The last week in June was kind to us girl group lovers. A string of releases from old and new groups brought K-pop back to life after a slow month. They also brought with them a number of familiar sounds with two groups showing influences from recent times, and Brave Brothers doing what he does best with his favourite girls. The rookies also show us that if a company has a member in I.O.I or participated in “Produce 101” then expect them to debut very soon.
“This Place” by Subin
First is probably the most well-known of this group yet has had the least promotion for her music. Dal Shabet’s vocal goddess Subin released her first mini album “This Place” alongside a digital single of the same title. She previously dropped her debut single, the underrated “Flower,” in May of this year to little fanfare as well. Whatever Happy Face’s strategy is, it does not involve actually promoting Subin. Nevertheless, they are fitting her with music that sounds like it’s coming from every inch of her body.
The lyrics certainly do, anyway. They have an ephemeral beauty to them just like her voice, which tails off as she breathes out each syllable. “Swept away to the wind, The leaves that walk, Something sweeps away my spirit,” she slowly lulls us into the song. Subin croons alongside a crisp piano, reminiscent of Joe Hisaishi’s work on the films of Studio Ghibli. Each note is pronounced and reverberates beside Subin’s voice. It hits the ballad sweet spot of being simple but not boring, emotional but not maudlin.
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“High Heels” by Brave Girls
Brave Girls’ new incarnation is proving to better than the original. They’ve been together for five years now and still have little to show for it. Under the tutelage of Brave Brothers though, we can count on them for quality pop tracks. “Deepened” from earlier in the year is one of the songs of the year and they stay on form with “High Heels.”
It’s a classic of his, using an object as a title and as a means of expressing a young girl’s love. Also present are the catchy chants and simple structure. Doubling down on the Brave Brothers formula of total functionality, “High Heels” has a two choruses. The first is almost identical to the verse but with bigger vocals (which mark it as a chorus alongside the mention of the title) and some guitar. Layered vocals bring this first chorus to a strong climax before the second one starts immediately with the chant of “high, high, high heel.” A mix of horns add the last bit of flair. It’s such an effective way of making a song constantly exciting. This is all added to by having the rap come straight after the first double chorus as well. Hyeran is fast becoming one of my favourite idol rappers. Her delivery is strong and confident, and has an odd nasally quality I really like.
“We” by Pledis Girlz
Pledis Entertainment’s girl groups are probably my favourite of the companies outside of the top two (SM and JYP, I don’t know a YG), given their groups are consistently innovative in sound and style. That‘s probably why their latest group, the ingeniously named Pledis Girlz, have got off to a disappointing start.
Their debut (if it even is a full debut given their name) “We” is another indicator of the GFriend reign. From the opening pianos, strings, and chimes, it’s clear the direction they were going in. This brand of schoolgirl pop is GFriend’s impact on the K-pop industry. None of these songs have been particularly bad, each one hits the mark in terms of the formula. It’s getting tired though, and with little to show in ways of upgrading, Pledis Girlz look like imitators. However, two things are quite satisfying. When the beat kicks and the strings really start to move, that feeling of joy pop music gives me is brought straight back. It sounds like the opening to a delightfully wholesome kids TV show. Also, the rap is something GFriend lack, and here it’s especially good thanks to the playful delivery and the music taking a back seat.
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“Wonderland” by Gugudan
A problem for Pledis Girlz might be their rushed nature thanks to the desperation of companies trying to debut girls from Produce 101. Gugudan are another one of these, coming from Jellyfish Entertainment with Sejong and Mina being fully fledged members of I.O.I.
Gugudan take a similarly safe route as Pledis Girlz, but with a little bit more kick. “Wonderland’s” glossy electro pop is has an energy that eclipses the other rookies of the week. It mixes a cavalcade of sounds to create something that never stops moving forward. The guitar and bass rhythm section is a funky delight that is heard in and out between verses. The vocal rhythm of the chorus bounces along with it and the twinkles and blasts of synths. It has an unpredictable exuberance that carries it the whole way through.
“I Like U Too Much” by Sonamoo
TS Entertainment’s Sonamoo took on the much harder task of copying Red Velvet. After failing with their hip-hop concept at debut, Sonamoo switched to a chaotic style of pop for “Cushion.” Calling this a copy does a disservice to these girls, though.
“I Like U Too Much” opens with supreme harmonies of the chorus. It sets out where they can go from there on in as it moves into a sweeter verse that recalls Girls’ Generation more than their younger label mates. It has another double chorus with the first being an exciting bubblegum pop of synths and the second those aforementioned harmonies. Each part is more addictive than the last all leading up to a blistering bridge of more harmonies and duelling speed vocals. The lyrics perfectly match this unstoppable force by telling the story of a girl in a love that is out of control. “Oh Baby I want to bite you, Can’t leave you alone,” they shout at an unsuspecting boy. I feel the same way about this song.
Despite increased reliance on using sounds from groups who are still a big part of the environment, Korean girl groups are in a seriously good place right now. Even if they are imitating, the youthful joy is still palpable in every note they produce. Sonamoo especially look like they can grow to be an incredible group given continued support. Which should be easy since TS has seemingly completely forgotten about Secret. All of these girls have potential to do great things in the future.
What’s your favorite of these five songs? 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.