[Album Review] Querencia (1st Studio Album) – Chungha

It is time for another album review this weekend. As mentioned last week that while we are currently in the Easter long weekend and that I am on a break, I have scheduled this and another album review for publishing this weekend. First up is one of the many studio albums that we have seen so far this year. More specifically, I am talking about Chungha’s first studio album, Querencia, which was dropped 15 February of this year. Originally scheduled for release even earlier in the year, Querencia was postponed to mid-February due to Chungha’s COVID-19 infection in December. However before then, Chungha has been teasing us with this comeback through releases such as Stay Tonight, PLAY and Dream of You. In addition to those songs, Chungha also features BICYCLE and 17 other songs on the album. With such a long tracklist, we better get cracking.

Querencia Album Cover

1. Side A (Noble) – Chungha kicks off the album with a short intro track which introduces us to the first part of the album, Side A (Noble). In the span of a minute, Noble exudes dramatic flair and a mysterious vibe amongst the clanging and brass. Chungha does some narration but it adds an additional layer to Noble’s and the album’s intriguingness.

2. Bicycle (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Bicycle. (9/10)

3. Masquerade Masquerade reinfuses the Latin influence that dominated KPOP for a while. Chungha also recently touched on this trend with the release of PLAY last year, which is also featured on this album. What makes Masquerade really nice, despite going for an overused influence, is that the song doesn’t really shortchange on the Latin dosage. This is thanks to the trumpets that dominate the instrumental for Masquerade. I think it is a bit of an understatement to say the song blasts us with it. In addition to the trumpet, there is also the signature guitar in the mix and the Latin’s trend all important upbeat energy. Chungha also sounds fantastic throughout the song. (9/10)

4. Flying on FaithFlying on Faith hits me hard (in a good way). It is also the first of a number of all English songs on the album. I really liked the different textures that makes up the instrumentation, such as the guitar that opens the song and dominates the verses, the synths that made up the percussion in the chorus, the moments where the instrumental is stripped back to nothing, and the beautiful piano at the end. Flying on Faith also makes Chungha stand out in a spectacular fashion. She sounds crisps and the vocals melodies just really pop out. (10/10)

5. Luce Sicut StellaeLuce Sicut Stellae (Latin for ‘Shining brightly like a star’) is a simpler song, in comparison to the songs that preceded it. It is more pleasant and doesn’t blast you with its instrumentation. While I do prefer the more ‘louder’ songs on the album, it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy this song as much. It is a nice closer to this section of the album, providing that much needed relief by showcasing an easygoing tune and Chungha’s vocals. Her falsettos were really nice and the rap-speak that is featured in the chorus just gives the song some much depth. (8.5/10)

6. Side B (Savage) – In this one-minute instrumental interlude, Chungha embraces more of a pop sound with what sounded like background music for a runway fashion shoot. It is exciting and definitely sets the tone for the songs to come next.

7. Stay Tonight – Since the release of Stay Tonight, the song has grown on me. Hence, I am changing the original song rating for Stay Tonight from the original 7.5/10 to 10/10. I am hoping to update ratings in a future segment. Click here to read the full review for Stay Tonight. (10/10)

8. Dream of YouClick here to read the full review for Dream of You. (10/10)

9. Bother Me (짜증 나게 만들어)Bother Me is your more typical pop release. But it has a great thrill to it that makes the song enjoyable. The instrumental feels like it could be an extension to Stay Tonight. It just is not as bold and confident as the pre-release was. Still, I think Bother Me would make it a great performance piece. The bass really transforms the song. I also enjoyed how the instrumental extension piece at the end brought a bit of a funky touch to the song. Chungha’s vocals were pretty good as well. I really like how her delivery seems like one of a kind in this song, particularly the that slightly faster pace vocal line in the pre-chorus. (8/10)

10. Chill (Chill해) – To me, Chill sounds like your feel-good pop song. It is another straight forward pop song, with bright energy and a message that encourages you to chill. The inclusion of the choir as backing vocals also to be quite interesting and also adds to that feel-good feel. Most importantly, nothing felt heavy in this song, which makes it a nice song to chill to. Unfortunately, being straight forward also had its drawbacks. The song felt plain overall and I felt this the most with Chungha’s vocals. Chill is still a nice song to kick back to. But it isn’t the most exciting song on the album. (7/10)

11. Side C (Unknown)Side C (Unknown) goes a little harder than the other interludes. It is a very loaded mix with a lot going on. You can’t really know what is going to be coming after the next synth, so it is truly a track full of ‘unknowns’. I honestly thought it would go down the EDM route for the first few seconds, but it felt like a remix of a playfully bright song by the time it wrapped up.

