It’s a K-pop tale as old as time:
1. Bright, funky boy group releases a few great tracks, to middling success.
2. Bright, funky boy group gets swept into the dark embrace of moody trap music.
3. Moody, trap boy group still finds middling success, because 99% of idol sales and charting has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the music.
So, what lesson do we take from this? It’s really quite simple: stick to your guns, slowly build a fan base and grow from there. Great music rarely spawns instant success in K-pop these days, but a great, consistent discography certainly breeds loyalty. What makes Dongkiz’s transformation particularly frustrating is that it comes just as their former funky, retro sound is starting to become trendy again. What a time to embrace trap!
To be fair, new single Beautiful isn’t really a trap song. It’s standard boy group K-pop with trap influences, and its instrumental is actually quite solid. It forgoes the tinny minimalism associated with the genre in favor of a beefed-up, guitar-assisted Western pastiche. The pre-chorus is especially grand, layering the guys’ vocals to brilliant effect even as its structure is utterly predictable.
Sadly, this appeal doesn’t last into Beautiful’s chorus, which is as melodically lazy as you’re ever going to hear. The droning approach to this hook utterly mystifies me. I mean, who thought this was a good idea? It’s as if the producers went out of their way to craft as ugly a refrain as they could. This is in direct contrast to the buoyant hooks of past Dongkiz tracks like BlockBuster and All I Need Is You. It feels particularly jarring on the heels of sub-unit I:KAN’s frothy throwback single Y.O.U. As opposed to that track’s title, Beautiful is a big W.T.F.