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.