Winner is a group that can and has pulled off multiple sounds and concepts. However, they tend to excel when working with a sound that allows them to linger in a more mature sound, and their latest EP, Cross, really showcases this. This is an EP that practically oozes class and taste, music that invites the audience to pour some wine and savor the experience.
Cross opens with the title track “SOSO”, a song that really sets the tone for the EP as a whole. The track is absolutely following the new trend of moody club music, but it manages to hit the balancing act. The groove is killer, slowing and deepening through the drop to the chorus, but still with energy and swing. The drop allows for a powerful shift from a club banger to a more weighty ballad, especially when played against Winner’s emotional, potent vocals. The vintage autotune effects emphasize the strangeness of their emotional state, the numbed-out repetitions of “so-so” mirroring the numbness Winner currently feels.
“OMG” follows in the same pattern, at least aurally, but in many ways, it fails to work as well as “SOSO”. The verses are alright, solemn and sincere against lighters synths, with some twinkling effects and violins thrown in for good measure. However, the drop is so overblown that it swamps out the mix. Furthermore, the autotune here is chipmunky and shrill, which combined the fact that OMG here is “oh my gosh”, it really pulls the listener out of the headspace created by the more serious verses.
Then there’s the lyrics. “OMG” is ostensibly a love song, extolling the virtues of Winner’s new girl, but it sounds miserable. Jinu and Hoony in particular sound despondent. It’s a mopey song that only serves to confuse the listener.
Cross shifts to a lighter sound in “Dress Up”. Leaning towards funk in both the percussion and synth riffs, there’s an intentional sense of being off-kilter as “Dress Up” works to sweep its’ audience in. There is a sense of playfulness that bleeds from Winner, turning the song from a flex to a more inclusive fun. The entire conceit is that Winner, worn down from the daily grind, have decided to dress up and go out. The framing places the appeal and fun on the act of dressing up itself, making a chance to look fancy instead of waiting for one. It lends “Dress Up” a populist appeal, by removing the status symbols of a night out and placing the emphasis on the specialness of breaking routines. The only issue is the drop, which has a sourness present that really detracts from the breezy tone of the track.
Gears are slightly shifted, as the next two tracks are both solo ventures. “Flamenco” from Hoony, is a sharp departure from the rest of Cross, but a fun outing nonetheless. A fusion of pop and rock with Spanish sounds, “Flamenco” gives a different take on the Latin trend working through K-pop. Opening with Spanish guitar and filled with castanets, the traditional elements are mixed with modern chords and percussion, as well as a sly charm from Hoony that matches the warmth of the production. Add in the building brass from the pre-chorus and “Flamenco” is pure fun.
“Wind”, Yoon’s solo, fits in the rest of Cross far more smoothly. It runs far closer to pure EDM than the rest of the EP, with their organic instrumentations. This is most clear on the chorus, which shifts the track from a fairly standard club banger to a grandiose, stretched-out drop. While a very attention-grabbing move, it also grinds the momentum of the track to a complete halt and forces an emotional 180 every time. The melodrama may encapsulate the pain of Yoon’s unrequited love, but the laid-back verses clash horribly.
Closing out Cross is “Don’t Be Shy”, a track that turns a bit lighter and allows Cross to end on a positive note. The layering of the guitar, piano, bass, and vocals is well-spaced, giving “Don’t Be Shy” an airy sound. The bass, in particular, is notable, as while it is deep in the mix, it is very dynamic, giving the track much of its’ unanchored appeal. This song places Winner in a much more vulnerable position than the rest of the EP. Previously, they were always in control, whether it was a break-up, a seduction, or a night out, but “Don’t Be Shy” places the emotional stakes in their partners’ hands, embodying that breathe of time between confessing one’s feelings and hearing the response.
Cross is an elegant release, no doubt about that. It balances the need to party with an air of decorum that brings to mind the saying “money can’t buy class”. Cross is all class, with a commonality that makes it feel like something anyone can be, with the right attitude, and of course, the right soundtrack.
(Images via YG Entertainment, YouTube)