Coming back after a term of great success can be a surprisingly tricky thing to pull off. EXID faced this after their sleeper hit Up and Down. The members and Yedam Entertainment alike always said they would stick to the formula that brought this unexpected rise to fame and they have remained true to their word. Up and Down’s trademarks like saxophone solos, pelvic movements, jarring tonal shifts, and Hani front and centre are all once again present on new single Ah Yeah. But EXID has not merely adopted the Up and Down formula without first reflecting on it.
Between the music video and song‘s interesting elements come up which are cause for a closer look. Not only has EXID they taken the time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t, but the Up and Down elements themselves have been kicked up a notch.
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Ah Yeah is an incredibly frantic song. It sounds like it is structurally all over the place like Girls’ Generation’s I Got A Boy but it actually takes an average pop structure and packs it to the brim with clashing elements. Ah Yeah’s through line is a hip-hop drum beat which changes in intensity depending on the corresponding music. The song houses four separate vocal styles throughout its runtime: Hani’s sweet, alluring verse and its counterpoint, LE’s blistering, angry rap, Junghwa’s nursery rhyme like pre-chorus and Solji and Hyerin’s chorus. Thrown together these all seem incompatible but somehow the song makes it out in tact.
The best of these is definitely the competing verses of Hani and LE. The two make up the bulk of the song and carry it so well. Hani’s simple melody and slightly affected voice plays up to her charming strengths perfectly. Put beside LE’s forceful rap though, which is accompanied by the reintroduction of the sax and an intensifying of the drums, it seems like a parody of what brought EXID to fame in Up and Down. In many ways this what Ah Yeah is really about.
EXID’s new song reuses and makes comment on Up and Down, or rather the strange success of it and turns it into something new. LE’s rap inUp and Down wasn’t contrasting enough? Let’s have her rap on five separate occasions in Ah Yeah.
The same can be said for Junghwa’s odd pre-chorus. In Up and Down she had a small part which had a nursery rhyme vibe to it which was probably a way of getting around her seemingly weak vocals. In Ah Yeah her part is similar enough except this time it’s repeated twice and has its own twinkly melody. Again, an element from before is being reused and brought up a notch. I think this is the most jarring part of the song, nearly bringing it into incoherence. This fits into the idea of the self parody as Up and Down wasn’t exactly straightforward itself but lets down the song as whole.
The chorus is the most straightforward part of Ah Yeah. Not changing much of the original formula, it does not however, come as a surprise since we already know it so well. It shows the dearth of options EXID have at hand when a vocalist as amazing as Solji is restricted to a chorus. Amongst girl groups, I’d put her in the top five working right now and thought she’d be the person that dragged them to success; it would be nice to see her do something more than the chorus.
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The self-reflexion of EXID doesn’t end with the song though. The music video, like the song, uses different elements to comment and react on EXID’s rise to fame.
Again, Hani and LE’s parts work wonderfully together. Hani essentially playing herself, is seductive as she makes eyes with the POV camera similar enough to her famous fancam. LE also could be playing herself or maybe just another side of the argument. Her angry counterpoint plays like a musician’s reaction to EXID’s fame, not happy that a sexy video brought them there over interesting music written by LE herself. She also addresses the POV camera but this time in an accusatory manner. The video is giving us both sides of the story, letting us know there’s more to EXID than sexiness.
This duality theme continues with Junghwa, Hyerin and Soljin’s parts of the video. Junghwa seems to be playing a cam girl of some sort, similar to what you’d see from the Babestation Babes, with pixelated images dotted around her. She appears to engaging in some explicit activities before being revealed to be a news anchor or something like it. The same goes for Solji and Hyerin who are in generic rooms with pixelated images which are revealed to be cartoon images of animals. It also features some clips of EXID’s pelvis movements pixelated. They know they are likely to be censored so went one step ahead and did it themselves, exposing the ridiculousness of TV censors. The pixelation, in a way, makes the situation even worse since it comes across as more explicit than it really is. It wouldn’t seem any way explicit if it was never censored.
EXID took a slight risk reusing nearly the identical formula as last time. Unfortunately, Ah Yeah could be mistaken as a mere rehash of Up and Down.
It could also have been a failure on the charts as Up and Down was. While Up and Down is a great song, that was not the main reason for their popularity. EXID really went for it though and came out with something very similar but on a different level. Self awareness in pop music is a rare thing and really helps a group feel more invested in their music.
This is in large part thanks to the songwriting prowess of LE. Not only is she one of the best Korean female rappers working today but she has had a hand in writing every one of EXID’s songs. Her level of artistry lifts EXID from possible flash in the pan success to a group that could become one of the all time greats.
EXID 'Ah Yeah'
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