Guess who’s back? It’s good old underappreciated UP10TION, and they’re in the midst of their first full-group comeback in over two years. Member Wooshin’s return from his long hiatus has been a triumphant one, and it’s probably the best thing about this comeback. That said, title track “Candyland” and the rest of the full-length album, “Invitation,” left me wanting something more. Here’s the thing: All of the music is good. The production is rock-solid throughout. There’s not a single structural or sonic deficiency. It’s like…it’s like it’s too polished. You can’t get into it, because it doesn’t offer a full commitment. I like it, but I wish TOP Media had come up with something more explosive for Wooshin’s comeback and for UP10TION as a whole, who need a breakout song right now.
“Candyland” feels like a streamlined, modernized version of UP10TION’s 2015 song “Catch Me,” twice as slick but half as distinctive. All the building blocks are here—multifaceted verses, a decent vocal melody, a catchy touch of tinny brass—but the song isn’t much more than the sum of its parts. When I first heard it, “Candyland” reminded me of PENTAGON’s first comeback with “Can You Feel It,” a similarly jazz-based dance track. The difference here is that “CYFI” went all out—marching band drums in the prechorus, towering vocal moments, a bass with a mind of its own, the full nine yards. “Can You Feel It” had some meat on its bones, you know? “Candyland,” on the other hand, stutters on the edge of something big without ever diving in. It’s smooth, but it lacks the punch of past title tracks like “Attention” and “Going Crazy.” (Side note! I know I slammed the “oh-weh-oh-weh” hook of “Going Crazy” a bit last October, but I ended up putting the song on repeat for the KILLER verses, and it turns out that the chorus isn’t as boring as I made it out to be. Yeah, the verses had set me up with specific expectations, but the hook is seriously a grower. And those pebbly synths, those drums! Nice. So there you have it—“Going Crazy” is more a bop than I realized. Tune in next week for more KAYBOP Confessions.) Not to mention the fact that “Going Crazy” suited the group’s voices to a tee, whereas the only voice “Candyland” suits is main vocal Hwanhee’s, and he’s one of those guys who can pull off anything.
As for the rest of “Invitation,” there’s not much to add. Like I said, the album is good. If you’re someone who loves pop that’s clean above all else, then this is the album for you. I’m especially a fan of the energetic “Target On” and “Superstar,” either of which would probably have made a better title track than “Candyland,” as well as the bright dance track “Mixed Signals,” whose distorted sound effects are the closest this album gets to unique. Still, none of this is what UP10TION needs right now. They have enough polished pop at this point, and they’ve covered all the mainstream trends. These guys need to do something weird, something different. Better to develop a niche with a unique sound, like groups such as A.C.E and Dreamcatcher have been doing, than to fly under the radar forever. I hope that the group’s next comeback changes things up, because these guys deserve to be performing music that will catch people’s attention.
CANDYLAND: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Lite bop.
Take a look at UP10TION’s “Candyland” MV below: