Cha Cha Malone is from Seattle, Washington (USA). He was born on May 25, 1987 — just like me! I was born in a different year, but still, we could say we’re twins! So my “twin” started breakdancing around 1999 and joined the b-boy crew Art of Movement (AOM) a few years later (that’s how he met Jay Park). He produces, sings, and he’s also interested in art.
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the name “Cha Cha Malone”? In my case, it’s the tag “I need a Cha Cha beat boy”, then comes the name “Jay Park”. However, it’s a bit reductive to limit his activity to Jay Park’s music because although they do work a lot together, Cha Cha Malone had several collaborations with famous Korean artists like Baekhyun, Dok2, ELO, Loco, WOODZ, and more. Even though this top 8 focuses on his rnb productions, he has also produced for K-pop singers such as:
- NU’EST (Good Bye Bye, 2014);
- Red Velvet (Stupid Cupid, 2015);
- Song Ji Eun (I Wanna Fall In Love, 2016);
- IN2IT, (Cadillac, 2017);
- OnlyOne (Heartbreak Theater, 2020);
- And more.
Before jumping into this top, one quick “disclaimer”: You WON’T FIND neither All I Wanna Do, nor Ain’t No Party Like an AOMG Party, nor Me Like Yuh. Please, don’t shoot me! I like those songs too, but they’re way too famous, and I wanted to write about tracks that some people may not have listened to yet (or at least not listened to a thousand million times).
8. I Still (2010) by Cha Cha Malone
I Still is the first track from his Breakthrough EP released on Bandcamp in 2010. Yeah, I dig up the old stuff! Back in the days, there was no “I need a Cha Cha beat boy”, but a simple “Cha Cha Cha” whispered so low that we could barely notice it. However, the instrumental caught my attention. The retro synth piano and the strong drum remind me of the sound of producer/singer The Dream, who blew up with Falsetto 3 years before I Still got out.
Apart from this contemporary similarity, I found the song very old-school, and that’s not a bad thing. Let’s put this in context. At that time, American singers his age had a more modern sound. In 2009, Mario (born in 1986) with his album D.N.A., and a year later, Chris Brown (born in 1989) with his singles Deuces and No BS. Besides the 80’s style synth piano, the background vocals are built up like some grown men rnb songs from the late ’90s to early ’00s. Cha Cha Malone was only 23 when he released this track, but he managed to produce something mature and well-engineered.
His storytelling is pretty good. My favorite part: I’ve been starin’ at your picture / On my wall, in my wallet / On the ‘space, on the Facebook / Et cetera / Does this get better? / Am I too stubborn / To change the future between us? He doesn’t express how he feels with a simple “I miss you”, but he describes a series of actions that make us feel her absence.
I just regret the volume of the strings, which is too low. However, a second version rectifies this issue, and in this new version, you can clearly hear a “Cha Cha, let’s go” :). I would have liked him to play more with his voice and sing higher or lower notes depending on his vocal range; it would have brought more color to the singing part. However, the placement of the background vocals is relevant, which gives more warmth and energy to the song.
7. Joah (좋아, 2013) by Jay Park
Joah (좋아) is the first track of Jay Park’s EP also named Joah (좋아) and released in 2013. 좋아 (joah) comes from the verb “좋다” (johda) and means “to be good, fine”. The song is about the feeling we get when we’re in love (joy, happiness, and the belief that it will last forever). If I had to describe it in one sentence, I would say that Joah (좋아) is a breath of fresh air under an old-school sun.
The melody is sweet. The song has some progressive jazz influences, but it’s modern, and young people can easily relate to the beat and the lyrics. The assonances in [i] and [a] make the vocals very melodic. The SNL Korea’s band, Common Ground, listened to the first version of the song, which was produced with virtual instruments, and re-recorded some parts such as the brass horns. The live recording gave the song its unique flavor.
The percussions and the brass horns took me back to the ’70s when The Jacksons performed Blame It On The Boogie, when Billy Preston sang Nothing from Nothing, and when MFSB featuring Three Degrees released TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia). It’s okay if you don’t know any of these songs. I’m just an old, very old soul.
6. Turn Off Your Phone Remix (2016) by Jay Park feat. ELO
[Special mention to You Too by Loco feat. Cha Cha Malone. It was released in 2016 and produced by Woogie and Cha Cha. Since I don’t know what Cha Cha Malone’s contribution was, I preferred to put another song.]
Turn Off Your Phone Remix by Jay Park is the sixteenth song from the album EVERYTHING YOU WANTED, released in 2016. It’s the remix of Turn Off Your Phone, released in 2012 and also produced by Cha Cha Malone.
The trio turned the original track into a babymaker song. The instrumental has been reworked, and this new version exudes so much sensuality! The lyrics remain the same, except for Elo’s verse and the bridge, which is a reference to Mommae‘s hook. Listen to the beat, the vocals, the arrangement…There’s so much to say about this remix that I’m afraid it would be too long if I do the entire list.
