Though Chungha has yet to release her 2020 album, she’s delivered quite a few new tracks already. Not all of these have been equally successful, but I’ve generally been pleased with her more up-tempo offerings. New single Play follows suit, harnessing the well-worn power of tropical pop to craft a summer-ready anthem. It mostly works, even though we’ve heard this exact style of song from Chungha before.
Play’s instrumental encapsulates almost every element of the tropical trend that’s swept K-pop over the past few years. It’s got a bit of Latin influence, a heavy dose of island sounds and plenty of moombahton drive. You’d think that this stale combination would be enough to drive me over a cliff, but it works within the context of this track. The instrumental is dense and larger-than-life, and never really strays from that level of bigness. There’s nothing particularly unique or groundbreaking about it, but the groove goes down easy. It becomes especially galvanizing during Play’s final moments, when the percussion grows even more intense.
To Chungha’s credit, she never gets lost within the maelstrom of production. I’ve had issues with her vocal performance in the past, but I think her tone is unique suited to this sound palette. She’s charismatic to a fault, and brings a dancer’s sensibility to her phrasing of the chorus. Guest rapper Changmo adds little to the track beyond a chance for Chungha to catch her breath after a tricky power note, but he doesn’t derail Play’s momentum either. I don’t know how well this song will age, but for now it’s a welcome addition to the 2020 summer K-pop playlist.
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