Song Review: Checkmate – Drum

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.

 Hooks 7
 Production 8
 Longevity 7
 Bias 7
 RATING 7.25



12 thoughts on “Song Review: Checkmate – Drum

  1. .
    This has a high degree of polish for a debut.

    Checkmate almost seems like a project group from an agency, like a one off, like Trouble Maker or TripleH.

    They meld together far better than other co-ed groups, and fit firmly in the contemporary kpop gestalt. I never thought KARD melded together well, ever. There is the girl who neither compliments nor contrasts with the other girl, the really really tall guy, and the fourth one. And then there are the international “kpop” pan-asian groups and the K tigers, whoever they are or were, and others, none of whom seem to have received any traction in the kpop market.

    The song itself is solid songwriting. It isn’t anything we haven’t heard before, and not exemplary in any particular aspect that can be called out. But in baseball terms it’s a solid double base hit. “Hit on me like I’m a drum, bad dum bum” gets a bit repetitious. For the English speakers out there, if you don’t know the song is called “Drum” by the end, you are not paying any attention.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You make a great point about them meshing better than other co-eds. It immediately struck me that they sound much more cohesive than KARD. This could be a bad thing if you want individual members to stand out a lot, but to my ears its more pleasing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The song isn’t particularly interesting, in my opinion, it’s not bad but just not my style. I would have wished for more contrast between the member’s voices but the guys seem to be singing pretty high and almost at the same pitch as the ladies which is a bummer and sort of a missed opportunity(or maybe I’m just obsessed with deep voices, who knows).
    One thing I can say I’m really glad about is that they didn’t play up the sex appeal as a coed group like Kard did(especially at the start of their career). I haven’t seen the dance in full but from the snippets in the mv it seems like they’re all doing mostly the same moves and they’re your standard kpop dance. I think with coed groups(I’m thinking Kard and Coed School) companies don’t want their guys to do more feminine/cute concepts and they don’t want the ladies to be masculine/aggressive so they settle in the middle for sexy(something that both sexes in traditional gender roles are allowed to do). So I guess maybe that’s is why they settled for a tropical sound. Doesn’t lean one way or the other.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think this is the flip side of their voices melding well together: there’s less contrast between the voices. Just like their dancing, their singing/rapping is not divided in a way that focuses on the sex differences. Like you, I dislike that about KARD. This group seems to truly make the guys and girls perform together instead of having clearly separate parts.


  3. This is definitely a lot better than I was expecting. Its not bad, I’ll probably check out a few live performances if they get on music shows to see if they hold up before I really make a decision about this group, but honestly I’m fairly impressed

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m going to be bold here and say I prefer this over KARD. Over any KARD song, in fact.I am not a fan of their material at all and although I hear the similarities clearly, I think this is better.

    Less posturing, more tempo (always a big one for me), the members voices compliment each other well and transition seamlessly. I like it.


  5. There wasn’t anything particularly great about the song if I’m honest. I don’t approve of the copying off of KARD. But, I can’t knock them for watching Kard closely so that they can make it. Why work hard when you can work smart, right? But, doing that sort of thing is honestly lame to me. I think that’s the issue for me with this group. They aren’t anything unique. It just feels like they aren’t hardworking. Just following the path set for them by others who had nothing, but the skills and determination to get them through to the next stage.

    KARD has made their own sound. Did something no one else in the game was doing until them. Then pushed further by experimenting more and showing us different sides. It’s obvious how much they put in. I adore individuals being individuals. Those people never get boring, because they don’t just walk a straight line free of danger, bumps, and grime. They don’t look for short cuts. They just walk and whatever happens they’ll deal with it in whatever way they decide is best. It’s not always about blending well. Even the roughest strokes can make the most perfect picture.

    But, that just my opinion. Hope they do well. Just find their own sound and voices to break past this comparison that’ll definitely effect others perceptions of them.


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