On Episode 39 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, guests Gabriel Wilder and Stephanie Parker join hosts Joe Palmer and Stephen Knight to discuss impactful events of 2018 in Kpop, and to present the second round of the 2018 K-Pop Unmuted Awards.
Let us know what you think of K-pop in 2018’s and KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted 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.
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How do you close out a pre-debut project like LOONA’s? How do you bring the many ideas and sounds contained within the previous 8 solos and 4 sub-unit singles to an outcome? But Yves, Chuu, Go Won, and Olivia Hye were given this herculean task, and came together as Youth Youth by Young, aka LOONA yyxy to be the conclusion of the sweeping story the LOONAverse had been introducing for over two years.
The story of LOONA took a dramatic shift before yyxy. Odd Eye Circle injected a positive, forthright energy to the universe as a direct contrast to what came before them with LOONA 1/3 and yet, it still felt incomplete. Between the two of them they barely scratched the surface of complexity within the idea of girlhood. One could be passive or active, with little in between. To deal with this yyxy took a major lyrical shift and forgoed a more distinct musical identity for their era. In its place the videos took on the brunt of the storytelling while the lyrics focused on one thing. Each of the girls sang not about boys or a general idea of love but of self love. Differing perspectives of self-love combined to give us a more complete idea of what LOONA’s story was.
Yves fell from Eden and crashed into our hearts when she began the final saga with the deeply satisfying “new.” It turns the bounding confidence of Odd Eye Circle into something quietly simple. The heavy 80s synths feel immediately powerful. Where OEC were manic and excited, Yves doesn’t waiver, preferring a steadiness of strength felt from within.
This experience and strength of Yves’ voice proves to be crucial. Aided by just a bassy synth and fingersnaps, she convincingly delivers such grandiose lines as, “Willing to get closer to the sun / Flapping of the burnt wings.” “new” is a song about finding oneself through a variety of life experiences. She beings with love of a person, “My heart that wants to be like you / Gets coloured, filled with you,” but moves on quickly. She goes no further in mentioning this person to the point that it sounds more like admiration than love. This is where she deviates from her predecessors. This desire to be like someone else led Yves to consider her “miserable appearance.” In looking at herself in preparation, she took the time to see a new side of who she is. In dropping the pursuit of another and considering a mirror, she sees “the beam inside of my heart.”
Yves understands that the conclusion LOONA seek isn’t in being loved or loving someone but in how you come to make those decisions. It’s the in-between point of figuring yourself out and knowing what’s best for you.
Yves grabbed the LOONAverse by the throat and told it to calm down. All of the yyxy girls’ songs were a response to this and none of them took it to heart quite like Chuu. “Heart Attack,” her solo song, is what happens when LOONA ⅓ are graced with the influence of Yves. Big brass wills Chuu down a difficult path of big vocals and emotions. Her heart is unstoppable, at a level of obsession not seen before in the LOONAverse. “Heart Attack’s” music however, does feel familiar at times so it is up to Chuu to elevate it. None of the other girls matched her on record for pure personality, “This must be what thrill feels like, darling” she bellows in the chorus. Her voice shifting tone depending on just how happy she is.
Her unabashed sentimentality is no surprise given Yves’ influence. It is, at the same time, naive. Yves’ message has been missed by Chuu. She changes her whole life to suit this person, “All of my standards are set to you / Like the moon spinning around the earth.” She’s shoved along by growing layered background vocals and stronger synths to a point of apparent euphoria. Chuu gives everything to her vocal tone, a parallel to how she’ll give everything to the other she sings of. “I’ll give you all my heart /Take my heart,” she pleads. Her feelings are in whiplash. Taking confidence from Yves, Chuu goes too far in changing her “quiet heart.” It’s the response of someone who was waiting for confidence for too long and couldn’t handle it. Chuu never really had a quiet heart, just never had the support to know this.
Someone who really does have a quiet heart is Go Won. On first meeting, the third yyxy girl is slight and mysterious. Her voice is simple, barely going above a talk-sing type for the majority of her solo song “One & Only.” The straightforward synth of the track does well to back her up. It does not undermine her at any stage. It has bright piano chords to prop her up in the chorus and shimmering synths to match her as she highers her pitch rising to the chorus. Her voice is warm and unique but also innately familiar as if everything she sings we all know deep down.
Olivia Hye, yyxy’s final girl, is someone who sees almost no light. She took Yves’ message as a betrayal. Her song “Egoist” is not a celebration of self-love but a lament for the heartache of how she reached it. Olivia still held onto the idea that true fulfilment came only through love of another. She was not prepared to lose them or to hear that her ideals had been wrong this entire time. “I wanted to despise you /But my heart wouldn’t let you go,” she ekes out at the beginning. Her voice, a strained apathy, fits these words perfectly.
