It was only a few years ago that Sweetune was considered one of K-pop’s biggest hit machines. They basically made KARA and INFINITE’s careers, and their work with less successful acts like Nine Muses was considered by most K-pop fans as perfect pop.
But then, like Yang Hyun Suk’s credibility or Park Bom’s chin, everything started to fall apart.
KARA, INFINITE, and Nine Muses all started working with new producers, and three members from Sweetune’s team left to form production house MonoTree, who took over STELLAR’s music.
Sweetune songs are much harder to find these days, but the once mighty hitmakers haven’t quite joined the unemployment line with E-Tribe just yet. They now produce tracks for a handful of Z-list boy bands, on top of former KARA member Nicole’s Japanese career.
The team’s latest work is with 100%, an almost five-year-old group I’d never listened to until last week. The single, “Better Day,” is a glorious slice of old-school INFINITE synthpop. It’s bursting with angst and intensity, like the end of a relationship also means the end of the world.
Sweetune lighten things up with their work for rookie flops Snuper. The two singles they produced for the band this year are so sugary they could almost pass for one of KARA’s Japanese tunes.
The ’80s dance number “Platonic Love” takes some inspiration from A-Ha’s “Take On Me” (it’s certainly not the first K-pop song to do so) while the delightfully cheesy “You = Heaven” is a shiny ballad/synthpop hybrid. The slow start is so sweet and dreamy, like an extended opening from KARA’s “Rock U” (possibly KARA’s best song, FYI).
The reason Sweetune isn’t cranking out actual hits any more is that they’ve barely changed their sound in a decade. Actually, I’d say they’ve regressed over time. Even Brave Brothers, the King of Generic™, finds a new formula every few years. And just look at the stuff MonoTree is doing since leaving Sweetune (hello Stellar and Ladies’ Code!).
Not that Sweetune’s inability to evolve is necessarily a bad thing for fans. If it ain’t broke, don’t fuck with it. And there’s something charming about the reliable familiarity of Sweetune’s sound in a genre that’s constantly barreling forward and pushing the boundaries of pop music.
Maybe things will pick up again, maybe they won’t. Either way, we’ll always have “The Chaser.”