If any group was poised to be the next breakout superstars, it would be LOEN’s girls, Fiestar. Leader Jei and Chinese member Cao Lu have been gaining followers on variety shows by the day and we all know of the success that rapper Yezi has had following her breakout on the second season of “Unpretty Rapstar”. I would have thought that they would come back with as much fanfare as possillbe with little delicacy, but here they are with new mini album “A Delicate Sense”.
Ever since Cheska left, Fiestar have focused their style. Before, it was varied and somewhat of a mess for any budding fans. After the ménage à trois anthem “One More” and silky, acoustic “You’re Pitiful,” an air of melancholic sexiness has grown around them. New single “Mirror” and its music video do nothing to dispel this idea. This new mini album shows the eclectic range of 2016’s possible rising stars .
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Opener “A Sip of Your Lips” is an oddity that could only ever be an album cut. It fuses a number of sounds to create something at once chaotic but sensual. Latin beats, country electric guitars, and sweet vocals make up the bulk of the song. Each part comes together at once to a simple structure to keep it from going too far. Most interesting is the recurring autotuned vocal sound that sounds like a slide guitar. It’s the type of weird sound that makes a song like this infinitely listenable, not just because you’re trying to figure out what it is but because of its beauty.
If any of the members were being pushed for this promotion, the music tells us it is Yezi. Her cold, clinical raps seem to frame every song on the album. Even if she only gets the obligatory bridge of verse, she pulls the song around her. On “A Sip of Your Lips,” the music even stops for a moment, preparing itself for Yezi to inject a fiery pace to it.
She does this no more so than on the single “Mirror.” It’s a synth pop track familiar to K-pop fans as the sound of 2010-2011. Back then, this was the most common kind of sound produced and probably the most expensive they could sound. Hearing it now with even better technology shows its timelessness. Synth stabs cut right to the ear building Fiestar’s melancholic reflection. It’s a perfectly solid lead single but probably the least interesting song on the album.
Yezi is the other difference between the 2011 version of this song. Before, the rapper would have been a regular idol, the girl who couldn’t sing, so they make her talk sort of melodically so they fit into the song. Yezi, however, is a rapper. She bites into the song giving it an anger and frustration where there would only have been sadness.
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“Mr. Black” also,in some way, brings Fiestar back to their roots by being an overt ode to sex. Their explicit sexuality is still refreshing if a bit on the nose. Lyrics mentioning an “unstoppable dirty dance” and a “tasty road” (which when pronounced by a korean sounds like tasty load yikes) are embarrassing, but at least we don’t understand Korean so it’s not distracting. The song plays up sensuality over euphoria. The girls coo and whisper throughout over bubbling electronics and a restrained beat. The chorus especially has some of the sexiest vocals K-pop has ever seen.
Fiestar slow things down even more for “Thirst,” a song about insatiable desire. “Thirst” twinkles into existence while carrying on the slightly retro sounds of 2011 with its fuzzy synths. They combine well with chimes forming an eerie dreamy sound. Yezi again fits in perfectly with an autotuned rap that feels like it is ripped straight from the music. I love raps in slower songs like these, they add a new weird perspective but manage to not be too jarring (see also Lim Kim’s “Alright”, Ladies’ Code’s “Hate You”). There’s a desperateness to it that works really well against Linzy’s angelic vocal.
“Back and Forth” is a chance for Fiestar to get angry at all these lovers they sing about. It threatens to be a fairly formulaic track with a bit of sax. The instrumentation is excellent however. The aforementioned sax blends wonderfully with guitars over a strong drum beat. The song begins to build after the first chorus with Yezi’s most outwardly aggressive rap of the album. After a beautiful bridge, the vocals become unhinged and Yezi snarls in between them building the song into a cacophony of angry voices. The repeating refrain of “wassda gassda” adding to the frustration of these young girls.
If Fiestar fail to light up the year like EXID, Sistar, and others before them as new starlets, we can still look back on this and see how impressive they have become as a group. Each song on “A Delicate Sense” has its own identity, adding something fresh to tired formulas. Delicacies in the music lift the tracks into territory worthy of repeat listens. Not only this but their continued use of sex in their lyrics is something to cherish forever. We’re going to look back at Fiestar as a group who dared to be explicit and were great precisely because of that.
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