Ah, RAINZ. What to do with RAINZ. When they debuted with “Juliette” last October, I was a bit bewildered—I couldn’t for the life of me decide whether I wanted to call it a good song or not. At the time I thought it must be my problem, and called it a fluke. But now that the Produce 101-inspired project group has had their first comeback, I realize that it wasn’t just me. New title track “Turn It Up” is just as perplexing as the debut—even more so, actually. The new song represents quite a change for the group, who have gone from bright, slightly retro pop to a dark, high-energy dance sound that would make me think of A.C.E if it were more well-executed. While the concept change is drastic, the problems with the music itself are essentially the same.
The thing about debut track “Juliette” was that a number of great strengths were obscured by one flaw. The composition was strong, the sonic effects were solid, the performance was excellent—but the overall structure felt disjointed. The verses, hooks, and bridges didn’t flow together. This flaw makes it difficult for the ear to follow the song, so that you’re always feeling lost in it until you’ve replayed it a dozen or more times, enough to memorize the structure academically rather than naturally—if you have the patience to get that far.
The new song, “Turn It Up,” has exactly the same issues as “Juliette” but on even greater extremes. You’ve got striking composition (to which member Kiwon contributed) whose melodies, especially in the instrumental itself, manage to balance surprising with familiar—not easy to do. The members’ performances are also very exciting, and demonstrate definite improvement in their already impressive vocal and rap talents. Those elements alone would have been enough to earn “Turn It Up” a Bop rating if the song’s production had been less, well, audacious. However, “Turn It Up” instead gathers together multiple distinct dance sounds without arranging them properly. The group gets major points for trying out an untrendy genre, but it doesn’t come together. It’s almost impossible to successfully combine sections of fast-paced synths with heavy, slow breakdowns. With more meticulous attention given to bridges between those sections, it might have worked. But as is, “Turn It Up” requires several close listens to feel as if you have any idea what’s going on, let alone to start enjoying the song.
That said, the rest of the new mini-album, “Shake It Up,” is as strong as RAINZ’s debut album was. The B-sides aren’t reaching for a surprise factor like “Turn It Up,” resulting in more effective balance and dynamics, and there’s not a single boring melody on the album. The title track could have been trashed in favor of “Music Up,” whose impressive dance hook reminds me of SNUPER’s recent work in that it demonstrates a discerning sense for how to build, sustain, and release energy in EDM. “Open Ur Heart” and “Somebody,” the more relaxed tracks on “Shake It Up,” also bring cohesive and engaging production and composition. While I’m not thrilled with everything about the title track, the album itself shows that the production team behind RAINZ hasn’t fallen apart—it was just too adventurous on “Turn It Up.” That’s not the worst thing that could happen. Far from it. In a way, it’s gratifying to see, because even if it is a little overboard, at least RAINZ is aiming to stand out from the crowd. Above all, I hope that push for uniqueness isn’t lost between now and their next comeback.
TURN IT UP: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? I might be letting the rest of the album pull me in this direction, but it’s kiiiinda a bop, like, after you get used to it.
Take a look at RAINZ’s “Turn It Up” MV below: