Review

Song Review: SF9 – Puzzle

SF9 - PuzzleComing off the heels of an incredibly slow December, 2023 in K-pop is off to a similarly stagnant start. I’m waiting to hear the first track of the year that’ll knock me off my feet, and Puzzle‘s propulsive teasers seemed to point in the right direction. SF9’s music has grown more consistently slick over the years and last summer’s Wave of SF9 album was stuffed with great tracks. Puzzle isn’t perfect, but even from one listen I could tell it would be a January standout.

Much of this goodwill is fueled by the production, which finds its pulse quickly and never lets up. The instrumental harnesses the kind of programmed bassline most boy groups are using (we heard it just last week on Moonbin & Sanha’s Madness), but this energy is laced through the entire track. And when the full brunt of the production hits during the chorus, it feels like a natural climax. There’s a fullness to the musical palette, giving Puzzle a larger-than-life appeal. It helps that the track remains laser-focused on its mission, never swerving into some disconnected segment that could break momentum.

As usual, I’m more hesitant about Puzzle’s melody. The first half of its chorus feels repetitive and clunky with awkward phrasing that doesn’t quite match the slickness of the groove. The second half is much stronger, offering a soaring refrain that feels suitably grand. These elements come together during Puzzle’s final moments, sending us out on a densely-packed high.

Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9
 RATING 8.75

Grade: B+

17 thoughts on “Song Review: SF9 – Puzzle

  1. long-time fan of sf9 and i have to say i am more than delighted with the title track! had my qualms about zuho producing the song because his previous songs for the group were honestly not *that* good but he definitely exceeded my expectations this time around

    on first listen i was taken aback at the chorus, i initially thought it was gonna end after the 1st part but lo and behold theres a 2nd part! @ kpop industry take some damn notes from this

    also huge props to zuho for being creative with the line distribution, this is my first time seeing the group’s rappers take on singing lines in the chorus on a title track! their voices add a really unique texture to the song

    Liked by 4 people

    • Rapper-in-the-chorus is indeed a nice thing to see in K-pop songs! Back in October there’s Dami in Dreamcatcher’s VISION, just today we got Joohoney on Monsta X’s Beautiful Liar. (i think he did it as well in the past?) Mingi was singing on ATEEZ’s Wonderland too, I recalled.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with your thoughts on the chorus, I usually like a multipart refrain but I think the first part skips right past being catchy. The bridge was good, but I feel like they were setting up well for the final chorus and then just stopped and went to the chorus. In fact, I’m not really a fan of any of the transitions into the chorus

    Like

  3. I’ll come clean – I’m a sucker for groups when they pull of this kinda concept so I already had a hard bias when I went in just because of how great (read hot) they all looked 😂😂

    Thankfully the song itself was upto my expectations too! I really liked the line distribution on this – everyone gets a shot at the chorus and it used all their voices in a good way! I agree with the comment on how rappers in the singing chorus brings about a different kinda vibe! Taeyang was a joy to watch as always too.

    I really like how Sf9 stays solid to their strengths each time – I feel that in itself is one of their biggest strengths! I have a feeling this will be one of those songs that grow and grow and end up being real fun with time!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is by far the best title track in SF9’s whole discography, but I’m a bit afraid that their popularity as a group – in the last two years – is being inversely proportional to Rowoon’s popularity as an actor (I find some similarities to Cha Eun Woo current awareness as an actor versus as a member of ASTRO).
    It would be a pity, because Kingdom proved they’re *very* talented, with or without Rowoon, and the success Rowoon gained thanks to The King’s Affection and Tomorrow should definitely be an advantage for them all.

    Like

    • Interesting you would say that because while I do feel that Cha Eunwoo effect looming over Astro as a group I’ve never felt that much with Sf9 🙃 I agree, Kingdom really proved Sf9 are super talented!

      The guy in Sf9 who undoubtedly caught my eye first is Taeyang. Though I do know Rowon too I’ve never felt the same about him as I did for Cha Eunwoo.

      Haha, if anything I kinda started really loving Rowon after the Trauma cb where his iconic line was “I don’t like this drama” and I was laughing for like two whole minutes appreciating whoever decided to give him this line. 😂 Whether the bad pun was intentional or not – it still cracks me up!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The review only considers the music composition and not the relation of music and lyrics. How do you react when puzzled or trying to solve a puzzle? Most of us react like the song did. Slow and at times stop. Hesitant. This is genius at work. I don’t know the group or their work well at all, but musically this is like aliteration in writing. Affectation used to reflect real life. How can you critique a song without considering the lyrics??

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, that’s called text (or tone) painting – where the music illustrates what’s going on in the lyrics, or vice versa. I see your point, but in this case I don’t think it makes for the most satisfying song.

      My gripe isn’t really with the words themselves. It’s more about the rhyming pattern. The first half of the chorus adheres to a strict AAAB, AAAB pattern. That triple A, with three phrases using the same rhyme in a row, threatens to feel monotonous and clunky. I wish they could have broken it up a bit. When both the music and rhyming pattern are in such lockstep, it doesn’t leave much room for surprise.

      Funny enough, this was the exact same issue I had with last summer’s “Scream” as well! So, maybe this is just something they like doing.

      Liked by 1 person

    • While I don’t completely feel it with this one, I wanted to make a quick mention to something similar that I noticed with last year’s “Glitch” by Eunbi.

      I am in no way fluent in korean but I can read it and I’ve watched enough korean media that I am able to notice different inflections to the usual way of speaking.
      In that song, there were a lot of “sh” sounds that were exagerated in her pronunciation of certain words and that sold the concept even further and neatly packaged that song.

      I always find it fun when composers/producers add these little details!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I Big ELL Like the song. To be sure it is a solid kpop song, colors firmly within the lines but does it well. It might be higher, but I am hearing samples and melodies that mimic other kpop songs and that drives me nuts, part Ghost9 “Starvoy”, part TAN “Louder”, others.
    I’ll take it anyway.

    “Tight” is a solid b-side on this EP.

    Liked by 1 person

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