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Song Jieun’s “Bobby Doll” Music Video & Song Review

Jieun
When it comes to female idols going solo from their groups, few can claim quality quite like Secret. Leader Hyosung has been not only been redefining what it means to be sexy but also innovating with her song choices. Lead vocalist Song Jieun, back on her own now with “Bobby Doll”, has had one of the strongest solo careers to date for a female group idol. Her work with the Latin genre, seen here again, and on “Pretty Age 25” (one of the best tracks of 2014) has been absolutely stellar.

Now back with much worn doll concept, Jieun is probably hoping to build a proper solo career for herself given Secret’s lack of promotion. Her skill as a vocalist is not in doubt but does she have the songs and taste to back it up?

Song

The doll concept is an interesting choice for an artist like Jieun. I would have thought that older idols would be inclined to avoid the misogynistic connotations unless a commentary was involved. With “Bobby Doll” it’s hard to see where she falls in the argument.

Written and produced by Park Suseok and Park Eunwoo (regulars of TS Entertainment and the OST world) “Bobby Doll” is a Latin-inspired track that showcases Jieun’s impressive vocal range. The main guitar riff is evocative all by itself, creating a sensual but precise atmosphere. It’s carried by a strong jazz beat and eventually reinforced with similar electric guitar riffs and small chime details. The production is a great example of less is more as the song is still busy and exciting without being overcrowded.


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It’s Jieun’s voice that moves the song around in the absence of any big musical transitions. This makes the first listen a slight disappointment as the chorus takes its time to properly reveal itself. The first chorus seems underwhelming as Jieun doesn’t belt out the big vocals, preferring more rhythmic repetitions of “I’m your Bobby Doll.” However when it moves back into the verse the song slows down revealing Jieun’s many talents;this transition is also helped by a great drum beat that mimics the sound of a wind up doll. First is her usual beautiful voice, then a sort of rap/singing that hits precise marks with her higher pitches. She also goes down to a whisper as if adding a whole different person to the mix. Here the tension is created that makes the second chorus so much more effective. From there the song holds the sensuous but dark feeling, with Jieun’s “la la las” adding a creepy element to the doll concept.

Lyrically this concept is approached in a disappointingly generic fashion. It positions Jieun as the doll, begging to be looked at. She brags about her looks, long straight legs, my skin looks like honey.” Throughout the whole song she is only ever an object desiring a man. The title also seems to be a way of just avoiding copyright issues from Barbie. It even references Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” which I think is a great touch and could be seen as the self-aware moment that unlocks this song.

Music Video

The music video presents an opposite reading of the doll theme though. Directed by Zany Bros (makers of many K-pop videos including from this year 4minute’s “Hate” and Gfriend’s “Rough”) it again shows Jieun as a doll yet works to criticise the one who looks at her.


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It doubles down on the objectification by having the main creepy male character looking at Jieun through a series of cameras. She sings and dances to his great pleasure on screen. A clear metaphor for how female idols are used and looked at it in the K-pop industry. What’s most interesting is the ending and how it seems aware of how using this concept is almost impossible to be really critical. After seeing herself in the mirror Jieun can finally escape from her voyeuristic prison.

The mirror is an important image. It could mean that finally being allowed to see herself in this position she understands how to stop it so she can finally leave. Yet not long after she steps out into the open she is pulled back in with little difficulty. Even when aware of being controlled by male eyes, and the male-dominated entertainment industry, there is little one can do to stop it. In the end when she looks in the mirror she isn’t seeing herself with her own eyes but merely self-objectifying through the male gaze that designed her. It’s easy to criticize the industry but much harder to actually step outside of it.

Overall

“Bobby Doll” turns out to be a mishmash of ideas both good and bad. Musically she is on as good a form as ever. “Bobby Doll” is a beautifully balanced track with new intricacies to find every listen. Jieun’s sound is one of the most mature in K-pop and I hope her and Hyosung can go back to Secret stronger than ever.

“Bobby Doll” is also however a weird culmination of ideas about female objectification. The video and lyrics are a complete mismatch with the lyrics being a reductive view. The video, although indulgent in the things it takes issue with, has moments of clarity that highlight an interesting if frustrating idea of this theme.

What do you think of Jieun and “Bobby Doll”? 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.

Female First Loves: Hyo Sung & Oh My Girl Review

Hyo Sung Oh My Girl

Jeon Hyo Sung and Oh My Girl returned with new singles this week touching on similar subjects. That classic idea of first love is something that is easy to fawn at, to claim you’ve heard it all before. That’s the thing about a topic as universal as this is that will always warrant new expressions from new experiences. These two very different female artists approaching the same idea means we almost certainly see something fresh. If not maybe the music will make you fall in love with the girls anyway (it definitely will).

Despite Secret being around for so long now, Hyo Sungs’s solo career is still young and often wildly overlooked. Her lullaby trap anthem “Goodnight Kiss” and silky smooth “Into You” are masterful works in overt but not desperate sexiness. She pulls off songs and concepts without being too talented at any given skill needed for a popstar. With her new single “Find Me” Hyo Sung continues her challenge to be the new and improved Son Dambi.

Oh My Girl on the other hand are a very young group with 2016 being only their second year in K-pop. They, however, are rising fast and are in their own battle with Twice to be the next Girls’ Generation. While they don’t have the same big company backing them like their opponents, they do have a quirky identity that is all their own. They also have two of the best songs of last year under their belt already so with new single “Liar Liar”, Oh My Girl look to stake a permanent place in the minds of K-pop fans.


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Hyo Sung “Find Me”

Hyo Sung is clearly taking advantage of Eurovision fever (the songs in the contest are currently being announced) with this Euro pop romp. “Find Me” mixes three major musical elements to tell a story of true love. A house beat and hand claps sustain the whole song while piano arrangements and synths deliver the big moments. That beat allows those sounds to pick up tempo and sound a little brighter. Usually a combo of piano and synths is used for more melancholic or subdued sounds but here it can flourish. It also contains my favourite detail from any song so far this year, the flute whisper in the chorus.

“Find Me” moves away from Hyo Sung’s last single “Into You” in an interesting way thematically. Love is such a common theme in pop music but is everlasting because of its diverse nature. Everyone reacts to it differently and Hyo Sung is showing that even first love can be varied for the same person. Where “Into You” had a more inquisitive sensual feeling of the latent sexual possibilities found in a new love, “Find Me” traces a more euphoric emotion, one filled with romance and comfort. The music reflects this brilliantly. “Find Me” bursts into life with a crash of piano, synth, and vocal. It rises from there into a chorus of unrestrained joy led by Hyo Sung’s beautifully emotive voice.

 

Oh My Girl “Liar Liar”

Oh My Girl also tackle new love but in a decidedly more adolescent way on “Liar Liar.” The girls are starting to think they “kinda like” a boy but are too afraid to confess to him. For young girls like Oh My Girl, this is as dramatic it gets. And as Seunghee sings, it’s an “emotional roller coaster.” To convey these feelings with music, Oh My Girl go back to their debut “Cupid.” From the cheerleader group vocals and drumlines, it’s easy to see this as “Cupid” 2.0 but with added bubblegum. This sound is perfect for those feelings though. The chaotic energy of it feels totally adolescent while not being too childish. Also, “Cupid” was maybe my favourite song of last year so I’ll take a retread of it anytime.

That being said, there are a few improvements that make “Liar Liar” even more worthwhile. The vocals notable are much better. The trinity of Hyo Jung, Seunghee, and YooA are as good as ever, but first time I noticed some of the others playing an actually worthwhile part in the song. Notably, Arin and JinE make a contribution by not being amazing singers but sounding very much like the teenage girls that they are.

The music video is an absolute delight as well. The single coloured crayola sets are fantastic and weird. The fight between all the girls to deem each other liars is so much much fun. Especially the staring contest between Seunghee and Hyo Jung as they hold pictures of the same boy (who I think is labelmate Gongchan from B1A4) that they like. The camera swings around both of them cutting between opposite sides of the table bringing energy to their stillness.


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Overall

Hyo Sung and Oh My Girl tackle similar themes with completely different outcomes here. What makes them work for both parties is that they both stick to what works for them as artists. Hyo Sung is a woman clearly not afraid of her sexuality. She flaunts her body to express this physically and her voice to express it emotionally. This is one woman’s idea of fresh love.

Oh My Girl are essentially children so their expression of a first love is purely innocent. It’s about teasing out confusing feelings that are pointless in the long run but oh so important in the moment. They call themselves liars because they don’t actually know what it is they feel.

What do you think of Hyo Sung and Oh My Girl’s new songs? 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.

Hyo Sung, BESTie & the Hook in K-Pop

Hyo Sung
The hook is what makes a pop song so catchy, particularly K-pop songs. They are the part that we remember the most. They literally hook us into liking a song. They are the ‘gee gee gee gee’ or the ‘sorry sorry sorry.” Those are quite obvious examples of hooks though, but right now I want to look at how some artists use them in more interesting ways. For this we are going to look at two May releases, Jeon Hyo Sung’s ‘‘Into You’’ which has no hook at all and BESTie’s ‘‘Excuse Me’’ which delays its hook for a lot longer than usual.

