Early last year, CNBLUE told Billboard that their common comparisons to Maroon 5 were “honorable,” but that they hoped “one day we’ll have our own color and our own sound and people will say, ‘Oh, that sounds like CNBLUE.'” With the K-pop-rock band’s latest single and album, the comparisons to Adam Levine & Co. are more striking than ever — but that may position them to be more internationally appealing than ever.
“Cinderella” is the lead single off CNBLUE’s new full-length 2gether, which sees the group embracing electronic elements more than ever. The single opens with warped vocals, zipping synths, and booming drum machines, all backing an explosive chorus and addictive hook line. “Cinderella” feels like CNBLUE’s “Moves Like Jagger” moment, which was the Christina Aguilera collaboration on which Maroon 5 began embracing electronic elements, with some guitar licks specifically recalling the tune.
On the surface, there’s not a ton differentiating this from what could have been put out by any other boy band in Korea, but closer listens reveal poignant live guitar and drums from the band. Plus, the single was composed and written by CNBLUE frontman Jung Yong Hwa — an artist credit rare to find on the K-pop scene.
The “Cinderella” music video’s storyline takes literal inspiration from the fairy tale, with the four members all meeting a beautiful girl only to turn around and have her disappear with nothing but a shoe left — albeit this one isn’t a glass slipper, but a bejeweled high heel.
The listening experience through CNBLUE’s new album 2gether swerves through electro, Top 40 areas and alternative-rock lanes. There’s saxophone samples on “Hide and Seek,” an undeniable ’80s-dance feel on “Catch Me,” and crunchy synths on “Domino,” that features vocalist Whee In of rising girl group MAMAMOO, which make up the standout pop numbers. But there’s undeniable rock moments on the vaguely reggae “Roller Coaster,” which includes a sweet guitar solo, and a refreshing, ’90s-alt-rock feel in “Hero.” An unexpected-yet-exceptional moment has to be the jazz-pop cut “Hold My Hand,” which hints the band has a big potential to create something great in the genre one day.
Interestingly, CNBLUE’s embracing more EDM comes as labelmates FTISLAND (the first band created under their label FNC Entertainment) began delving into a heavier rock sound, seen on their most recent LP I Will. Yet, what does stay consistent is the sentimental songwriting (nearly all of 2gether‘s track were written by Yong Hwa, except for “Footsteps,” “Drunken Night,” “Hero,” all three written by CNBLUE guitarist Lee Jong Hyun, while bassist Lee Jung Shin wrote “Control”) alongside the vivacious energy heard no matter what route the band takes their brand of rock.