Ten and twenty years ago, artists didn’t just add a verse to the original music to make a remix, but they created a different beat, a different mood, and sometimes other lyrics. Unfortunately, when Billboard changed its charting formula, this type of remix was counted as a different song. So now (most of the time), artists simply sing/rap a new verse to make a remix. I miss the old days…
5. 한강 (HANGANG, 2017) by Hoody
한강 (HANGANG) is a single by Hoody released in 2017.한강 (hangang) is the Korean name of the Han River, one of the four major rivers in South Korea. The song is about being on a date near the Han River; it’s the beginning of the relationship, so the heart is racing, and it’s both exciting and scary to throw yourself into the unknown. Hoody wrote the lyrics, and she manages to capture this fleeting moment of romance when we’re falling in love. The joyful rhythm personifies the beating of her loving heart, and the horns celebrate this new crush.
Cha Cha Malone is probably a time traveler because this time with we go back to the ’90s. 한강 (HANGANG) reminds me of some smooth, soulful rnb songs, but instead of giving us something warm, he created a sweet, refreshing instrumental that suits Hoody’s voice perfectly. I’m pretty sure the song has very short samples, but I can’t identify in which songs he took them. I wish I could ask him…
4. DIFFERENT (2018) by WOODZ
DIFFERENT by WOODZ is a digital single released in 2018. The song is about dealing with a breakup. He’s missing his ex, but she seems to have move on. She’s now happy with someone else and looks like a whole new person with her boyfriend. So he starts to think that he didn’t deserve her, that she was too good for him, that they’re too different.
It’s an alternative rnb song in which we find a bit of everything: rnb, retro EDM, even a touch of trap music, and what better way to express nostalgia than a song influenced by the 80s? Cha Cha Malone and WOODZ take us on a roller coaster ride between high and lower notes, reverb and silence. It personifies our state of mind when facing an unwanted breakup (incomprehension, regrets, pain, desire to move on).
In the ’80s, reverb was everything, much like autotune is today. Reverb is an effect that widens a sound to make it last longer, while an echo is the repetition of a sound due to the reflection of sound waves. Both can be used simultaneously. From your perspective, is there only reverb or also echo in DIFFERENT?
3. Exotic (2019) by Chacha Malone
Exotic is an rnb song produced, written, and sung by Cha Cha Malone. The song is about a special attractive girl who “got [him] all excited”. Released in June, it was made for the summer. The song is perfect for a beach party and chill enough to just relax on the jam.
Do you remember when I said he should have used more notes from his vocal range in I Still? Well, that doesn’t apply to Exotic. I can clearly see the evolution of his vocals, and the background vocals are as good as ever! Harmony is a very important concept in rnb music, and we can tell that he cares about it just by the way he works with echo and autotune. Not everyone pays attention to vocal harmonies when using the autotune.
2. Ride Or Die (2020) by Kai
Ride Or Die by Kai is the fifth and penultimate track from his eponym album released in 2020. The song is about facing our limits to reach and enjoy freedom. Chacha Malone produced an alternative rnb song with psychedelic and synthwave influences.
The Eastern guitar and the echo effects create that dreamy atmosphere. The bass synth gives us retro and futuristic vibes, which reminds me of the theme song of Knight Rider, an American action TV show from the 80s. The plot is very simple: Michael Knight fights crime with KITT, a futuristic car that has its own conscience. It’s a funny coincidence that the song is called “Ride Or Die”.
Synthwave is an electronic music subgenre that first appeared in the mid-2000s, and its best-known representative is the artist The Weeknd. Synthwave aims to pay tribute to the 80s with:
- some musical influences such as funk, disco, and electro;
- retro synths;
- references to action and sci-fi movies;
- themes like the sunset, the depth of the night, the infinity of the universe.
In a way, going beyond our limits to achieve freedom is like traveling through space because we discover a part of ourselves that was hidden by the sky’s limit.
1. B.T.W (2021) by Jay B feat. Jay Park
B.T.W is the first track of Jay B’s solo EP SOMO:FUME. SOMO stands for “Style Of My Own”, so I guess we’re about to discover a new side of Jay B, his own taste and vision of music. He and Jay Park wrote the lyrics, and both are credited as composers alongside Cha Cha Malone.
It’s a chill rnb song with trap influences. The lyrics are easy to remember, and the song gets stuck in our heads. In this sense, we can say that it has the same effect as a long-lasting scent. Did I mention that “FUME” refers to perfume because Jay B wants to stay in our memories and dazzle our senses like a delicate fragrance? No? Well, now you know. He does delightfully influence our hearing with his music and on our sight with his choreography.
The arrangements are great. The song doesn’t have as much creativity as Malone’s previous productions, but it’s still a nice song to listen to. I wish Cha Cha Malone had composed a slightly different beat for the second verse and Jay Park had written a rap verse. It would have broken the repetitiveness of the song. “I do RnB, but they want me to rap” (Jay Park, FSU). YES, I DO, and I would love to see a B.T.W remix with a rap verse. The song would definitely hit different.