Album Review: Chungha – Offset

Release Date: January 17, 2018

Tracklist:

  1. Offset
  2. Roller Coaster
  3. Do It
  4. Bad Boy
  5. Remind of You

Total Runtime: 00:15:24

Recommended For: People who appreciate some musical variation and experimentation.

NOT Recommended For: Fans of more traditional takes on Korean pop.

Chungha, formerly of project group IOI, has just made her first comeback following an impressive debut. Her second mini album, Offset, contains four tracks and an intro, and runs the gamut in terms of genres and production tricks. This isn’t surprising, considering her first venture, Hands on Me, also prioritized the ability to experiment with several sounds over strict cohesion. Does the mini album succeed in presenting Chungha as a multi-faceted, multi-talented artist? Keep reading to find out.

Track Review:

Track One: Offset

Much like Hands on Me, this mini album begins with an intro track after which the album is named. And much like the intro track on her previous mini, all is not what it seems with “Offset”.

The track begins with what could be thought of as the start to a slightly soulful, slightly playful urban contemporary track — the likes of which could probably be found on a Justine Skye or Kehlani album. Then, everything abruptly changes, and the song breaks down into a soft trap beat. It’s wondrous to watch on stage, as Chungha transitions from an easy fluidity to sharp, cutting choreography, giving her greatest talent — dance — a chance to shine. But even just listening, her intro track remains an excellent primer for what is to come. Chungha’s music rarely comes with hand holding, but her intros have been a decent hint: when you expect her music to go right, it goes left.

Unsurprisingly, Offset is produced by the team behind Chungha’s last intro: VINCENZO, Fuxxy, and Any Masingga. It can be argued that intro tracks are perhaps the hardest ones on any album to compose and produce, as they have the least amount of time to invoke any sort of feeling or establish a purpose. In these three producers, Chungha has found the perfect crew that understands her music intimately enough to know not only how to produce a wonderful intro track, but one that educates the listener on Chungha’s musical thesis.

Track Two: Roller Coaster

“Roller Coaster” generated a ton of interest even prior to the song’s release, given the news of who would be producing it: Black Eyed Pilseung, who have most recently enjoyed a great deal of fame due to being behind many of TWICE’s title tracks (“Like Ooh-Ahh”, “Cheer Up”, “TT”, “Likey”). From the first second, it’s rather obvious that this song is their doing. Black Eyed Pilseung has a very particular sound, one that combines modern synth with pieces of seventies and eighties nostalgia.

Where “Roller Coaster” veers from the traditional BEP formula is its lacking of any sort of abrupt change, known by some as the “Frankenstein” trend that the team has popularized. The track generally sails smoothly, its background beat reminiscent of what could perhaps be the menu music for an Atari game. The music video for the song takes the viewer on a neon heavy, fast paced ride, perhaps in homage to the old school vibe of the the arrangement BEP provided.

The song speaks of the protagonist’s addiction to the adrenaline rush that love provides, describing the experience as akin to a roller coaster ride. It’s pretty typical for a Korean pop song in terms of premise, but the execution is certainly unique. What I most enjoy about BEP is while they have a distinct sound, they are able to seamlessly tweak their vision to best fit the artist they’re working with. Chungha is no exception. “Roller Coaster” is no “TT” or “Only One”, but it’s something great all on its own. And with Chungha at its helm, seeping charisma into every breathy note — on a track that she seems more comfortable with than her previous title, which might have been slightly out of her range — the song is really something special, and hands down my favorite of the bunch.

Track Three: Do It

The team behind “Offset” returns for “Do It”, in addition to producer Emelie Sederholm. It is perhaps the most conventional of the pop offerings on this mini album, an easy mix of reggae and trap in its background track that works its way up from something relatively tempered to a loud crescendo in the chorus.

The song concerns an attempt to beckon a hesitant romantic interest by bolstering their confidence. Again, not exactly a groundbreaking idea for a Korean pop song — or any pop song, for that matter — but the song’s intent isn’t to be revolutionary. Rather, it’s an earworm, and its constant repetition of lyrics solidifies that fact. This track brings one from Hands on Me to mind because of its repetitive nature: “Make a Wish”, which, as it turns out, has the same producing team.

Ultimately, while the song does get stuck in your head like it intends, it doesn’t necessarily stick the landing. The mix of styles does inspire a bit of intrigue, but the lyrics themselves don’t give proper respect to the level of experimentation necessary to produce a backing track like this. That being said, the chorus to this was repeating in my mind, over and over again, for the better part of a day — so, it was wildly successful at being a good pop song nonetheless.

Track Four: Bad Boy

For anyone who has listened to Hands on Me, it’s fairly obvious that Chungha loves to experiment with musical styles from the twenties and thirties on her tracks. This came to pass on her first mini in the intro, “Hands on Me”, as well as “Make a Wish”. “Bad Boy” is the representative on this particular mini album.

What is most fun about this track is that its premise is in direct opposition to the style its decided to take on. It’s clear that the undertones of swing run deep in this one, to the point that Chungha asks the hypothetical bad boy referenced in the tune to “take a swing with [her]”. Because of that, the tone of the vocals are bright and cheery, as was typical of the swing era’s discography. With that, the lyrics have decided to play along, as Chungha chirps about playing nice with the boy in question, all the while planning his downfall and comeuppance for being a player.

The intro producing team once again returns, instead with Anna Timgren in tow. It’s clear that they’re comfortable with the style and they have a great deal of fun with this one, throwing in some brass and even a quiet, sultry moment void of any background music — during which you can close your eyes and just picture Chungha, circa 1930s, in front of a mic in a smoky nightclub. While “Roller Coaster” is my favorite track, I do believe the most thought went into “Bad Boy”, and it really, really shows. It’s a much smarter track than many will probably give it credit for.

Track Five: Remind of You

We’ve now arrived at the typical piano ballad that usually closes out mini albums. For this track, Chungha paired up with Team Columbus, a new presence in her discography. For me personally, songs of this sort are made by two things: the lyrics, and the vocals. The rest is old hat, as we’ve all heard this song and dance before.

I can happily say that both are top notch in this song. The ballad itself is reminiscing over a relationship during cold winter days, which is honestly what we all do when it’s snowing outside… because what else is there to do? The character in this story deeply regrets having ended her relationship, which, again — is that not something we’ve all done? But the tale here is weaved so beautifully, lyrically strong, and bolstered by Chungha’s soft, if not hesitant, vocals. “When the cold wind blows in my heart / the dreams I’ve painted with you come up,” she sings, with such emotion in her voice that you’ll be in despair over that high school relationship you had that ended eight years ago.

Truth be told, Chungha’s pre-release track for Hands on Me, “Week”, was one of my favorite songs of 2017, and this ballad doesn’t beat it. Admittedly, I’m biased towards “Week” because it’s somewhat dedicated to IOI, one of my favorite groups of all time. But, hey, the piano and beat are also pretty sick. Don’t get me wrong; “Remind of You” is still a strong outing, and a beast all its own — just like this mini album as a whole.

Review overview
Summary It's not the most cohesive mini album in the world, but that isn't the artist's intent. Chungha's sophomore outing is a step forward in experimentation and individuality, both of which are desperately needed in such an oversaturated industry. It's clear that she's just getting started.
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fallingslowly
25% kpop, 25% messy kdramas, 50% llorando en español.

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