The battle for the summer continues into July after it was officially started by AOA and Sistar last month. And before Girl’s Day, Girls’ Generation, and A Pink come to steal the girl group limelight, Nine Muses set out their attempt for song of the summer. “Hurt Locker” isn’t a feel good hit like you’d expect from most summer singles, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t fit with hot weather and days by the beach. Anyway, summer isn’t always the happy time we wish it to be.
“Hurt Locker” is a disappointing move into a more generic style for Nine Muses. Especially after the carnival ride that was “Drama.” That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad, just not on a par with their previous work. It takes a familiar Europop formula (recently used in AOA’s “Heart Attack,”’ to even worse ends) to express a feeling of hurt over a lost lover. The title is so cool but the lyrics unfortunately don’t live up to it.
Luckily the Europop does not prevail throughout the whole song or else it would have been too dull to get through. Using it primarily in the chorus keeps things just interesting enough. The chorus and pre-chorus actually contrast quite a bit with the preceding verses but it’s hardly noticeable. Most of the time, this would be a positive, yet with Nine Muses or any K-pop group, it feels like a misstep. Usually they would take sounds and concepts and go all with them rather than holding them back. It shows how hard it can be for K-pop groups to impress now that we expect such huge things from them.
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That being said, the individual elements all work well together to create something coherent. The verses are tinged with f(x) style guitars and layered vocals (think ”Rum Pum Pum Pum”). These are interrupted by clanging electronic drums in the second part signalling a coming change in tone for the chorus. They are well executed if slight musical changes. The only other shift is for Erin’s rap, which contains ascending electro sirens. Erin’s angrier tone cuts through the song to make it fit just for her.
One thing that I really like about Nine Muses is their dynamic vocal range. It has dropped off slightly since Sera left, but Kyung Ri and Keum Jo have proven to be more than adequate replacements between the two of them. Interestingly enough, this range actually comes from having a few weaker vocals within the group. This is not unusual for a group with as many members as Nine Muses, but is never used to the effect that they create.
Kyung Ri, Keum Jo, and Erin make up the strong, forceful side. Hyuna, Minha, and Sojin, on the other hand, have softer vocals. Moreover, Sung Ah and Hye Mi are in a sort of middle ground with Sung Ah’s nasally voice contrasting with everyone, and Hye Mi’s strong but indistinctive voice fitting in with everyone. Members like Minha and Sojin don’t have particularly good voices yet, but when matched with a part that doesn’t strain them, they can work well. Minha’s voice is almost like a whisper, which can be quite beautifully restrained at times. When contrasted against Erin’s rap or Kyung Ri’s power, it creates whole new delicacies within a song. This is put into overdrive if you replace Minah with Hyuna, who has a similarly soft but much stronger voice.
Compare this to Girls’ Generation, who have the same amount of members, they probably have a greater number of strong vocalists, but their range is quite small. Thier weaker vocals, like Yoona, Yuri, and Sooyoung, tend to sound very similar. While not holding them back, it limits the vocal intricacies that could make them even better.
When I first saw the teasers for the “Hurt Locker” video, I thought it looked a little cheap. I was worried Nine Muses’ already slim chance of success being crushed so easily. The actual music video, however, completely dispels these worries. A shipping yard proves to be a visually rich setting with so much colours and room to play in. It looks just as good in the daytime with wonderful drone shots of the group dancing on top of crates, as it does at night as they dance individually between crates with a strong light behind them. The drone shots are a surprising delight and made me realise we see so little of them in K-pop music videos. They lend a certain expensiveness to it which immediately adds to the whole video.
I’ve written a bit about Nine Muses’ choreography before so it feels right that I continue as they release more.
Nothing about “Hurt Locker’s” dance immediately stands out. Generally, it’s not much of an improvement on what is already probably their weakest attribute. Yet there is nothing really awkward here. They flow amongst each other well with no obvious stops and starts. I do like the greater emphasis on hand movements, though. The quasi-voguing in the opening and Erin’s part are especially great. It adds a certain intimacy that more impressive leg movements couldn’t replicate. New member Sojin seems to be particularly good in this respect and could be key to Nine Muses’ dance going forward.
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Despite being disappointed, “Hurt Locker” is my current favorite song of the summer. It’s standard structure easily beats off the more generic work of AOA, Sistar, and NS Yoon-G. The concept and video are great, offering something new and fun. Even if you are slightly tired of Europop, like me, the song still gives us a few other elements to enjoy. It continues Nine Muses’ flawless run of singles since “Figaro” in 2011. That’s a feat very few groups can claim to have achieved.
What do you think of Hurt Locker? What’s your favorites song of the summer so far? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.