CHAOS made their first-ever comeback on July 25, 2012… and, sadly, nobody seemed to notice. Their mini-album, ‘Racer‘, includes three new tracks, in addition to the original two from their debut digital single released back in January.
“She’s Coming” was CHAOS’ vastly underrated debut single. The instrumental is almost entirely made of “real” instruments, featuring lots of electric guitar, funk-inspired bass, some big band style horns, and a tambourine. Coming in at under three minutes, it’s shorter than a typical pop song, but you don’t really notice it when you’re listening; the arrangement is tight and the ending feels like it comes at the right time. Kudos to the arranger for fighting the temptation to drag the song out longer without good reason- many good songs have been ruined by lasting too long.
Beyond a great instrumental, you can hear that these guys can really sing. Check out their live performance- from day one, they were singing live and pretty much nailing it! Sure, they’ve got some of that rookie awkwardness, but the talent is undeniable.
“Last Night” is a pop/R&B ballad about heartbreak. Rather than going sappy or saccharine, CHAOS went for something with some power to it. The song itself is kind of standard-K-Pop-angry-break-up-ballad fare, but the band’s vocal talent takes it to the next level.
While I’m a fan of the song, I have to say, the performance concept was… kind of awkward. I mean, most of the band members (maybe all of them?) were done with high school, so I’m not sure why they went with school uniforms, and the partnering at the end felt really out-of-place with the rest of the performance. Still, the guys sound great.
Unfortunately, CHAOS got lost in the shuffle by debuting at the same time as B.A.P, Ailee, John Park, and SPICA, and under the comebacks of miss A, MBLAQ, F.T. Island, K.Will, Big Bang, T-ara, TEEN TOP, Davichi, Chocolat, Miryo, Sunny Hill, Se7en, Jay Park, Block B, Brian Joo, and others, so “She’s Coming” never really went anywhere.
In July, they came back with a new image, a new sound, and the hope that, this time, their talent would rise above the pack and get them noticed.
Their title track, “Racer“, starts off on a promising note. It opens with some mechanical noises and a couple of whispered lines. The tempo starts slow, with the rap intro gradually building to a dance beat in time for the verse. The “oh oh oh”s and the “don’t stop it now” hooks are catchy. The falsetto “like like like”s are a nice touch.
At first, I was confused by the random abbreviations in the chorus, “C.O.S.” and “C.N.X.”. However, after a little digging, I found that “C.O.S.” is a way of abbreviating “CHAOS”, which is pronounced “Cah-Oh-Su” in Korean. Similarly, “C.N.X” is an abbreviation for their fan club, ChaoNyx.
The video is interesting. The lyrics compare trying to win a girl’s heart to trying to win a race, so I expected the video to involve running or race cars or something remotely race-like, or maybe involving a girl. Instead, I got spray paint, splatter paint, one of the members dropping an electric guitar on paint buckets from the top of a ladder, somebody attacking a punching bag, inexplicable facial wounds, random tires, and a very fancy gun. Surprisingly, the gun does fit with the song, as it appears when the lyrics say “My heart is loaded, my target is the center of your heart”. The rest of the stuff, though? I don’t get it.
Speedy dance track “Icy Lady” makes use of video game noises, something we’ve been hearing a lot lately in K-Pop, while singing about trying to win over a cold-hearted girl. There’s a little bit of a funk influence hidden in the bass line- not something you normally associate with this kind of hyperactive, synthy dance music, but it works.
While I wish K-Pop would finally put the unnecessary dubstep breakdown trend to rest, this song makes pretty good use of it. Songs like NU’EST’s “Action” drop everything- including the entire mood of the song- to get the dubstep in there, but CHAOS integrates it well by running the rap right over it, making it feel like a part of the song instead of just a random thing dropped in out of nowhere.
Speaking of the rapping, let’s not forget CHAOS’s rapper, Hyunsun, who holds his own in a mostly vocal group. With most of the focus going to the singing, he hasn’t had a whole lot of time to shine, but he delivers every single time. He’s versitile and knows how to match his voice to each song, making his raps add to the songs rather than just sit on top of them. I don’t think we’ve heard all that this guy has to offer yet.
Dance ballad “Quickly Go” tells the story of a guy finding out his girlfriend is cheating on him. He struggles with lingering feelings for her though he knows that he can’t be around her. Unlike “Last Night”, which showed the group’s emotional and vocal power, “Quickly Go” shows the guys’ softer side. There’s no shouting or growling, just really nice singing. The catchiest parts of the song (“I don’t know what you say / please go away” “I don’t know, I don’t know“) are in English, which helped get them buried in my brain.
While I like “Racer”, it’s missing that extra ‘umph’ that makes a hit song. It seems like the image change was an attempt to make CHAOS fit in better with the other guy bands out there- personally, I think they should have done the exact opposite and pushed the swing/funk sound even harder, to make them stand out even further from the crowd.
If you haven’t listened to CHAOS yet, or if you heard them back in January and then forgot about them (can’t really blame you, I did the same thing), now might be the time to give them another chance. They’re not going to win any rookie awards at this rate, but maybe they can stick it out and shine in their second year.
What are your thoughts on Chaos′ ‘Racer’ album? Leave an honest rating and your thoughts in the comments below.