Chungha was was able to give her career a promising start when she became a member of I.O.I, but her solo debut last year was a bit of a letdown. Now, she’s making her first comeback with her new mini-album Offset, which is a surprisingly solid release. Honestly, it’s only real flaw is the poor choice of title track.
Offset is an EP that serves to cement Chungha’s image as she moves forward in her career. That image is of the HBIC, and thank goodness. She has a solid voice, but Chungha’s greatest strength is her ability to sell the music she’s performing, and this is a great fit for her charisma and confidence. Chungha never sounds like someone trying to prove she’s the alpha female; she sounds like someone who is, knows it, and has no problem making that clear to whichever boy comes along next.
This is most apparent on “Do It” and “Bad Boy”. Both are strong songs that make it clear Chungha wears the pants in the relationship. Metaphorically, of course; these are not relationships where pants play a significant role. “Do It” is a brazen, borderline filthy track, pulling from the recent trend towards reggaeton. This is Chungha ruthlessly telling her current boy toy to keep on doing what he’s doing — mainly her. Her voice plays off the bass and the warping, rubbery synths to create an aura of power around her, making it clear that if her current fling can’t get the job done, there are plenty of others who can.
“Bad Boy” runs in the opposite direction. Where “Do It” showed her complete control, the eponymous bad boy is one she doesn’t care about enough to control. Most girls respond to bad boys by either falling in love, trying to change him and failing, or being smart enough to stay away. Chungha takes option three: just have a little fun. She knows perfectly well that this guy is a womanizing cheat, but it’s not like she’s looking for anything serious. The 40s jazz style picks up on the playful, flirtatious nature of Chungha’s delivery. It’s a track that thrums with energy, packed with hi-hats, modern synth lines, and horns, which make everything better.
Even the more traditional love songs, “Remind of You” and “Roller Coaster”, show Chungha with more agency than is typical. “Remind of You” is a delicate piano ballad that shows her thinking on an old relationship, but she’s not in denial or desperately wishing things hadn’t ended. Instead, she’s reminiscing on the good times they shared, and hopes that he thinks of her with the same warmth and fondness she has for him. She’s wistful, nostalgic, and a touch mournful, but there’s a real sense of closure; that she has moved on and is simply wondering about how her ex thinks about what they had.
“Roller Coaster” , the title track for Offset, isn’t a bad track, but is the weakest. It’s a very on trend track, with the EDM sound, and tropical house drops and synths. It’s a track so on trend that it will sound dated very quickly. It’s also the least balanced track: the low end of the mix is practically nonexistent, and that leaves the track without anything to ground it. It’s less of a roller coaster and more of a leaf on the wind. Chungha still has her confidence, eagerly flinging herself into the headrush of new love, and encouraging her new beau to do the same. She comes off as someone who’s in love with love rather than a person, but Chungha wears it well, feeding into her persona of someone who’s first priority is herself. Still, this is the least distinct track on Offset; a song more suited as album filler rather than a title track.
The biggest issue is the production, specifically the mixing. The entire mini is well-composed, but the mixes are so thin. This does give Chungha’s vocals plenty of room and prominence, but every track would benefit from layering the instrumentations and turning the reverb up. It’s particularly noticeable on “Roller Coaster”, due to the lack of a real foundation, but “Do It” and “Bad Boy” have the same issue. It’s just the more organic instrumentation covers the thin mix better. The only other flaw is the intro track, “Offset”, a moody, dark piece that a) doesn’t mesh with the rest of the mini, and b) sounds like the audio to a perfume commercial. Intro songs are still songs, people.
The more I listen to Offset, the more I like it. Chungha kills as the low-key femme fatale, taking no prisoners and tolerating no fools. She’s the new queen bee, and I’m looking forward to her reign.
(Images via M&H Entertainment , YouTube)