Battle of the Underappreciated K-pop Groups: A.cian vs. Lip Service

A.cian VS Lip Service
With all the Got7s, Red Velvets, and Lee His taking over the charts these days, I figured it was a good time to look at some of the lesser known groups who have had recent releases. Then I figured what better way to celebrate them then with a bloody fight to the death? Who needs Zack Snyder’s “Batman V Superman” when we’ve got Lip Service and A.cian?

The Groups

Naturally enough because of their status as less popular K-pop acts, it’s not easy to find a lot of concrete information on these groups. Lip Service debuted as a two member hip-hop group with rapper Bipa and vocalist Cora with “Yum Yum Yum” in 2014. Their company is hard to pin down; “Yum Yum Yum” was first released by NOW Entertainment but the Youtube channel from that company was never used again. The rest of their videos were released by Sony Music Korea, although they don’t seem to be under that label. Their newest release from last week is on a completely new channel and, again, seems to be with a new company. Many comments on Lip Service’s videos on YouTube are in Russian, alluding to a sizeable fan base in Russia. For their second release “Too Fancy,” Lip Service added a third member, Anna, and now, following the departure of Cora, they’ve added a new vocalist CinD. It’s a bit hard to keep up with, I know, but that’s the life of a less successful rookie group. Wait until you see A.cian…

As far as I can tell, A.cian have gone through a complete change of lineup since their debut in 2012. They debuted with six members, all of whom have left, and even one member who was added later left, leaving only four remaining A.Cian members standing. Like Lip Service, A.cian’s company is a bit of a quandary. I think they debuted with ISS Entertainment and moved onto to Mono Music Korea. Right now, their videos are being released on 1theK, so they could be with anyone. Interestingly enough, they must have a Thai connection as they released a Thai version of one of their songs. When I say interestingly, I mean I finally found something unique about them.

Also on KultScene: Weekly K-pop Faves: March 1(3)-March 19

The Debut

Judging by their debut, Lip Service seemed like a group going for that Crayon Pop/Pungdeng-E route of almost full-on comedy pop. “Yum Yum Yum” is an EDM hip-hop track about a girl who wants to lose weight but can’t because food is too delicious. It’s actually a quite funny takedown of the overly body conscious K-pop world. The line “My day’s going to be over just counting my calories” makes fun of the idol who spends more time worrying about their body than their music. That music is weird and energetic enough to match the childish lyrics. The electronics are supercharged and raps blisteringly fast. It has no regular break or bridge, which gives it the impression of being almost never ending. This means its structure is almost literally just the chorus/verse repeated. “Yum Yum Yum” comes off a little hard to listen to more than once but you’ll have fun that one time.

A.cian’s debut is the exact opposite of “Yum Yum Yum.” “Stuck” is a lo-fi dance pop track about wanting someone to be stuck deep inside. Could this be a gay K-pop anthem? The subdued opening is great, the music track takes a step back to highlight A.cian’s vocals well. It’s also an original choice given the time it was released. Some of the vocals are a bit weird,which I like, and the verse after the first chorus is a kind of talk rap that goes up and down in pitch wildly within each sentence. That chanting chorus sucks the life out of the song, unfortunately. It seems to be trying to do the exact opposite, but losing the lo-fi quality with completely undynamic vocals loses the song its original edge.

Result: Lip Service by a smidgen. “Yum Yum Yum” is too bizarre and fun to let something as dull as “Stuck” beat it.

The New Release

Jump ahead four years and A.cian come back with a new lineup and sound. That sound unfortunately is little more than an amalgamation of all the popular sounds of the day. Namely the boy next door revival of B1A4 and Got7 with added rapping on “Touch”. It takes a certain amount of skill to pull off this sound and look for boys, as it can very easily become embarrassing. While they don’t do too badly overall, it doesn’t work. The song is led nicely by electric guitars and has appropriately silly choreography. It has this 8-bit electronic sound which sounds awful and was probably there to make it a bit weird or modern. The rapping as well doesn’t work. I recently mentioned how Yezi’s rap in “Mirror” gave it a modern edge thanks to the tone of her voice; A.cian do something similar but it misses out simply because they can’t rap as well as Yezi. They put on slightly heavier rap voices that don’t work in this context.

