For over a year now, ex-Bigstar member Kim Rae Hwan has been making quality, synth-flavored pop music on the periphery of the K-pop industry under the moniker from20. You’d be forgiven for not knowing who he is. Idol activity tends to swallow up all of K-pop’s media attention – especially for international listeners. In fact, I hadn’t really dug into his work until a couple Bias List readers recommended it. Now, you have my recommendation to add to the stack!
New single Chemical will appeal to those who loved iKON’s But You earlier this year. Both are melodic pop songs with a driving synth beat, and both build to a cathartic chorus fueled by emotion. In Chemical’s case, there are actually two big hooks. The chorus opens with a soaring refrain. The key raises and the melody stretches to deliver an affecting centerpiece. This is followed by a more insistent post-chorus that sees from20 shouting the song’s title in frenzied repetition. These two pieces work well together, fusing naturally despite their contrasting nature. If I have a complaint, it’s that the song could do with one more climactic repetition of this hook.
K-pop has offered many synth-heavy tracks over the past few years, but most seem contained to the work of soloists or acts who could be considered more “indie.” I’m not sure why a song like this hasn’t quite made its way into mainstream idol comebacks, but it’s a shame. There’s so much drama to be wrung from the sound of Chemical. With any luck, the song will introduce more fans to from20’s undeniable charm and remind the industry there is still plenty of life to this genre.