On Episode 42 of Kultscene’s K-pop Unmuted, Gabriel Wilder joins Joe Palmer and Stephen Knight to discuss Kpop dance. We talk about the importance of dance in Kpop, memorable dance moments, top performance groups, great individual dancers, and much more. Our Unmuted Picks for the episode are Jo Jung Min’s Ready Q, Weki Meki’s Picky Picky, and Lim Kim’s Sal-Ki.
Following the resignation of CEO Na Byung Joon under controversial circumstances, Fantagio Entertainment and all its artists’ short term futures were in doubt. Weki Meki were one of those groups and had apparently been preparing a comeback as the news broke. Thankfully things settled down enough for them to bring their follow up to debut mini WEME and divisive single “I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend.” They have done that in the form of Lucky, their second mini album which seems to be going as far from their debut as can be. “I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend” was a song of many contradictions and the album it came on was equally filled with ups and downs. As an album, Lucky is tonally much more coherent and an easier listen. Let’s find out if that’s a good or bad thing.
As is common in K-pop minis, Lucky opens with an intro track by the same name. I love K-pop intros. At their best they are abstract representations of the albums that follow it. They don’t have to follow pop rules so tend to be the most unconventional K-pop can be. They can also be like “Lucky,” acting as a slightly remixed and shorter version of the single it precedes. Alongside “La La La” producer Rodnae “Chik” Bell; Hyuk Shin, MRey, and Ashley Alisha (all members of the Joombas Music Group) are the composers here and don’t do much to alter “La La La.” It sounds like they put the harsh processed drums of “I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend” underneath and added heavier bass. As an intro it doesn’t differentiate itself enough from the follow to warrant inclusion.
The lead single “La La La” is, unfortunately, similarly derivative of much more interesting songs. In what seems like a response to criticism of their debut, “La La La” has the energy of “I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend” without any of the eccentricities. It replaces the electronics with a variety of guitars and brass in favour of a more traditional pop stomper style. Vocally, it stifles them. The members are restricted to trying more soulful singing and straightforward rapping. On “IDLYG” the girls could just about match the gleeful twists and turns of the track, pulling it into something that works. On “La La La” they do nothing to change the direction of the song.
This is best evidenced by the chorus’ lack of movement. Musically it has an almost imperceptible change which could have been fine if the vocals went somewhere. The “laaaaa la la las” and the cheeky rap one liners are nowhere near enough, though. Wherever you lie on the “IDLYG” scale, this is a major disappointment as the highly anticipated successor.
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Luckily though, Weki Meki may soon become the queens of b-sides if their albums continue work like this. “Iron Boy,” produced by the Full8loom team, is the third track and a delectable slice of 80s style electro pop. Like all great retro tracks the key to success is a juicy bass line. On “Iron Boy” it gets things going alongside Doyeon’s slight but sultry voice. From there it blends more physical elements like a guitar with some wonderful synths. Like “La La La,” its structure doesn’t do anything new. But crucially it has musical progression. By the time the chorus comes along there is now spurts of brass and fluctuating synths. There are layers to its production and the members fit it well; Sei and Suyeon’s vocals in particular stand out, as they seem just about caught in the back of their throats in a childish but powerful way.
“Metronome” is much more modern. Producers Trippy and Le’mon weave a heavier house riff around the more indifferent vocals of the girls. A piano is used to create some sense of emotion in contrast to the bassy synths. It is in a sense monotonous like its title would suggest. The song transitions using the piano parts but does so with such nonchalance that it suggests that Weki Meki feel that thin line between dancing and emoting.
Full8loom return for the final two tracks “Colour Me” and Butterfly, both of which continue the retro theme. “Colour Me” is very much in the Bruno Mars mold of nostalgia. Disco synths and funk beats meet to create a super comfortable feeling. It gives the girls some room to stretch their vocals, even more than previous songs. In the pre-chorus there are some great harmonies, and the chorus has a variety of strong high pitches and whispers.
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“Butterfly” is the epitome of a winter cash in. It’s plodding retro bass drum and chimes are cliched almost to the point of parody here. It is a cover, however, of “Butterfly” by Loveholic, and these parts are there to make it relevant to the Winter Olympics. The chorus remains utterly impressive. Bonus points for the adorable sign language choreography. Minus points for reminding me of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
Lucky is a settler for Weki Meki. Their rocky debut might have slowed their potential ascent thanks to Doyeon and Yoojung’s fame but it also made them distinct. Lucky doesn’t quite have the ballad lows or the “Fantastic” highs of WEME, and honestly suffers for it. Given a stronger single it could have been the perfectly solid mini they needed. Instead it falters right from the beginning and spends the rest of its run time trying to catch up. It is slick from there on in but not quite unique enough to match the Weki Meki we have come to love or hate.
Weki Meki's "Lucky"
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