12. PLAY (ft. Changmo)Click here to read the full review for PLAY. (10/10)

13. Demente (ft. Guaynaa)Demente also taps into the Latin sound. But before you think “another one?”, take a listen to Demente. You will notice that the song is in Spanish and hence going down the Latin route is pretty much justified. Chungha does a really good job, though I wished her vocals had a bit more oomph to it. She was quite smooth, but I just want something with a bit more zing to help make Demente more memorable. The song also features Puerto Rican singer Guaynaa, who adds a rap sequence and also sings along side Chungha towards the end. (7.5/10)

14. Lemon (ft. Colde) – The next song on the album is Lemon, which features Colde, an indie hip-hop artist. It is an upbeat R&B track. I found this song quite enjoyable, which may or may not stem from my love of lemon flavouring or lemons in food. Aside being titled after a favourite fruit of mine, Chungha also sounds very different in this song, singing at a much higher pitch than usual in the chorus. This doesn’t deter me away from the song, as I do think this change in sound adds to the enjoyable side of the song and also adds a bit of variety to her usual sound. I also like it when the two artists sing together in this. It was a pleasant combination. (8/10)

15. Byulharang (160504 + 170607) (별하랑 (160504 + 170607) Byulharang is the first ballad on this album. It takes a form of a pop ballad, however, with it never going into a classical or orchestral mode which most ballads do. At the centre of the instrumental are acoustic guitars, which really stole my attention from the first second. Paired with her vocals, Byulharang really sounds amazing. The song’s title also features two dates, which are the dates in which she made her official debut. 160504 corresponds to when I.O.I made their debut, while 170607 is the date in which she made her solo debut. With that in mind, you can tell that the song has this reminiscing tone, which I think Chungha delivered very nicely throughout the song. (10/10)

16. Side D (Pleasures)Side D (Pleasures) seems to be the tamest out of the interludes on the album. Sure, the mysterious vibes are back. But Pleasures seems a lot simpler and easygoing in terms of intensity and sound than the rest.

17. X (걸어온 길에 꽃밭 따윈 없었죠)X was a pre-release single that dropped mid-January, a few weeks prior to the release of this album. I never got around to writing a review for it. But X definitely caught my attention since its release. I really like how smooth the English is in this song, especially with the line ‘You got to love me at my worst to love me at my best’. That line also is a one-line summary about what the song is about. Chungha’s delivery is so good in X. Her vocals were quite airy and they felt almost whisper-like. It gets even better as the song progresses, with her rapping in the bridge and high note during the final chorus. The instrumental feels just right, existing in a limbo between ballads and pop (but never falling into one or the other). (9/10)

18. All Night Long All Night Long taps the album back into the R&B scene. Personally, it isn’t my cup of tea. Compared to the other songs on the album, All Night Long doesn’t really have that memorable factor to it. I wished every element had a bit more to themselves. However, it doesn’t mean I am saying it is terrible. It is just plain and straightforward, which doesn’t work for me this time. (6/10)

19. Everyone HasEveryone Has is also another pre-release to this album, dating back to March 2020. As the song has been out a whole year now, I can’t remember my first impression towards Everyone Has. But I do remember being surprised that Chungha also does ballads now. I guess it was a tease to what was to come on this album. Everyone Has has that sway that I look forward in ballad. But like the previous song, it is also a plain and straightforward ballad that doesn’t really offer anything new or amazing. (7/10)

20. Comes N Goes – The vocal progression in Comes N Goes really makes this song stand out for me. It adds that ‘something different’ to the mix that I am looking for in new songs. I really like how it seems to continually throw us forward unexpectedly into the chorus. But to make it work takes really great vocals, which Chungha has continually demonstrated throughout the album. I also like how the atmospheric the instrumental sounded, which complimented Chungha and her vocals. (10/10)

21. Querencia (Epilogue) – And we have reached the end of the album. Chungha gifts us with a minute and half epilogue. I am personally not sure what the purpose of this epilogue is, but it felt suspenseful and was gripping. It starts off with some percussion that adds back that intrigues and mysterious vibes that took hold of us with the album’s interludes. After a half minute worth of silence (in which we also hear Chungha utter the title of the album), we are treated to more atmospheric music before it closes out definitely.

Overall Album Rating – 8.7/10

Querencia Teaser Image

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