Although I’ll primarily be reviewing singles, there are some albums that are too good to not cover. In this segment, I will be spotlighting those standout albums and giving my thoughts on each and every track
1. Wannabe (Title)
The title track for the album, Wannabe was a song that didn’t provide instant gratification, but rather unravelled its charms over multiple listens. Opening with a combination of moody synths, the first verse is a perfect palette for Golden Childs vocalists to shine light on their usually under-appreciated vocals. The song’s unique soundscape and structure gave it a life of its own, whilst Joochan’s evocative vocals perfectly convey the sultry, yet sophisticated tone of the song. The groove influenced pre-chorus is a highlight, and the perfect segue to the intense chants and layering of vocals during the chorus. I’m less enthused about the erratic dance break that follows, which sounds as though it could do with a bit more polish and refining. A standout rap break from Tag and Jangjun segue the song to it’s second and final chorus, which ends the song on a high. Although I would have preferred the song to have one more knockout chorus, the two chorus structure much like Stray Kids’s masterful Miroh encourages repeated listens.
The Albums third track and one of its undeniable highlights, Lately is everything I look for a K-pop song and more. The opening guitar solo followed by grandiose strings allows for an excellent introduction which is only furthered by another slab of guitar before the opening verse. Here, Seungmin takes the lead, as a layer of percussion joins the instrumental giving it a more restrained vibe. This is especially effective when combined with the chorus, which absolutely soars. The combination riveting electric guitar, strings and very Infinite –esque synths give it greater anthemic heft and make it much more memorable. Everything in the song feels extremely vital, even the rap, which can sound unnecessary for songs of this style. The best aspect of Lately however, is that it feels as though it is constantly ascending. There is never a moment where the song loses momentum, which makes for an extremely satisfying listen, and one of my personal favourite songs on the album.
A riveting mid-tempo, Compass is the type of song that Golden Child absolutely excels at. Pop-ballads such as this are one of my favourite music genres, as they are often paired with nostalgic synth-work, strings and big choruses. Much like Golden Childs own Lady from last year, Compass is an excellent rendition of this style, coasting along on a bed of absolutely gorgeous synths and providing arguably the most satisfying chorus on the album. Seriously, Compass has one of the most instantly gratifying choruses I’ve ever heard providing, an instant surge nostalgia. It’s performed absolutely effortlessly and easily secures its position as one of 2019’s best mid-tempos.
4. No Matter What (JangJun & Tag feat. Joochan)
The main problem that I have with modern day hip-hop and rap, is that most of it just feels lazy. Most songs are presented over an uninspiring trap beat, supported by languid vocal melodies that combine to create a very unpleasant listening experience. Although No Matter What is a unit track by Golden Childs two rappers, it fortunately does not conform to any of those aforementioned issues. No Matter What is an absolutely dynamic track, and powers forward as a result of JangJun and Tag’s extremely charismatic performance. Although I’m not the biggest fan of trap, the skittering hi-hats here are buried under layers of blaring synths, and actually compliment the song very well, giving the backing track the necessary power it needs to match JangJun and Tag’s intense rapping style. The song is also exactly what you would expect from producers 1Take & TAK, who infuse the song with unexpected twists and turns, that prevent it from losing its charm too quickly. Finally, it would be a crime to not mention Joochan’s contribution to this song. His soaring vocals in the chorus are an absolute treat and are delivered with just enough force to make the song much more than just your average idol rap track.
5. A Song For Me (Joochan)
Speaking of Joochan, his vocals are on full display in his solo track, A song for me. This track was originally released back in February and is a remake the 1994 song of the same name by Korean duo, The Classic. Although not a ballad person, I can appreciate a good ballad when I see one. Songs such as Henry’s “It’s you”, B1A4’s “Lonely” and G-dragons “Untitled 2014” are some of my favourite ballads of the last few years and are still the songs that I hold most modern K-pop ballads to. A song for me lies somewhere in the middle and that is ok. It knows exactly what it wants to be, a pleasant song to relax to when wanting to wind down. It’s an extremely straightforward track, carried almost entirely by Joochans vocals, and although I would have wanted something more dynamic from one of K-pop most promising main vocals, there’s no way I can hate a song that more or less accomplishes what it sets out to do.
6. Spring Again
Another song released months before the release of the album, Spring Again is one of the weaker tracks Re-Boot has to offer. It’s pleasant but is the song that verges closest to filler on the album. The track is your average R&B mid-tempo that you would find playing in a coffee house, lacking in both ambition and engagement. What it does offer however, is a great showcase for the group’s vocals, which sound great. The fluidity of the melody and the incorporation of whistles provide some sparks, and a generous injection of rap helps Spring Again slightly stand out from other songs of the genre.
