You’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.