I really don’t know what’s going on in Big Hit Entertainment’s head this year. As the agency rapidly expands, their 2020 musical choices have left me cold. BTS’s ON arrived at a challenging time, just as the pandemic was starting to take hold of the world. But even so, it feels like the most polarizing of the group’s title tracks. And then we have TXT, whose latest album largely forgoes the upbeat pop that brought them so much buzz last year. Instead, we have angsty trap music, moody ballads, and whatever Puma (동물원을 빠져나온 퓨마) is supposed to be.
Honestly, just give me a good pop song. That’s all I want. When I first heard Puma in the context of the album, I brushed it off as some indulgent little interlude, letting the guys briefly chew on some awful trends before moving on to something more melodically robust. But now that Big Hit has given it the full music video treatment, it seems that this is a sound they actually want to spotlight. What a mistake that is.
Puma has its moments, but above all else it’s a showcase for awful vocal processing and mind-numbing trap beats. When it comes to TXT, I’m not convinced by this harder, darker image — and that’s mostly because the songs just aren’t very strong this time around. Puma is a half-baked idea, like what EXO’s Wolf might have been if it had arrived during this dire, trap-fueled time. The production is claustrophobic and obnoxious, forcing that tinny, ugly percussion over every moment. The vocals have been processed until they become mush, barely reminiscent of the charismatic tones that brought us Crown (or even Cat & Dog) last year. It’s formless posturing, and far beneath an agency as established as Big Hit. Get it together, guys. This ain’t it.
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