7. She’s My Girl
After two downtempo tracks, Re-Boot comes roaring back with an absolute showstopper in the form of She’s My Girl. Produced by Monotree, the producers behind ONF’s 2018 excellent Complete, She’s My Girl begins and ends at a 100. The song never lets up, and it’s lockstep structure is heavily reminiscent of one of K-pop’s best ever songs in the form of SHINee’s “Sherlock”. The opening drums that later transition into the song’s infectious lockstep and retro funk groove provide the perfect backdrop for Jibeom’s forceful and aggressive vocals in the opening verse. As the song rockets to its bombastic chorus, it almost feels as though the song speeds up, providing the listener with an exhilarating sense of progression. The production here is absolutely fantastic, delivering hook upon hook. The incorporation of tribal drums in the background of the post-chorus give it a sinister vibe, further improving the dynamic of the song. JangJun’s rap verse, which follows the first chorus is also one of the most riveting moments within Golden Child’s discography. The music here completely drops out for a second as listeners are greeted with Jangjun’s iconic “I’m gonna make you mine” before the addictive backing track slams back in supporting Jangjun and Tag as they go back and forth for a delightful rap break, which would have been even better if the song were performed on music shows, or even better, promoted as a single. Like every great song, She’s My Girl has a suitably dynamic finale, as an electric guitar solo comes roaring followed by invigorating vocal layering that sends the song off on a high.
8. Our Heaven (Daeyeol, Seungmin & Donghyun)
Another unit track, Our Heaven is a relatively innocuous and relaxing blend of rock guitar, gentle synths and percussion. The track coasts along and is a great palette for leader Daeyeol and main dancer Donghyun to shine light on their underrated vocals. The song is heavily reminiscent of brother group Infinite’s early work (though not nearly as refined) and could have easily found a place in one of their earlier albums. As with most songs on this album, Our Heaven’s best segment is it’s chorus, which injects a healthy dose of electric guitar and rides along on a catchy and nostalgic melody. A greater usage and full embrace of its rock elements might have further elevated this track to another level, but it regardless remains another solid b-side within this albums ranks.
9. Fantasia (Y Solo)
The second solo track on this album, courtesy of main vocal Y, Fantasia is a mid-tempo song elevated by Y’s effortless vocals and an addicting electronic beat over the strum of an ever-present acoustic guitar. Whilst Fantasia is reminiscent of BTS Junkook’s superior Euphoria (which is ironic given their alleged visual similarities), the song manages to stand out thanks to it’s addictive chorus and calming melody. The chorus is a great showcase for Y’s unique vocals and allows him to express his varying strengths and showcase his vocal abilities as he shifts from strong phrasing to falsetto with ease. Although not one of Re-Boot’s more ambitious tracks, Fantasia remains a very solid track and remains worthy of a listen.
10. Don’t Run Away
Another absolute knockout Don’t Run Away is the song most heavily reminiscent of Golden Child’s pop infused past material. From it’s opening moments to it’s post chorus hook, Don’t Run Away is an absolute blast of a pop song and a perfect fit for Golcha’s vocals. Much like Re-boot’s other standouts, Don’t Run Away is a song that feels as though it’s always moving forward. This is most evident in the absolutely amazing post chorus hook, which has gone onto become not only my favourite moment on the album, but one of my favourite musical moments of 2019. The anthemic chants combined with Golcha’s almost pleading vocals combine to create an absolute showstopper of a moment, which is smartly repeated after every chorus and not cut off like many post-choruses are. The production here is also is also fantastic, mixing elements of classic synthpop, tropical house and trendy future bass to create a song that feels right at home in 2019’s K-pop landscape, without feeling too restricted to said trends.
11. Go Together (JaeHyun, Jibeom & Bomin)
The Album’s big ballad, Go Together is a track that brings together members Jaehyun, Jibeom and Bomin to create an absolutely sensational song.. This is mostly thanks to Bomin’s unique vocal colour which works wonders in the context of the song. Go Together’s chorus is a thing of beauty, understated yet still impactful. I love the melody, as it perfectly conveys emotion without feeling over sentimental. Once again, the best thing about Go Together is the sense of progression that has been ever-present throughout the best songs on this record. Starting off with a simple piano led backing, the track evolves after each chorus as additional elements are introduced. Additionally, the song builds to a breathtaking finale as the piano grows louder and a moment of catharsis is met as the piano filters out and a blast of percussion supported by strings act as the perfect backing for the members to belt it out providing additional anthemic heft to the track, ending the album on a very high note.
Overall Album grade: A