Ha Sungwoon’s solo career doesn’t get a lot of press (at least internationally), but he’s quietly cobbled together an incredible singles run. Fresh off the heels of Sneakers, he’s returned with a repackaged version of his early-summer mini album. Strawberry Gum positions him within the upbeat funk pop realm of previous title tracks Get Ready and Forbidden Island. It’s a style that perfectly suits his charms as a performer.
This time, the groove comes packaged with an extra shot of buoyancy, thriving on airy synths and nimble guitar. It’s a sprightly mix that imbues the entire track with upbeat energy. Even when most of the percussion drops out for the pre-chorus, Strawberry Gum harnesses a sense of forward drive. Its sound isn’t too dissimilar from Astro’s recent After Midnight, though this song plays with empty space in a way that makes its arrangement more diverse.
Like After Midnight, Strawberry Gum threatens to fade into the ether. It’s a fizzy little headrush, yet struggles to land the sucker punches that might have me clamoring for more. The chorus is ultra-smooth and performed with flair. I love how Sungwoon’s vocals match the intricacy of the instrumental. But, I long for a hook I haven’t heard before. Too many of Gum’s high points feel overly familiar. This blunts the song’s overall effect, despite being an immensely pleasant listen.
However, the track grows stronger as it goes on. Both the production and the performance develop greater bite, and that “baby, love me” hook becomes more robust and thrilling. This bodes well for Strawberry Gum’s longevity.
Of the three bright summery boy releases today, I have the order as of right now
Ha Sung Woon > The Boyz > ONF
I put Ha Sung Woon on top because I think it has the strongest songwriting of the three with a highly effective performance.
Also, my opinion freely shared, this is the retro style of song that BTS should have released as Dynamite Pt 2 instead of Permission to Dance. Yes, even in mostly Korean. It’s uncomplicated and radio-friendly yet far more layered and nuanced, and has that touch much more interesting musicianship. Of course, they would have to swap out “Strawberry Gum” for something else that doesn’t sound like “Watermelon Sugar”.
Also, the vibe reminds me of Super Junior “Magic” ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMZ5nK5G71o On the annals of misheard in English lyrics, the line in the “Magic” chorus sounds to me like “naked naked naked are the two of us”, and that is how I sing along to it. Speaking of nakedness, I am eager to hear Ten’s “Paint me Naked” which comes out tomorrow.
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This might be my favorite release of today. Very fun.
Other than ONF’s “Popping”, Ha Sungwoon’s repackage was another track I was really looking forward to!
Now before the highlight medley came out and I saw Flow Blow in the title track’s credits when the tracklist came out, two thoughts came to mind:
– This could go pretty great (Wanna One’s “Energetic”, almost every Pentagon track the duo composed with Hui like “Shine” and “Like This”, “Never” in Produce)
– This could go pretty mediocre (WEi’s “Twilight”)
But once that bubblegum pop chorus came in, I was sold.
And the saxophones sprinkled in the final chorus? Wow. It’s a simple, minor detail but it really made the song have a very satisfying end. This song is truly infectious, and thus a worthy successor to “Sneakers” which I’ve grown to love a lot more over time.
Apart from Woodz, Ha Sungwoon is one of my favourite post-Produce acts today. I find that both soloists have a great consistent singles run where they explore various concepts and sounds. I wish Sungwoon had a bit more traction because he has some great songs in his discography (including some he has taken part in composing like “What are you doing today?!” from the BXXX mini).