I went into this year’s Kingdom: Legendary War familiar with SF9’s music but not attached to the group itself. I’m not sure the competition changed that much, but their interpretation of Taemin’s Move offered a potential inroad that caught my attention. Its sleek, dancefloor-ready sound and stylish image informed parts of their summer comeback Tear Drop, and new single Trauma pushes even further in that direction. However, the song struggles against an ever-increasing sense of predictability.
This is somewhat unrelated, but I was watching Music Bank this weekend (as I always do), and noticed that most the performers and performances seemed so deadly serious. I wonder if agencies will ever stop naming their comebacks things like “Trauma” and “Rumination”? Sometimes it feels like K-pop spends so much time being fierce that it forgets to be fun.
Rant over. Trauma doesn’t suffer from over-seriousness any more than its peers, but I wish the track spent as much time spinning energy as it does maintaining sleek distance. Its rugged bass forms a durable backbone, and I like how it contrasts with the lighter vocal performance. Tropical undertones add extra pulse, but Trauma pulls a familiar trick and drops into a slinky, percussive hook. This is a tried-and-true formula that’s always enjoyable. But with so many groups pursuing it, a song must go the extra mile to stand out. I’m not sure Trauma’s melody quite gets there. It’s well-suited to the moody instrumental, but largely traces the lines of the production rather than offer a dynamic, memorable top-line.
Trauma’s best moment occurs during its bridge. I wish the entire song harnessed this energy. The beat hits harder as synth bass adds the bite that’s missing from the chorus. Hwiyoung’s rap slots perfectly over the top, making a convincing case for a future SF9 track that fully embraces synthwave. Alas, the moment is fleeting and we’re soon swept back into the understated grooves that characterize most of their recent work.