Chungha is continuing her quest to become the next queen of K-pop. After her early year single “Gotta Go,” she is returned with a summer-targeted EP, Flourishing. It is a decent release and lead single “Snapping” is a welcome splash of color on the gray musical landscape that is 2019. However, Flourishing does not quite live up to Chungha’s earlier releases.
The content of Flourishing is still very much in Chungha’s established image as alpha female. In love or heartbreak, she embodies a casual confidence that cannot be touched by anyone. This is clearest on album opener, “Chica,” an empowering anthem of the highest order. It is a track that encourages girls to be the best women they can be, no matter what she may look like.
Throughout the rest of Flourishing, it is abundantly clear that Chungha takes her own advice. She unrepentantly focuses on her own wants and desires, to such a degree that it veers close to callous selfishness more than once. “Young in Love” and “Snapping” show that any relationship Chungha engages in is set according to her terms. She wants to be casual and unattached, and when her partners start pushing for more, she ends it. However, her intense charisma and openness ensure she remains likable, and indeed admirable, across the EP. Chungha makes it clear that she is not interested in anything serious and her attitude makes it clear that if you get hurt expecting more, that is your problem.
Even when Chungha flirts with something more serious on “Call It Love,” it fails to really stick. Sure, she is wrapped up in thoughts of a guy, with the intense, overwhelming emotions and the what-ifs. However, this track is followed by “Flourishing,” a self-empowering anthem that showcases Chungha bragging about her work and success, all achieved through her own efforts. Moreover, while love and feelings tripped her up, Chungha has no problems with ego, dismissals, or channeling her girl power. Taking a strong stance is who she is and where she feels comfortable, so that is where she and Flourishing is positioned.
The production, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired. Admittedly, it is decent, but it buries Chungha’s vocals under the instrumentation. The slow, measured slickness of “Young In Love”’s melody is nicely balanced out by the snap and clap, and solid percussion. The sparse piano ballad of “Call It Love” has actual piano riffs with their own musical tones, rather than existing solely as a cue for the listener to feel sad. “Snapping” is a clear highlight, giving Chungha the promininance needed in the mix, in addition to the balance of trap tones and pop melodies that give the album its color.
The bold, brassy reggaeton of “Chica” is infectious and invigorating. The rubbery tones of the bass gives a good platform for Chungha to dip into her lower range, making this song an obvious summer jam to blast with the windows down. Then there is “Flourishing” which is pure trap. This tune is good trap, sure, what with the solid bounce and skittering beat, but it is the most frustrating song on the mini. Chungha has no issues with the subject matter and can ride the flows from a technical standpoint, but she sounds like a kid playing dress-up, stuck in a genre that she is not comfortable with.
Really, the issue with Flourishing is that it ie extremely try-hard. Chungha’s singles have always had the issues of riding whatever trend that had been at its zenith at the time. This includes her previous summer releases Hands on Me and Blooming Blue. These earlier albums used their b-sides to get more creative with jazz and funk tones or going pure bubblegum pop. However, Flourishing is trying to hit that summer sweet spot with every fiber of its being. The trap beats, the latin influences, the EDM synths, it is like a checklist of what is currently big in music. Flourishing desperately wants to become the summer EP and is riding all the trends in a desperate attempt to make it happen. This annoyance with the album eased by the fact that Chungha can work the material she is given, but she can do more. She should be setting the trends, not following them.
Flourishing is not a bad release, not by any means. Once again, Chungha’s sheer charisma is a force of nature, and she makes a seemingly selfish spotlighting of herself not only likable, but admirable. Yet, for an artist whose work I usually consider great, this mini definitely clocks in at good.
(Images via MNH, YouTube )