First aliens, and now genetics? The latest rookie group to hit the scene has been six member boy group, Cross Gene. They are the first group to come out of their entertainment company, oddly named Amuse Korea, the Korean branch of the Japanese entertainment company Amuse, and boasts being a group that has members hailing from the trinity of East Asia: Korea, China, and Japan. Many of the members are no strangers to the realm of Hallyu and entertainment in general, Korean member Shin Won Ho is currently starring in Big, alongside Gong Yoo and Miss A’s Suzy, and acted in various CFs for Skin Food and Beanpole, resident Japanese member and leader Terada Takuya has starred in a few Japanese films, and is a model, and member Kim Sangmin had a role in the musical Carpe Diem. The attention surrounding the boys seemed to be centred around their mixed race concept and their previous work rather than their vocal talent. Even the company seems to be focused on selling his group through their nationalities and “visuals and charms”, and little is said about them having any talent other looking good and being of a certain background rather than how they will fare musically, which is the main determinant of how they will fare in K-Pop. Cross Gene is gaining momentum and intrigue with their cross-cultural concept so we’ll see if they gain any success musically, especially in the wake of rookies like B.A.P., Spica, and EXO.
Surprisingly, this album does not have an intro, and it leaps right into the first track, “One Way Love,” which sounds like a mix of Euro-pop with some Latin flavours, sort of like MBLAQ‘s “Mona Lisa” but with a lot more autotune, but is all around heavily produced, although there’s very little voice distortion, which is a plus. As a whole, the boys’ don’t really stand out vocally, but the song is very club-friendly, and but has enough hooks in the song to avoid being an over-produced hot mess. But on its own, “One Way Love” sounds a lot like the material Western pop groups have been churning out, especially in the US, other than being sung in Korean, the song doesn’t sound like K-pop at all. It’s more like K-house music, if there is such a thing. Although it’s a change from K-pop is currently producing, but for the international fans coming from the West, especially North America, it isn’t that different to what they hear from their own artists, which can be a good or bad thing depending on how you look it. If they managed to stick to this type of music, and the current trend of Western music holds on long enough for Cross Gene to gain some commericial success in Korea, they have major cross-over appeal. But, if they do attempt to cross-over, what’s to differentiate them with Western artists musically? Although K-pop does have strong parallels with Western music, sometimes it still has its own distinct style, which gives it its appeal. When a group completely sheds that, what is there to make it appealing, or intriguing to Western listeners?
Back to the music. “Sky High” is the second track and practically continues where “One Way Love” left off, but shows off their vocals a little bit more. One voice seems to be dominant in this song, which I believe belongs to J.G., one of the two Chinese members in the group, as well as the husky-voiced Kim Sangmin, who raps in almost every song except “La Di Da-Di,” which makes the song sound a lot like something FloRida would come out with, but a lot nicer-sounding. There is a little too much sing-talking, from the other members, and its cousin, rap-talking, with little flow unless assisted by some electronica and heavy synths. The chorus is practically the sole place where some actual singing occurs, but only J.G’s voice is distinguishable and noteworthy. It sounded like only two people singing in this song. This continues to occur in their song “For This Love,” but a lot more voice distortion. With this amount of production that these songs seem to have undergone, two conclusions can be drawn: that this album was expensive to make, and that the company must be covering up something with such heavy production, perhaps their lack of vocal talent?
Their promotional track, “La Di Da-Di,” sounds like it was just ripped out of the musical system of a North American club, and similiar sounding to the other three tracks. Although this song, as well as the other three, are fun and mindless track that one could dance around to, they all severely lack substance. Sure they’ll be fun to listen for a while, but they won’t have a long-term effect in terms of bringing up any emotional connections to the music. Furthermore, the production put into these songs are standard fare in the mainstream music scene in the West, so it does not have something unique or interesting to set it apart from the rest. It might seem like a novelty on a domestic level in South Korea, which is doubtful due to the popularity of Western music in South Korea, but as an international fan, this is just generic and–for lack of a better term–unoriginal, in terms of structure, especially coming from a Western perspective.
However, the true gem in this album is “My Lady.” It’s a lovely, little pop ballad, with some R&B stylings, and it’s a sigh of relief after ten minutes of intense exposure to autotune and other forms of heavy production. It sounds a lot something that would’ve been released in the late ’90s and early 2000s back in the West, probably by a boy group, but it’s still a great listen. Although there are a few amusing English lyrics here and there, it’s still a glimmer of talent that the entertainment company should capitalize upon, even though it just seems like the same person–J.G.– is carrying the song, and step away from the computer and start producing more songs like this one. I haven’t heard a song that’s been such a strong throwback to the pop ballads of the previous decade since listening to DBSK‘s older albums. Although as a whole, the group still has a long way to go before they could be even be on the same level of DBSK, and that road could lead to nowhere, especially when the group’s talent revolves around one or two members.
Although the dance tracks were mindlessly good fun to listen to and arguably well suited for the summer season, they don’t have that style that could differentiate them from a standard dance-pop song, but “My Lady” reveals that Cross Gene does have some talent that should be strengthened and shown through their music, which I hope will happen as the coming years for Cross Gene. The four dance tracks, including their promotional tracks, are practically interchangeable in terms of structure or quality, and are lacking on both counts. The fact that their group contains members from each part of East Asia is attention-grabbing, but what makes K-pop fans stay, especially international ones, is bringing something that’s interesting and refreshing musically to the table. Their debut album is very disappointing, with the exception of”My Lady,” which is a sad remainder that this group does have some untapped talent, that could be put to far better use than in singing club fodder.