The K-pop fandom was on fire when it was reported that AOA‘s main vocalist, the blond-bobbed Choa, would be making a solo debut. Even after it was revealed that Choa would not be making a solo debut, but rather recording a solo song for a project album, fans kept the flame alive for some uninterrupted Choa time. But the end result, titled “Flame,” may have in fact put a dampener on the fan excitement.
The aforementioned project album appears to be a Loen initiative. Titled re;turn, the project will consist of well-known Korean rap songs being remade “into a new melody.” This project could have also been called That Thing Hipsters Insist on Doing to Hip Hop. I’m not into hip hop being balladised into submission. But, at least the re;turn project appears to be coming from a place of wanting to pay homage to the original songs rather than seeking to ‘improve’ upon them.
Whether that good intention has translated into good music, though, is questionable. As the first song from re;turn, “Flame” has got the project off to a flawed, rather than promising, start.
The original song is from singer Jang Hye-jin, but she sticks to the chorus as featured artist Gary (of Leessang and Running Man) takes over the verses (a clearer audio version can be found here). Both the original and the remake cover the perspective of a heartbroken lover, but Gary’s emphatic rapping style brings out the pain and anger in the lyrics, the actual scorn of a scorned lover. Paired with Jang Hye-jin’s sorrowful chorus, the original “Flame” captures the tumult of emotions felt during a break-up.
Choa’s version of “Flame” retains that sound of sorrow, except that it runs the whole way through the song. The end result is a song that feels flat and uninspired. While the reworking of the verses is interesting in its novelty, there isn’t much there in terms of emotion to keep the listener engaged. The pain Gary infused into the song has been watered down to a spot of dournesss. Ultimately, re;turn‘s “Flame” reminds me of Song Ji-eun‘s own despairing ballads, as well as similar releases by other female artists. Choa’s strong, clear voice is an asset for AOA, but it is not enough to distinguish this song from the sea of others just like it.
There is some semblance of an attempt to match Jang Hye-jin’s soaring vocals in the final chorus, but it is pitiful. I don’t know if it’s the song choice, or the way the remake has been arranged; however, I will say that the reason why this song fails is because of the design, rather than the execution. Maybe a more phenomenal singer than Choa could have saved this, but I’m not so sure.
The saving grace of this endeavour is the MV. It does a better job of showcasing the song than the original’s MV, which focuses on the anger by having its cop protagonist fighting his way through a building full of thugs (Beatrix Kiddo could get tips from him). Using the theme of vampirism, the MV lets the young vampire’s violent feeding frenzies act as the dark heart to a tale of despair. The girl dreams of her human days basking in the sun. But now she cannot even catch a glimpse of the outside world without risking death by burning.
Cages are scattered throughout the MV, symbolising the feeling of entrapment. Choa is trapped by her feelings, while the vampire is trapped both physically as well as mentally. The fact that she has to kill others to survive obviously troubles her. And so, as Choa sings of her love being like a flame burning her heart, the vampire ventures into the sun; seeking death as a solution to her dilemma.
Overall, though, “Flame” does not leave a good lasting impression, and only increases my doubts about re;turn. But while this project hasn’t gotten off to the best start, my fingers are crossed for the future tracks to impress us.
MV: 3.25 out of 5
Song: 2.75 out of 5