Song Review: KEEMBO – Whatever

KEEMBO - WhateverYou’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger Sweetune fan than me. And with Han Jaeho and Song Sooyoon making a rare public appearance on web series MMTG last week, I’ve gone down yet another spiral of legendary Sweetune singles. As K-pop’s retro trend flourishes, I can’t fathom why agencies aren’t reaching out to the best in this niche business. Instead, what little Sweetune work we’ve gotten in 2020-21 has mostly been collaborations with KEEMBO.

As a fan, I’d rather have something than nothing, but it feels like Sweetune are increasingly writing toward an indie market, leaving their megawatt hooks and lush, layered production in the past. This is a disappointing development, encapsulated by a song like Whatever. Thus far, KEEMBO’s output has been good-not-great, especially in comparison to legendary runs by groups like Kara, Nine Muses, Infinite and Boyfriend. Apart from their ballads, Whatever is KEEMBO’s most subdued track yet. I fear their approach is becoming increasingly “coffeehouse” in nature.

Built upon a catchy brass riff, Whatever creeps forward on a mid-tempo kick. Its verses are breathy and atmospheric, but fail to find a compelling melody. Boa and Bohyung’s always-strong vocals are given room to stretch during the chorus, and the melodic restraint gives Whatever a classy – almost loungy – appeal. Unfortunately, very little about this approach takes advantage of Sweetune’s gifts as a composing team. They sneak in a few cool percussive elements toward the track’s climax, but too much of Whatever just fades into the background.

 Hooks 7
 Production 7
 Longevity 7
 Bias 7

7 thoughts on “Song Review: KEEMBO – Whatever

  1. Man…I really want to witness a collaboration between Sweetune with Infinite or literally anyone. I genuinely feel like they haven’t left those ultra-melodic songs in the past, but I wish they would release another incredible track…they can’t be left in the dust like that!


  2. I really want to love Keembo more, but it just isn’t happening. These women can sing circles around the current gen of girls, and yet this is the kind of fare they serve up for our enjoyment. Its OK, fine, mellow, well done, but not compelling. It doesn’t help that the song doesn’t have a real chorus to anchor it, just a string of high intensity lines that are individually awesome but collectively not a real chorus.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Can you imagine if KEEMBO tried to lean into the Adele/Meghan Trainer/Beth Hart direction? I’m not suggesting a complete emulation; because both Kim Boa and Kim Bohyung don’t need to ride on anyone’s coattails. I also don’t think they should just push bombastic vocal runs simply because they have the chops to do that. I’m talking about some fleshy soul-filled gritty vocals with appropriate ballsy instrumentation; a freestyle bass run, muffled brass, 100/110bpm, more church organ/less Rhodes, etc..

      Liked by 2 people

      • I sweared a bit when you mention those.

        Gutsy, more soulful, yes. Way better instrumentation, a real band, with horns and all that to feed off their energy too. Not everyone could carry themselves over a full horn section going at full funky blast, but Keembo could. (IU? Taeyeon? … Mamamoo? Nope.)

        If I had to specify, I would say like a Korean version of a Sharon Jones or a Jill Scott, but not exactly those ladies but an adaptation to themselves. Hire their producers. Break open the piggy bank and travel to Philly or Chicago or somewhere. Be more fearless, less stuck in their own little basement studio doing little videos for little audiences.

        Jill Scott ‘

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I admit, I have a HUGE soft spot for loungy / indie pop vibes, so this song hit me in all the right ways. Yes, it’s not particularly groundbreaking, cinematic, experimental, etc…but maybe that why I loved it so much? It’s nice to have simple and chill song once in a while. It just makes me feel good.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.