The other day, I looked back at my top ten K-pop songs of 2019 and realized how much of a slide most of these artists have taken since then. This is subjective, of course. As my interest has waned, they’ve all went on to have tremendous commercial success. I get that I’m probably in the minority. ATEEZ placed two songs in the top five that year, and went on to visit the top three again in 2020. Since then, I’ve struggled to connect with their music — even if many of its core charms have endured. I’m not sure what it is, exactly. Maybe the songs just don’t hit as hard anymore?
Whatever the case, a track like Crazy Form (미친 폼) repels more often than it engages. This style of “hype” track has become mainstream in K-pop, peddled by any major boy group you could name. ATEEZ and Stray Kids lead the genre, and for good reason. Their energy and intensity seem unlimited. No one is better at shouting and sneering and careening across a track like the world is ending and they’re relishing in the chaos. This is all appealing in theory, but so many of the actual sounds are so unappealing. The incessant grunting and posturing, the whiny vocal effects, the clitter-clatter of tinny percussion tied to vague, innocuous statements like “we’re changing the game.” How many different ways can you repackage this template before it becomes stagnant?
I guess at this point, it’s an acquired taste that I just can’t wrap my brain around. I’ve seen ATEEZ perform live multiple times. I’ve experienced the energy they inspire and the fervor they whip up from the audience. Crazy Form will be yet another shout-along anthem to add to their set and its earworm chorus will no doubt work its way under my skin eventually. However, this time there’s too many grating elements to endure and the good stuff isn’t strong enough to make the effort worth it.