K-pop acts should never publicize comeback plans too far in advance. Schedules are fraught with uncertainty, especially when it comes to big agencies like SM Entertainment. Key’s new solo album was initially promised for July, but has now been pushed back to the end of September. To satiate eager fans, he’s pre-released Hate That — a duet with fellow SM artist (and good friend) Taeyeon. While it’s an enjoyable mid-tempo track, I hope the full comeback delivers something with more bite.
I love that Key has been able to collaborate with Taeyeon, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a title track that bears his name alone. So far, all his titles have featured another artist, resulting in music that feels a little scattered in vibe and style. Most of the solo tracks on his debut album presented a clear, convincing sound that felt true to Key’s musical touchstones (or at least those he has expressed publicly). Hate That is sentimental and affecting, but doesn’t feel unique when stacked against other SM solo tracks.
Hate That is built upon an atmospheric guitar loop that runs through the entire song. I enjoy this sound, but wish the instrumental pushed itself in new directions. Without much diversion from this central loop, the production threatens to become one-note. A dynamic melody, filled with highs and lows, would have helped alleviate some of this dullness. The repetitive chorus doesn’t do much for me, but the verses are quite pretty. Taeyeon makes a great duet partner, delivering understated emotion that perfectly matches Key’s performance. However, that’s my main gripe with the song as a whole. It’s so understated that it passes by with little impact. This may appeal to some listeners, but I’m way past ready to move beyond this restrained, “chill” phase of pop music.