As a Sweetune fanatic, it’s been depressing to watch the production team fade into obscurity over the past two years. With retro pop the trend of the day, I want nothing more than their patented sound to make its way back into the K-pop mainstream. But alas, 2019 and 2020 have seen the team’s output dwindle down to a few under-the-radar acts. And even then, new Sweetune music has largely been relegated to rock bands and ballads – two avenues that don’t take full advantage of the producers’ skills.
One upside this year was KEEMBO’s Scandalous. It wasn’t close to A-level Sweetune, but it scratched the itch. Follow-up 99 was less impressive, but thankfully KEEMBO have stuck with the producers for new single Scene (씬). This one isn’t quite the Sweetune I know and love either, though their musical DNA is still very present.
Unlike most idol releases, Scene is a pop/rock track. One of my all-time favorite Sweetune songs, Infinite’s Last Romeo, sparked magic by fusing K-pop’s glossy dance pop with live band touches. I wish Scene was a similar fusion. Instead, it’s a relatively straightforward rock track, driven by insistent percussion and some great instrumental solos. Boa and Bohyung compel with powerful vocals, but the song really gets going during its exciting bridge. The production begins to experiment more, enlisting additional percussion and even some electronic touches. This is also present during the chorus, which moves at a brisk pace as splashes of brass dot the landscape. It’s a solid, well-arranged track, but it’s hard to fully enjoy it without conjuring memories of earlier Sweetune triumphs.