It’s been a rocky road for rookie group Checkmate. With only two songs under their belt, they’ve already undergone major shifts in configuration. They debuted as five last September, but now they’re down to four with the departure of vocalist/rapper Nason and the quick arrival/departure of Haechang, who never even got to participate in any of the group’s proper comebacks. Something’s clearly going on at Grace Company Entertainment, and it doesn’t inspire confidence.
Checkmate’s music doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either. It feels like a poor man’s copy of KARD, who themselves have been been stuck in a musical rut of late. I’m not thrilled at the lack of imagination when it comes to co-ed groups in K-pop. It seems like the industry only has one lane for these acts, and that charm was largely exhausted after KARD’s great run of 2016-17 singles. Checkmate’s You plays like a less-engaging version of those tracks, complete with an attitude-driven performance and sputtering percussion.
Fantastic songs can definitely be spawned from this template, but You lacks conviction in its melodies. Its hook is sinuous and sexy, but never grows into anything dynamic. The song feels more like a straight line than a fully-realized story, and that monotony grows thin even with You’s short running time. Given Checkmate’s diverse set of vocalists, I would hope for a greater sense of individuality. Unfortunately, none of the performances stand out, and the languid repetition of the hook doesn’t offer much opportunity to shine.