So far, 2020 has been pretty forgettable when it comes to new debuts. Most of the higher-profile ones have underwhelmed to some degree, and there have been a lot of solid-but-unspectacular, under-the-radar rookies who opt for trendiness rather than innovation. But, every once and awhile we get a CRAXY – with a song so bonkers that it stands out. I wouldn’t call E’Last’s Swear (기사의 맹세) ‘bonkers,’ but it opts for some classic K-pop sounds that help differentiate it from the pack.
This being 2020, Swear can’t completely escape the influx of trap music. It’s omnipresent throughout the track, but doesn’t define it. Instead, Swear stakes its claim on powerful vocals and a surprisingly lush orchestral arrangement. It’s not often that a K-pop single surprises me, but on first listen I found myself engrossed by Swear’s “where will it go next?” charm.
Swear feels like “K-pop song meets symphonic movement,” and I am absolutely okay with that. It ebbs and flows across moments of orchestral grandeur and more expected tropes, culminating in a chorus that’s both melodically subdued and bombastically performed. It’s an odd contrast, but I think it works. At the very least, I love hearing the kind of forceful vocal delivery that characterizes Swear’s hook. I think there was a missed opportunity to build toward one definitive climax, but I’ll happily take the series of peaks that we get. More than anything, it’s gratifying to hear a K-pop debut switch things up a bit. Swear knows how to use empty space to maximum effect. Despite its (awesome) operatic flourishes, it’s a remarkably quiet song – at least compared to the clattertrap production favored by a lot of 2020-era boy groups. I can see Swear drawing me in further and further the longer I listen to it, and that should be the goal of any newly-debuted rookie.
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