After igniting the K-pop music scene with their three-part Hideout EP series, Cravity start a new course with The Awakening: Written in the Stars. As the title of their album suggests, it marks the group’s starting line of a new musical journey. Starship Entertainment’s nine-piece group does expand its genre range in their first full-length album but veers off course in cohesiveness and listenability.

What’s certain is that Cravity wants its listeners to go for a ride. Rookies no more, the group steps onto the “Gas Pedal” (no pun intended) speeding forward or rather upward to their dream as a top-tier group. They’re ready to conquer the world as they sing in the trumpet-riffed “VENI VIDI VICI” and they’re sure that you’ll be bewitched by them in “Chinga-Linga”.

Follow the stars, higher than normal, we climbin’

Go up, I’ll show you

Reach out to the unreachable limit

So please, tell me that you’re ready

In “Celebrate”, the boys paint a picture of what they will do once they reach the top: brushing off the haters and using the money they have saved to party forever. “Grand Prix” is their promise to their fans to journey together to reach their dream—the blue paradise they sing of in “Divin’”. The ride does not stop there though, as this marks only the beginning. The album closes out with “Go Go”, an invitation to run away and head over to a new destination.     

Musically, the album opens with a whistling sound that then dives into a heavy-bass EDM. No tires screeching and no engine revving—their absence is rather unusual following the automobile theme they began “My Turn”. More so, sounds alluding to cars are nowhere found in the rest of the album. Rather, almost the entire album goes overdrive on the use of synths and trap in futuristic flair.

The eight tracks, including the intro, run at different speeds. “Gas Pedal”, “Chinga-Linga”, and “Grand Prix” go on full throttle, and sandwiched among them are the mid-tempo “VENI VIDI VICI” and “Celebrate”. Towards the end, the boys slow down into a relaxing andante with the summer-inspired “Divin’” and the minimalistic “Go Go”. While there is a lyrical narrative, listeners are swerved in different directions music-wise. With the exception of the last two songs, the placement of the tracks are too glaring as compared to Hideout: Be Our Voice.

Just like many boy groups nowadays, Cravity suffers the same fate of sounding too similar to another boy group. The entire album, particularly songs “Gas Pedal” and “Chinga-Linga”, screams NCT emulation. “Gas Pedal” is an improvement from the group’s rather memorable “vroom vroom skrrt skrrt” to a shout-along chorus (“gas pedal gas pedal”). Its backbone—that wonky synth—is reminiscent of NCT U’s “Boss” but with a lack of a strong hook. “Chinga-Linga” is a painful listen with a drunk shout-along chorus and another wonky synth gone overdrive. There is just too much going on that the production drowns out the group’s stellar vocals.

It is disappointing that Cravity’s vocal strength is tucked under the album’s futuristic ambition. “Grand Prix” could do well as a title track with its cyber-funky rhythm. The group’s harmonies and adlibs shine especially during the verses after the first chorus. “VENI VIDI VICI” is beautifully backed up with electric guitar and trumpet riffs. The song begins with just an electric guitar until it escalates leading to the chorus. The electric guitar solo served as a climax before the boys close out with a final chorus. “Go Go” is Cravity’s first attempt at bossa nova and the only track in the album without raps. For a little beyond one-year-old group, the vocal showcase is pretty impressive.

Having debuted only last year with three EPs, it is somehow forgivable that the Cravity is still looking for its distinct sound. Starship went as far as creating a group of producers for them, interestingly named PCDC that stands for “Produced for Cravity, Directed for Cravity”. Members Serim and Allen contributed to the lyrics of “Gas Pedal” and “Grand Prix”. Unfortunately, the producers seem to not know the group’s strength and force them into the trendy mold. If the group plans on building another trilogy, one can only hope that the group would create a more fitting identity and do what they do best.

(YouTube. Images by Starship Entertainment.)