The track’s opening piano chord starts a fraction of the way through like we have barged in on her revelation. The piano drops when her sadness turns to anger, though. Her rage slowly distorts the song into a whirling industrial clash of defiant synths and destructive percussion. The melodic whistle from the chorus is coerced into a desperate scream. The song’s expressiveness mocks the cold flatness of Olivia’s voice. To make matters worse Jinsoul follows this. Her self-referential rap is full of temptations about being in an “endless cycle” together. She is a voice that Olivia does not need right now, and it shows. As the song progresses it has nothing to else to offer. Olivia’s voice, still inert, doesn’t convince us of the words she’s singing. She still sings of fate, a fate she fears was taken from her prematurely. Her anger is still focused on the person leaving, rather than her own inadequacies.
The conflict inherent in Olivia Hye and her song seemed to be a great jumping off point for LOONA yyxy to come together as a unit. Instead they did something strange: “love4eva” is a song made to situate LOONA within the larger world of K-pop. Almost every major detail links them to two other era-defining girl groups of their time, Girls’ Generation and I.O.I.
Starting with producer E-Tribe, even the announcement of their involvement was treated as a big coup. E-Tribe are known for a number of iconic hits like Hyori’s “U-Go-Girl” and Super Junior’s “It’s You,” but none quite as legendary as Girls’ Generation’s “Gee.” Their involvement was a statement but how they used the feature from Canadian artist Grimes locked in the comparison. Much to everyone’s surprise, her only involvement was in the song’s intro. Her English language declaration of LOONA’s finally being together is a riff on not just Tiffany and Jessica’s intro for “Gee” but the many times K-pop has done this the years over. The lyrics as well are a such a generic take on first love that it could be parody. The wonderfully ridiculous line about kidneys comes close to convincing me of that.
Even before Grimes’ part, it’s easy to spot the I.O.I connection as well. The precise, rolling synths immediately recall that group’s best track “Very Very Very.” “love4eva” strives for the breathless energy of that song but can’t quite go past imitation. Right at the end, yyxy go on to refer to the choreography of “Very Very Very” too, as in their ending pose they continue moving along with a heart gesture. It’s smaller than the other references but in ending the track it leaves the imprint of all of those other ideas in our mind.
This all combines to position LOONA as a group following these two. It would be hard to argue that anyone other than Girls’ Generation is the the most definitive K-pop girl group, and I.O.I were the first group since them to change how the industry worked by making competition shows the new most lucrative debut plan. LOONA have decided that they are next, stating that their form of marketing is what future girl groups will be copying.
This, unfortunately, is the final legacy of yyxy. They jumped the gun on the anticipation of their debut by dropping a genuinely interesting thematic exploration in favour of something more palatable for a larger audience. Regardless of quality, “love4eva” and LOONA’s debut single, “Hi High,” are a digression from what made LOONA interesting in the first place, their focus on the girls themselves. It was the distinction between the solo songs and the diversity of sounds and ideas that were used to build characters that made LOONA connect with so many. That yyxy could have four separate songs about self-love, all with different perspectives was frankly beautiful. They worked to define the impossibility of identity, and it sadly remained impossible to carry through to the finale.
What do you think of the LOONA yyxy era? Let us know in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i0.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Untitled-design.png?fit=940%2C788788940Joe Palmerhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2019-01-10 08:47:512019-01-10 08:47:51The story of LOONA: yyxy
Finally after a year and five months, the very last LOONA girl, Olivia Hye, was revealed. It’s a testament to the time and effort put into the project that so many people were eagerly anticipating this moment and the moments still to come. LOONA has given us probably the most interestingdebut roll out in K-pop (all music?) history, considering that twelve girls were rolled out over that year and a half through twelve solo singles, 4 sub-unit singles (with more to come), and countless fan theories about what it all meant. To look back on this all before the last unit finish out the debut project we ranked the twelve solo singles.
12. “Around You” by Hyunjin
Hyunjin has the undesirable position of starting us off with her solo track “Around You.” Produced by Lee Juhyung of Monotree, “Around You” is by no means a bad song. Its reverberating piano refrain is in fact a gorgeously simple riff to build a song around. It is helped along the way by some more crisp stabs of the keys and glances of guitar details. Structurally the track falters though. By moving towards a more conventional chorus and adding more parts “Around You” loses the fragility of its opening. That frailty worked wonders with Hyunjin’s equally weak voice as she sang of her foolish patience, and if it had remained small and instead gone for a big change at the climax it could have held onto that power longer. This begs the question though, could Hyunjin have even been able to pull that off? I guess we’ll find out with LOONA’s debut.
11. “Love Cherry Motion” by Choerry
Choerry is the member of LOONA who exists on all sides of the Mobius. To the uninitiated that just means she can interact with any of the other members right now. She’s also one of the most energetic of them all and musically both of these traits are very clear in “Love Cherry Motion.” Her bubbliness comes through right from the beginning and makes the song as fresh as it should sound for the summer. Its pre-chorus delves into deep bass EDM territory and finally culminates with Middle-Eastern style synths to change things around. Switching genres on a whim is an overdone staple in K-pop at this stage and “Love Cherry Motion” feels like LOONA was pandering to that. Without her story, the song would be just another version of that. Producers Ollipop, Hayley Aitken, and Kanata Okajima do handle it well though. They let the darker sound take over for the bridge before transitioning back into the softer side with an ease they seemingly wanted to avoid at first. They tell the story of Choerry’s flexibility in the story of LOONA but also how it feels for a young girl to fall in love.
10. “One and Only” by Go Won
The last few girls of the LOONA project were unlucky in that they had to live up to increasingly high expectations. It’s a somewhat unfair prospect given that the solo songs as a whole are meant more as calling cards for the particular members rather than singles built to chart. Go Won’s “One and Only” is, like her, slight and mysterious. Produced by Darren “Baby Dee Beats” Smith, “One and Only” is shimmering but simple synth pop. Go Won delivers an equally simple vocal in variety of ways amid the synths and processed drums. She half-chants half-raps her wonderful feelings of self-love brought on by the moonlight, raising her pitch with each line, mimicking the ascending synth; Go Won’s self-love is simple but comes from hard, repetitious work. But, apart from the bridge, “One and Only” undergoes essentially zero structural changes. It is straightforward to a fault, the song doesn’t really have to go anywhere, but that’s because Go Won doesn’t either. She is happy being her one and only.
9. “Eclipse” by Kim Lip
Kim Lip changed it all. From the opening chords of “Eclipse” and Lip’s more mature voice, it was clear LOONA were starting off on a new path. “Eclipse” grows with impassioned ease, building an eclectic bed of sounds through which Lip can sing between. Even from just the music video she was by far the most natural performer, blatantly a girl the group could be built around. Produced by Daniel “Obi” Klein and Charli Taft, “Eclipse” was a new style for LOONA with a silky variety of synths. The bridge is a moment to savour, fingersnaps and gorgeous vocals slowing things down to reveal the depth of what Kim Lip can do. Over time however, “Eclipse” grew somewhat tired. It feels too busy in comparison to LOONA’s more simple moments and not busy enough compared to what the ODD EYE CIRCLE girls would do after her. Its impact came from its surprise factor but couldn’t hold attention much longer after that.
8. “Egoist” by Olivia Hye feat. Jinsoul
Closing out the solo cycle of LOONA was Olivia Hye and her song “Egoist.” Olivia enlisted Jinsoul to feature as well as taking on her future bass sound. “Egoist” is a less volatile and unfortunately less interesting take on what Jinsoul previously displayed, though. The production, by Artronic Waves, LAB301, and Pablo Groove, is filled with great and varying details, from the repurposed whistles to the always growing percussions. Olivia can’t quite match the song for personality though. She is at first cold, and from among bassy moody synths and piano she sings of a broken relationship. She’s hiding her feelings, and in their place she only shows pain. As the song moves forwards, stronger more expressive synths take over from the piano. They lift Olivia not to express her emotions but forget them. She learns to love herself but unconvincingly so, leaving the song a bit lacking.
LOONA’s sole Chinese member Vivi faced a similar challenge as Hyunjin, failing to make her song strong enough to stand alone despite her weak voice. For this, the LOONA team went for a throwback vibe. On “Everyday I Love You” Vivi reveals her feelings through hushed, breathy vocals over some quintessential 90s beats, while synths shimmer as a guitar nervously plucks out an accompaniment. Everything comes together for an exciting chorus. In the absolute highlight of the track, the aforementioned guitar slides to introduce the chorus, it’s a cliched technique at this stage but that is precisely why it works so well. Horns join as Vivi pushes her small voice to high pitched delights. It’s one of the most simple but fun moments in all of LOONA’s discography.
6. “Vivid” by Heejin
LOONA began as they meant to go on, with Heejin and Monotree releasing “Vivid.” As an opener it is odd but no less polished than everything that followed it. “Vivid” is a brash confident offering from Heejin. Her voice goes up and down with ease, as she inflects her words with a cheeky rasp over filtered brass and piano. Her ease as a vocalist and acting in the video were a clear warning that these girls were here for serious business. At first watch I thought she was a new soloist, completely ready to take on the likes of Lim Kim with a more youthful quirky take. But even knowing that she is only one small part of an unknown whole doesn’t change how good this was though.
