Most of the time, a k-pop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-sides deserve recognition too. In the singles-oriented world of K-pop, I want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
Too many modern K-pop albums feel cobbled together by committee. I tend to gravitate toward projects that are driven by only one or two production teams, rather than a grab bag of various songs from various creators. CRAVITY are just one of many boy groups who have yet to deliver anything uniquely them. While perfectly competent and occasionally great, neither of their albums have any musical continuity. They’re filled with outsourced songs, each aiming to check off a specific trend. Compare this to Starship’s WJSN, who emerged with a distinct cosmic sound of their own — or going back a few years, Boyfriend’s Sweetune-helmed discography.
This problem isn’t unique to CRAVITY, and I don’t mean to pick on them specifically. While this approach might not result in a cohesive album or signature sound, it can deliver moments of fun. On their latest album, this moment comes courtesy of Hot Air Balloon (열기구). Given its title, you might expect the song to be brighter and fluffier than it is. After all, many of CRAVITY’s most popular members gained fame through buoyant personalities on Produce X 101.
Instead, Hot Air Balloon hits a nice middle ground, never moody but never succumbing to aegyo-cheese either. Instead, producers Willie Weeks and Brother Su give the track a percolating house beat and hypnotic vocal hook. It’s a solid sound for CRAVITY – youthful but not cloying. I particularly enjoy the song’s consistent energy, which ensures that we never hit a dull point. Its first verse gradually builds the instrumental’s core elements before hitting a satisfying beat drop as the chorus unveils itself. From here, Hot Air Balloon is sprightly and enjoyable. If Starship wanted to give CRAVITY an identity, this wouldn’t be a bad direction to go.