Artist Spotlight: 4Ten

When 4Ten released their first album “Jack of All Trades” earlier this month, the title and tracklist got me thinking about their career so far. The term “Jack of All Trades” when referred to pop groups brings to my mind groups like 4minute, SHINee, and TVXQ. Groups with talent across the board or talent so good that even the seemingly-less talented members are given their chance to shine. The tracklist of “Jack of All Trades” does little to show the variety of 4Ten. It contains three old tracks re-recorded with the new members and two new ones. Less than half are new and those re-recordings removed some key elements to those old songs. Hardly “Jack of all Trades.”

Let’s take a step back for now though, it is just a title after all.

4Ten are a four member girl group who debuted under Jungle Entertainment in 2014. The name is derived from the English word “potential.” Try pronouncing the number “4” as if you were Korean (since Korean doesn’t have an “f” sound) and it’ll make more sense. The original four members had a, shall we call it, distinctive look. It wasn’t something K-pop fans would not be familiar with. Their faces were, well, let down by the doctors. Two especially, Hyeji and Eujin, were operated on by surgeons with Parkinson’s disorder. TEM, the rapper, doesn’t look like an idol although she was probably scared of surgery after seeing her groupmates. The remaining member looks like a regular enough idol which in a way is boring for this group.

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Hoping to blow away their competition (zing!) 4Ten debuted with “Tornado” in August of 2014. Like all rookie groups coming from smaller companies, the low production value is immediately obvious in the song and music video. “Tornado” is a messy club banger that somehow combines Crystal Castles and David Guetta into a relatively palatable pop song. Everything about it is close to being at least something that could be popular, but everything about it is also something that should be left as a demo. The pianos that should twinkle in contrast to the synths are flat and not varied enough. Those big synths are not clear enough so get lost amongst a million other things in the chorus. The video was shot in a bunch of dusty brown exteriors that do little for the girls except make them feel at home. The choreography needed a lot more practice too, not that it looks particularly difficult. The one saving grace is TEM, whose rap is genuinely good and promises the possibility of building around her for the future.

That future resulted in “Why.” It does not make TEM the focus but it can be called an improvement. It recycles the cheap synths for a europop verse that is almost hard to get through but builds by adding a rock drum beat. Mostly it’s the chorus that makes “Why” superior to “Tornado.” Its hook is pretty generic but it has an authentic energy that was missing before. After the chorus, it transitions straight into a rap, which is again the highlight. TEM has a few more little spits towards the end that indicate a possibility that Jungle have realised the real talent of this group. Let’s look for — hey TEM where are you going? No, wait, please don’t go. Goddamn.

Let’s start again I guess.

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Poten are a five member girl group who debuted under Jungle Entertainment in 2015.

After the departure of TEM and Eujin, 4Ten rebranded themselves by adding three new members, Hio, Yoon, and Haejeong and changing their name to free themselves of the number four. Not that that stopped groups before — I’m looking at you Nine Muses and Day6 (too soon?). This all proved to be beneficial, however, as the revamp gave the girls their best song. “Go Easy,” released in the summer of 2015, is a slick funky track that sounds a million miles from their precious work. The loss of TEM is more than made up for with great vocals and great production. In the video, they once again dance and pose in an American town, but this time they themselves and the camerawork actually looks good. The life of a young girl group is a difficult one, but it’s always good to see when a group starts to even slowly improve.

4Ten are a four member girl group who debuted under Jungle Entertainment in 2016. Goddammit not again.

This time it was Haejeong’s turn to leave, and with her departure the chance to revert to their original name and pretend Poten never existed, which was too enticing for Jungle. Luckily Haejeong had little to do with “Go Easy’s” quality, so her loss was not damaging. 4Ten returned in February 2016 with the aforementioned album and lead single “Severely.” It continues on the work of “Go Easy” by going full 80’s throwback. “Severely” would be up there with all the great throwbacks we’ve had recently if its production was that bit better. The vocals are great, they snap out of the track with power. The chorus group singing is especially good, evoking the period perfectly. The synths are just that bit too drowned out to be really satisfying. I can so nearly imagine Tom Cruise kicking ass in a training montage with this in the background. In reality, it’s closer to “Wet Hot American Summer” than “Top Gun.” (I embedded the live version because it has more bite than the video and might make me love it wholly).

So maybe 4Ten are not jack of all trades, but does it really matter? What I really like in underdog groups like these is the almost tangible feeling of desperation that comes from their songs and videos. The sense that even if it looks and sounds like it cost $5, that they put their all into it and for a split second thought they could be the next Girls’ Generation. With the K-pop industry becoming less exclusive to groups out of the big three companies, it is a lot easier for this to potentially happen. Yet we can always count on new upstart companies to try in earnest with groups like 4Ten. Maybe members won’t be able to dance, maybe they won’t be as pretty as Suzy, maybe they can’t even sing that well. Groups like these have to try new things in order to grab our attention and sometimes that yields great results. With 4Ten we have gotten one great song, an interesting failure, and some spectacular misfires. Most importantly they gave me a good time. I hope groups like these never die out.

