In 2020, Lucy emerged as one of K-pop’s most exciting and endearing bands. Last summer’s Gatcha! mini album felt like a crystallization of that potential – an all killer, no filler collection of songs that pushed their sound forward without losing the quirks unique to their musical perspective. Ever since then, I’ve become a bit worried. December’s Rolling Rolling was a sturdy piece of feel-good pop, but the album itself felt a little subdued. I’ve yet to dive into their new 15-track opus Childhood and I’m hoping for the best despite an uncharacteristically sleepy highlight medley.
New title track Play (놀이) isn’t hitting me like Lucy’s best work. Again, it feels like they’ve tempered their ambition in favor of easy-listening, sentimental fare. These descriptors don’t have to be negative. Play is one killer melody away from greatness. But as it stands, the song spins its wheels far more than I would like. Part of this is my own fault. Songs like Play are most resonant because of their lyrics, and as someone who doesn’t speak the language I can’t really benefit from that aspect unless I print out a translation and carry it around with me while listening!
Instead, I have to focus on the feeling imbued within the music itself. Play swells to a suitable climax. Vocalist Choi Sangyeop sounds as bold and commanding as ever. The chorus is alright, if a bit forgettable. But the inventive elements I’ve come to expect from Lucy are either buried in the mix or missing completely. There’s not nearly enough violin, for example. Their trademark “ambient sounds” pop up here and there, but even this is a minimal element. Overall, Play feels like a solid OST track – far from the highs of past masterworks like Flare, Snooze and Buddy.