5. “Heart Attack” by Chuu
Vocally none of the girls quite matched Chuu in terms of personality on their solo tracks. She teases us at first, leaving small breaths between each line as she gradually rises to the chorus. As soon as she reaches it though, she drops the intensity only to rise it towards the end once again. From there she doesn’t have a chance to breathe, showing some of the biggest vocals LOONA has seen, with raps and adorable little “ooh oohs” for added color.” Ollipop and Hayley Aitken return to the LOONAverse to once again bridge gaps between the girls. Here they bring back the orchestral elements of LOONA ⅓ but don’t shy away from more modern beats and details. They weave a variety of horns, pianos, and synths around Chuu’s voice, constantly challenging her to one up herself. She matches them step for step and they come together brilliantly on the climax, letting go of any restraints that might have been holding them back.
4. “New” by Yves
Yves bit the apple and led LOONA out of Eden with her solo track, “New.” Similar to Kim Lip she opened her era with supreme confidence, showcasing strong vocals and dancing as she easily performs to the retro stylings of Brooke Toia, Daniel Caeser, and Ludwing Lindell; it’s 80s synth pop through a modern lens. The production is deceptively simple, with just synths, a beat, and Yves’ voice. In the first verse, the beat doesn’t fully reveal itself at first, starting with just finger snaps and a bass drum but in the second one, an ascending high hat is added, slowly rising to the chorus. Those same few elements are used in the chorus and to great dramatic effect: the synths are heavy and satisfying, and Yves’ vocals airy but totally under her control. This magnificent drama tells a story of self-confidence, a tale that Yves acts out with such sincerity.
Behind the languid chorus of “Singing in the Rain” lies LOONA’s most complex song to date. Jinsoul’s luscious future-bass track (produced by Caesar & Loui) juggles a number of sections, all of which come together in the end to crushing effect. It opens with the most exciting and varied drum beat I’ve heard in years, and slowly rises and falls. The complexity is helped by her vocal range, as she was the first one to rap and sing in her song giving “Singing In The Rain” an edge when it comes to the second verse. A different pre-chorus is also added for the second chorus, lending the song a surprising, driving intent. It’s essentially a series of overlapping and intersecting circles, growing in intensity with every new one added. The track culminates with the genuine Hollywood euphoria Jinsoul had been looking for. “I used to be untouchable and dangerous” she sings, suggesting a wicked unpredictability to her.
2. “Kiss Later” by Yeojin
No track was helped more by Monotree and LOONA’s dedication to using real instruments and orchestras than “Kiss Later”. Yeojin’s solo is a Broadway musical-inspired pop explosion that really fits the young girl’s voice. It starts off with a soft, shimmering melody, and Yeojin uses her tinny vocals to great effect before the song crashes into a frenzy of strings, horns, and percussion. It’s such a satisfying pay-off, and lends the rest of the song an unwavering kinetic energy. The music blends masterfully with Yeojin’s voice as she likes to talk-sing at times, even as she playfully follows the pointed details of the track with great strong syllables. As the youngest member of LOONA, her anxieties are rendered almost like a game. She understands that there are adult concepts at play and can avoid them, but doesn’t, and still has the most fun out of anyone. There hasn’t been a song in the last few years that quite matches “Kiss Later” for fun on every level.
1. “Let Me In” by Haseul
Ending LOONA’s first year was Haseul, with her soft voice whispering confusion of her identity on “Let Me In.” The song is the key to understanding the first five girls of LOONA, a track that rejects common pop rules in favour of building a unique world. Written and Produced by 오레오 [Oreo] and arranged by 웅 킴 [Oong Kim] “Let me in” is a purely orchestral song with no regular beat or modern instruments. Among this Haseul restrains herself at first. Her voice, pitched beautifully high, tells of a love so strong she feels like she is becoming one with her lover. These joyous feelings are highlighted by stunning musical details, including the tweets of a piccolo, delicate pulls of a harp, and, most of all, the strings that constantly change. It builds a sense of history made believable thanks to Haseul tiptoeing right up to her range; her voice is strong but vulnerable. Overall, Haseul and “Let Me In” define the identity struggle that the whole LOONA project was about. On the cusp of womanhood, these girls felt the push and pull of various paths and this song contains the dangers and joys of all those paths.
How would you rank all of LOONA’s solo singles? Let us know in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i2.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/LOONA_all_members_collage.png?fit=1564%2C156215621564Joe Palmerhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2018-04-03 05:22:512018-04-03 05:22:51The 12 LOONA Solo Singles Ranked