Wa$$up made a splash in 2013 with their self titled debut Wa$$up, but failed to find a place in the K-Pop world as anything other than controversial rookies, who gained attention for being the first K-Pop girl group to “twerk.” With their new release Shut Up U, Wa$$up are taking a trend from 2013 and using it to find their own style. This 2013 trend was the use of abnormal structure in songs, and was led by SM Entertainment with songs like I Got A Boy, Wolf, and Mama. These were songs that required and rewarded repeat listens. They played with the idea of what a pop song could be and saw something so much more than just another cookie cutter song. These genre-defying songs sometimes had no obvious chorus and never brought the listener to where they expected. They are songs that ask the listener to really think about production and the meaning behind it.
This trend, however, was quickly thwarted by the old ways as Brave Brothers and other production teams stuck to their templates of easy, instantly satisfying songs. Will Simms was the leader of this abnormal song trend as he was the writer of the previously mentioned songs and more. Even though he has been writing a lot for SM and their biggest groups, his style has not caught on elsewhere. As he continues writing for K-Pop, this style can live on and with his latest song he might have found the perfect group.
Wa$$up have been near enough to this style of song for a while but more in the sense that their songs were a mess rather than the calculated structure bending that Simms creates. Songs like Nom Nom Nom tried it by mixing Nada’s rapping in the verses to cute singing in the chorus but this was jarring and not thought out. With the release of Shut Up U Wa$$up and Simms have come together for the first time and prove to be the ideal marriage.
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Even with someone with an original style like Simms’ will reuse some of their old methods so Shut Up U sounds like a mix between Girls’ Generation’s I Got A Boy and f(x)’s Rainbow, which were also written by Simms. Shut Up U has a sound and look so suited to Wa$$up that it’s hard to imagine Simms writing for anyone else from here on out. This image is inherently messy due to both parties not playing by the typical K-Pop rules, be it through song production or more western ideas of pop. What happens when they come together, however, is far from messy.
Each part of the song contrasts and compliments its corresponding part perfectly. The Diplo-esque dancehall and hip hop beats continue throughout the whole song acting as a through line for all the competing vocal elements. The “yeah hey boy chants” start the song off with a clear hip hop tone. This quickly moves into auto-tuned verse which is a good way of connecting to the chorus, which is more clear and light. The transition from auto-tune to clear voices also works well at a lyrical level; in the verse Wa$$up are questioning the qualities of a boy but in the chorus they are clear about not wanting to know him any longer.
Parts are reused seemingly at random but are always used to connect all the parts of the song. The “work for me baby” part is always used before the chorus so it becomes a signifier rather than a random element. The chants at the start are also repeated to usher in Nada’s rap as they have similar tones. Clarifying the group’s image has also allowed Wa$$up to stop relying on Nada, who has been the most iconic member of the group to this point. Even though she is fierce at an unparalleled level, a group has to assign lines to help keep a song fresh and Shut Up U finally shows Wa$$up’s vocal range.
Wa$$up’s image helps this as well. They debuted with the nickname of ‘twerk-dols’ as they were to be the first idols that did something close to twerking. The girls were sexy, confident and trashy enough to pull it off. A certain amount of trashiness was required to pull-off a concept like their debut. Although they didn’t have the songs to really make a mark as anything more than provocative rookies. Coupled with a similarly calculated trashy type of song which Simms is the master of creates the perfect storm. The look is in no way trashy just confident and enthusiastic. The song is tight and interesting not all over the place.
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This all culminates in the performance which, given their nickname of twerk-dols, should be a focus for them. They are confident, exciting, and most of all, fun. The focus on trying to be sexy has been toned down, and the girls are all the more sexy for it. There is a small bit of twerking but it actually fits considering the influences on the song and it wouldn’t be a Wa$$up performance without it.
The combination of Wa$$up and Will Simms could provide the group a way of bringing their niche to the forefront and gaining success. They have always garnered lots of attention in the press but this has not equalled any sort of big success for them. With their strongest song and most complete performance to date this could change. Simms’ songs have been big but not consistent sellers, EXO for example had a boost of one million in sales after dropping him for Growl. There is something about the combo with Wa$$up that makes me more hopeful that it could go well. The products of this team could prove to be interesting and the future for both will be one to watch if they remain together.
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