Buoyed by several members’ Produce X 101 popularity, CRAVITY debuted earlier this year to much commercial success. Their fan base is already strong. Now, they’ve just got to figure out which direction to take their music. So far, they’ve presented us with two contrasting concepts: the Monsta X-lite Break All The Rules and the flower boy Cloud 9. Both borrowed from common K-pop tropes, and neither really painted CRAVITY with a unique sound. I can’t blame Starship Entertainment for wanting to replicate proven successes, but new single Flame represents the drawbacks to that approach.
Flame is boy group bluster, bounding along heavy percussion and thundering synth accents. Backing vocals are used effectively to soften some of the instrumental’s blunt edges, but other than that this production feels very ‘K-pop Boy Group 101,’ failing to deliver any surprises. Interestingly, Flame’s hook strongly echoes the pre-chorus of 2PM’s 2015 hit My House. I’m not sure if this was an intentional callback, but the similarity is striking. Of course, My House went on from there to blossom into a great chorus, different enough from its verses to stick.
Flame is much more simple in its approach, and suffers from its inability to land an instantly-memorable punch. Compared to Break All The Rules, this feels like a musical afterthought, repeating that song’s successful energy but never forging a personality of its own. Having come to know the members through Produce 101, I can attest that personality is not an issue with CRAVITY. I only wish they were given material that helped spotlight that in a more satisfying way.