lay Back’s piecemeal quality makes it a frustrating experience. You can feel the tension, as if the song is being pulled between the group’s signature sound and trendier elements meant to capture a wider audience. Let’s hope this ends up being a case of growing pains on their way to a more satisfying middle ground.
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