One of the most frustrating things about this era of K-pop is that — with all its sonic and producer shifts — there aren’t many groups I can count on to consistently release music I’ll love. It can feel like a total grab bag, and after Golden Child’s regrettable Japanese discography earlier this year I was worried they may be the next act to lose my trust. But, there’s a reason they’ve featured in my year-end countdowns a total of twelve (!) times since debut. They make great music and perform the hell out of it. New single Replay is yet another example of their power.
Look, I’ve been riding the Golden Child train since 2017. Sometimes it feels as if I’m riding it on my own! I’ll forgive anyone for being tired of reading my tweets about them — both the effusive and anxiety-ridden ones. But, I’m not the type to instantly love a song just because a favorite group releases it. I’ve been a little hard on their title tracks of late, and I approach each comeback with an unhealthy level of worry and skepticism. This makes it all the sweeter when a dynamite track like Replay comes around. The song takes so many of the group’s strengths and tethers them to a taut, dynamic dance banger that echoes K-pop’s past while looking firmly to the future.
It’s been a dire year for boy group music, with so many acts shouting and blustering their way through sound-alike tracks. We’ve gotten to the point where I question whether these groups can actually hold a tune. I wouldn’t call Replay melodic, per se. But, it’s certainly vocal-focused. Just listen to that gutsy opening line! Joochan attacks the song, warping his smooth tone with a gritty edge that instantly captures attention. The instrumental compliments this texture, slamming in with jagged electronics.
Given how dominant their presence is, it’s impossible to remove Golden Child from Replay. But, the production here is incredibly dynamic on its own. Intricate, explosive synth fuses to a future house beat that keeps energy focused all the way to the end. And rather than grow repetitive, the track injects bombastic rock guitar breakdowns to create two standout showcases of frenzied intensity. Coupled with the guys’ powerful vocals, this arrangement takes me back to K-pop’s second generation in the best way. I’m shocked that Replay emerges from a team of little-known producers with a handful of ballad and mid-tempo b-sides to their name. Woollim Entertainment may suck at promoting their acts, but their A&R department always know how to pick a song.
Replay is a rush. It hangs together so well, able to shift sounds and energy levels without feeling piecemeal. It harnesses the key element that so many modern K-pop tracks forget: momentum. Even down a member, Golden Child seize the opportunity and drive the song forward with intensity and panache. This is what they’re capable of. Don’t forget that.