This February left us with a lot of sound-alike tracks, and that included a few debuts. With such a saturated market, K-pop agencies seem scared to offer anything new or risky. The thing is, I’d argue that playing it safe is rarely a good strategy for new groups. It’s so easy to be swept up in the monotony, with established acts eating up all the attention as their stable fan bases offer support regardless of the quality of the comeback song.
Enter CRAXY, who are on my shortlist for worst new idol group name of 2020. Very little about their pre-debut roll-out inspired optimism, but they’ve delivered one hell of an odd debut with Aria. I can’t remember the last time a K-pop single felt this genuinely surprising. The first time through, I had no idea where the song was going next. This anything-goes approach doesn’t necessarily make Aria an excellent piece of pop music, but it does make it interesting. And, “interesting” is in short supply these days.
Aria moves through an ever-changing barrage of musical segments, not arriving at any sort of chorus until a minute in. And even then, we’re only treated to a brief teaser of the titular hook before the track swerves in another new direction. Aria’s first few minutes are held together through sheer audacity rather than structural coherence. Still, there’s enough repetition to keep the track from feeling like a complete mess. I absolutely love the traditional elements woven throughout both the instrumental and melody. They’re tethered to a high-tempo EDM beat that helps soften what could have been a series of awkward transitions. Taken on their own, Aria’s series of melodies aren’t very impressive. But, their brevity guarantees that listeners will never be bored.
From its bridge onward, Aria loses all semblance of a mainstream pop song and just fully embraces its own oddness. This segment plays with tempo, structure and energy, but without the standard trap-rap we’ve become used to. Initially confusing, this mashed-up interlude rockets into a bombastic climax that ends the song on a high. Keep it weird, CRAXY. You’ve certainly made it on my radar.
* Also, that is one gorgeous music video…
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