Despite the international success of KARD, co-ed groups are still a rarity in K-pop. And with member J.Seph enlisting soon, that may become even more the case in the coming months. Enter: Checkmate. Composed of three men and two women, the newly-debuted group seem to have their eyes set on a similar trajectory. If I was managing them, I’d encourage a new sound that gives them instant identity. Instead, Drum follows a very KARD-like template.
You can’t fault an agency for repeating past successes, but it doesn’t make for a particularly interesting experience on the listener’s part. Co-produced by emerging hitmaker Stardust (previously known as Razer, of Woollim Entertainment fame), Drum blends a moombahton beat with the kind of synth textures we hear a lot in modern K-pop. It’s stronger than most of KARD’s recent material, but never comes close to bettering tracks like Oh NaNa or Hola Hola. The fact that I’m even comparing it so closely is a testament to the similarity running through Drum’s DNA. I remember KARD once mentioning how K-pop producers found it difficult to craft songs for a co-ed group, which makes me wonder if “tropical” is the first and only thing that pops into these creators’ minds when presented with an act like Checkmate.
Either way, Drum elicits a few sparks. It’s got a satisfying, consistent energy and knows exactly what it wants to be. And though none of the members’ vocals strike me as unique or exciting, they deliver the song with polish. The chorus feels too repetitive for its own good, but the grooving verses can be fun. I appreciate the general lack of posturing, which makes Drum come across as a less forced than some of the recent KARD material. Still, I can’t say that this debut is inspiring anything more a half-hearted head nod from me.