What’s your favourite 4Ten song? 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.

Best Rookie Girl Groups of July

D.Holic Chewy

July was an extremely busy time for K-pop. Most of the biggest names came back in some form, creating a strong battle for song of the summer. Naturally, they overshadowed a whole bunch of smaller groups who were debuting or still trying to build a fanbase. Some of the more well known rookies like GFriend and Sonamoo made their first comebacks, managing to build on their past successes. I want to look at some of the other even smaller girl groups that released songs this month beneath the avalanche of their seniors’ material.

Also to be honest, I’m only looking at the girls because I took no notice of any rookie boys this month if there even were any. It’s a bias but I can’t help it, sorry boys.

WANNA.B “Attention”

WANNA.B are a group that only came to my attention recently. On further investigation, I learnt that they debuted in late 2014 with the underwhelming “My Type.” I gleaned little else from searching them online, but all you need to know is that their recent comeback song “Attention” is great.

Like a lot of rookie songs, “Attention” has a not-so-distant retro cheap feel to it that treads a thin line between endearing and excruciating. It works for WANNA.B, mostly because it fills a significantly large After School-sized gap in the current K-pop world. “Attention” offers an assured mix of After School-like sounds from their early career given a hip-hop revamp. The drum lines feel at times militaristic thanks to the “Bang” influenced chants and at other time more cheerleader like coming from the vocal influences of other After School songs like “Ah” and “Diva.” This all comes together really well with the drums leading the song just like fellow rookies’ Oh My Girl’s incredible “Cupid.”

The clear highlight is the joyous chorus. The sparse verse and pre-chorus, which feature only the pounding drums and the odd wobbly synth build to it well, allowing a surprise kick when the group vocals come in. It’s this group vocal which makes it so great. It’s a rare example of not favouring one voice as dominant over the group for a chorus and it works to great effect.

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POTEN “Go Easy”

Some of you may know POTEN by their previous moniker 4ten. They were plastic and fantastic. For July, they decided to change things up though by dropping two members and recruiting three new ones with the new name. Luckily for us, this also corresponded with a big jump in quality.

The first thing that I noticed about “Go Easy” was just how slick it sounds. It sounds like a lot more money was pumped into this comeback. It also doesn’t tread on familiar rookie EDM or dance pop ground, going for a more funky production while still being danceable in a club setting. Guitars twang and strings flow over a simple structure. This gives time to the great new vocals on show for POTEN. This came at a price of having lesser rappers than previously, but it works for this song at least.

Also one of the new members is a Son Dambi look alike, which is always a good thing.

D.Holic “Chewy”

Whenever there’s a breakout success of any kind we can expect copycats of that success to pop up very soon after. This time it’s EXID who have provided the blueprint to D.Holic (I would have loved to been at the meeting where they decided that name) for their first comeback single “Chewy.” That’s them in the iconic photo at the top of this article.

Both the video and song come across as the cheaper versions of EXID’s “Up and Down.” That’s definitely not a bad thing though, as that song was one of the most interesting productions of 2014. Here it’s looser and more volatile. The synths bounce and wiggle, ready to explode at anytime. They even go at laser speeds in the second part of the verse. It lends to an unhinged feeling where “Up and Down” was more assured. Like WANNA.B though, the chorus comes as a surprise and goes in a lighter direction than expected. It’s what saves the song from going off the rails and becoming nothing more than a clone.

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LoveUs ‘‘Tickle’’

Crayon Pop’s little sisters Bob Girls were half resurrected in the recent debutants LoveUs. Their debut “Tickle” is a surprisingly good and sexy slice R’n’B. It’s synth lead, yet doesn’t sound too cheap and flourishes thanks to the good vocals off all the members. That’s what having only four members can get you.

Awesome Baby ‘‘Why Should I?’’

Now we come to that time of the rookie talk where we meet the group with the gimmick. This time it’s Awesome Baby who debuted with a ‘beatpella’ concept which, of course, is a mix of beat boxing and a capella. It’s immediately interesting since it’s a musical gimmick and not just a visual or conceptual one like we are used to. They do not stray too far from the trends, though, as they used this gimmick with a thoroughly 90s sounding track. The 90s are all the rage lately, if you hadn’t noticed.

Vocally, it’s impressive. Each member adds their own distinct reason to be there and harmonically this works so well. The song itself though is derivative. It offers nothing that hasn’t been done by TLC et al before. Not even rapping can distinguish K-pop there.

What’s your favourite of these songs? Is there anything even better we missed out on? Let us know 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.