The reason I’m returning to these two after two months is that I realized that they are two of the best songs of the summer yet have been kind of forgotten. And I never wrote about them when they came out, even though I loved them both.

On first listen, Hyo Sung’s second solo single ‘‘Into You’’ comes across as uneventful and dull. Compared to her first song ‘‘Goodnight Kiss’’ it seems lacking; this is probably why ‘‘Into You’’ didn’t sell as well as its predecessor either. This is because it forgoes a hook in favour of a more slick type of production. It’s a production that warrants many repeated listens before being fully appreciated. But why risk losing sales for something that could easily have been boring?

For me, it all comes together with the music video and live performance. The dreamy groove of the song and Hyo Sung’s breathy voice create an extremely sexual song. Coupling this with the video, we see something that is completely attuned to the sexy concept. Despite the fact that she denied it, Hyo Sung’s whole marketing efforts seem to focus on her body. So often sexy concepts are built only around visuals with the music taking a back seat. It comes across as pandering rather than a genuine attempt at being sexy.


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Breaking up the flow of the song with a massive hook would have suggested something bigger than what the song is trying to do. The way it is now, Hyo Sung can perform without making too brash a change in her vocal or body movements (which are in fact the most important part of the performance,) that could disrupt the sexy energy. The transition from pre-chorus to chorus happens so seamlessly that it’s hardly noticeable. This especially makes it feel like something is missing on first listen. As it grows on you though, you realize that by not highlighting one specific part, Hyo Sung’s highlights the whole song.

Another reason it works is that each part of the song sounds quite similar. The sax and synth combo are retained for most of the song and really holds it together. By not creating any contrast between verses and pre-choruses, no big pay off is expected in the chorus. Clashing different tones usually ends up in something else coming out of it. That is something that K-pop does extremely well, but here it is not needed. The hook would usually be a synthesis of preceding tones. ‘‘Into You’’ does not do this though, which allows it to get away with not having a hook.

BESTie’s ‘Excuse Me’’ is a song that does this and does it extremely well.


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‘‘Excuse Me’’ starts off as a pretty fun track that’s refreshingly devoid of any electronic elements. After a while though, you begin to realize that a chorus has not yet happened and that this feels quite strange. The song cycles through a number of different parts including the standard verse, a chanting mid-verse(?) and two parts that could pass as pre-choruses. They feature blasting horns, powerful vocals and rapping. There seems to be so many disparate elements leading to nothing. That is until 1 minute and 10 seconds into the song, when the massive pay-off hook boldly announces itself. To compare that to other recent songs, Sistar’s ‘‘Shake It’’ takes 40 seconds to reach its hooks and even the totally weird ‘‘Ah Yeah’’ by EXID introduces its ‘Ah Yeah’ hook right at the beginning and reaches its chorus by 55 seconds. 20-40 seconds longer than usual may not seem that significant but this is pop music where time and attention is precious.

‘‘Excuse Me’’ grabs attention by its strange structure. Without noticing it, you begin to question the song. Stimulating thought is not something pop music usually likes to do. A listener is supposed to feel comfortable in the familiar patterns. Here, the pattern is thrown in our face as we wait and wait for that hook.

The main reason that this all works out though is because of just how good of a hook it is. This is thanks to U-Ji’s huge voice, which I think is one of the best in K-pop right now. Along with her vocals, the tempo ramps right up and the energy levels increase. It’s a catastrophically good chorus that turns a song on its head without a moment’s notice.

If BESTie had not delivered this and gone the Hyo Sung route of having no hook, ‘‘Excuse Me’’ would not have worked at all. The many juggling parts of this song had to create something bigger than themselves at some stage. Otherwise it would have been a mess. I know a lot of K-pop songs can sound mess but like this they always have something pulling them together. Like Girls’ Generation’s ‘oh oh way ohs..’ in ‘‘I Got A Boy’’ or like B.A.P’s choruses in ‘‘Hurricane’’ and ‘‘Badman’’. These binding factors allow groups to go really far leftfield with their songs. BESTie have shown that an audience can wait longer than usual for that satisfying hook kick.

The range of ways which K-pop can deliver new material seems infinite. Hyo Sung and BESTie have shown two interesting ways of changing up standard songs. By doing this they create not only something unique but songs that provokes a reaction.

What do you think of these two songs? Is there any other songs you think have interesting hooks? 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.