KEEMBO’s Scandalous emerged as a welcome surprise back in May, a rare Sweetune-penned pop track that proved the production team hadn’t lost their touch. Yet for me at least, Scandalous had far less staying power than I would have expected. I’ll partially attribute this to KEEMBO’s under-the-radar (ie: nonexistent) promotion keeping the track off my radar. On the plus side, the girls have maintained their working relationship with Sweetune for follow-up 99 (Gu Gu).
The prospect of a Sweetune-produced summer track is almost too good to be true. So, why does 99 feel so inessential? This certainly isn’t the synth-driven, ultra-melodic Sweetune I’ve grown to love. 99 harnesses a much more subdued beat, bolstered by brassy elements of jazz. Its bright, keys-driven beat is pleasant in a “drive along the beach” way, but it never builds into something more. Instead, KEEMBO offer an airy performance over the top, gliding along the rhythmic instrumental with polish (and plenty of added vocal runs). It’s all very pleasant, yet doesn’t feel dynamic in the way the best Sweetune songs do.
Sweetune’s trademark vocal layering rears its head during 99’s chorus, which has a breezy appeal. KEEMBO never fully lean into this arrangement, and that’s a shame. Instead, the refrain is echoed by a silly “gu gu gu” hook that is brief but unnecessary. Thankfully, 99 kicks up a nice groove that keeps the energy buoyant throughout. That’s faint praise when it comes to Sweetune, but it’s better than nothing.
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