A.cian’s latest song may not have been a huge improvement in terms of quality, but they at least got a bump in production costs not just for their music but video too. Lip Service seem to have gone backward in this regard since 2014. Their recent new single “Hello” continues their love of EDM and hip-hop but with a more serious tone. The sound is sub-par for this day and age, each element is rough and poorly mixed, and the video is something even Blady would be ashamed of. It’s frustrating because this could have been at least a great track with a higher production value and added polish. It utilizes the vocals and music together in different parts to contrast against each other. Sweet vocals go over pianos while fierce raps introduce the electro elements. Also, judging by the video, the song is about drinking too much at parties which is an interesting subject for idols to approach. The subtitle of the song “Only Eating Dew” is evocative as well. Without translated lyrics, it’s hard to understand what it really evokes though. The confrontational rap post chorus and the reintroduction of the piano right after suggest a sincerity to the song. Over images of drinks being poured and smashed disco balls, it’s a beautiful sobering moment amongst the mess.

Result: Lip Service. Again, the eccentricity of Lip Service wins out. Flawed beauty is exactly what I like from groups like this.

Also on KultScene: Artist Spotlight: 4Ten

The Best of the Rest

Unfortunately the best of what’s left for Lip Service is between a track off their new album which sounds like Bipa’s audition for Mnet’s “Unpretty Rapstar” and a rap/vocal coffee shop R&B duet (yes, both of those are inherently bad). I’ve gone for “What If Spring Comes” (the coffee shop song if you couldn’t tell by that title) mostly because it has the best rapping of their songs. Like “Yum Yum Yum,” it has little structure apart from Bipa’s raps and Anna and guest vocalist J-Lin’s choruses. It feels like it goes round in circles but the vocals are all quite good so it isn’t too bad. I also love the cheapness of the video. The low quality works well this time because it fits the whole aesthetic of the song being a quick turnaround to show Lip Service were still a thing after Cora left. Judging by shadows and the grainy footage, it was shot on a smartphone as well. The video has shots of the most random things cut against the members singing in their own awkward frames. Everything about it screams this was done quickly and cheaply and there was no effort to hide that. I like that frankness.

A.cian’s highlight is actually really similar to “Touch” but much better in every aspect. “Driving” is a bubblegum pop song that uses driving as a metaphor for falling in love. The vocals all play up the sweetness of the track with the falsetto chorus being a highlight. The rap this time fits in better with the whole track and don’t outstay their welcome. Everything about is classic pop from the stupid metaphor to the gloriously fun dancing. It’s generic but there’s little to fault with something as delightful as this.

Result: A.cian. “Driving” is the most classically good song of what both can offer.

The Worst of the Rest

A.cian’s “OUCH” is everything bad about modern boy groups rolled into one. Ever since B.A.P made it big, boy groups have been clambering to get that tough guy rap sound down. While some are succeeding, most are being left behind. And judging by this, that’s a good thing. “OUCH” is a mess of electronics and guitars complete with subpar B.A.P Daehyun-esque vocals and too many raps. A.cian once again chant in the chorus but to little effect whereas B.A.P’s Bang Yong Guk can growl a chorus into something really aggressive; A.cian sound like young boys in comparison to the power of B.A.P. They also try to imitate BTS with the choreography, essentially stealing some moves from the choreography of “Boy in Luv.” They don’t have the skill to pull it off though, lacking fluidity in strong moves and resulting in A.cian looking like robots.

Groups that are trying to make a point or are maybe doing something in service of a joke can sometimes get away with imagery that could be considered inappropriate. Lip Service try that with “Too Fancy” but fail miserably. The follow up to “Yum Yum Yum” is similar in sound and structure but not as fun. The song itself is making fun of the consumerist culture in Korea by depicting a girl who wants everything but it’s all too expensive. The images used to portray this in the video however, are ridiculous. Bipa wears braids, lost of gold chains, and dances with a black man while making it rain with a bundle of cash. The girls also attempt to twerk with close ups of their butts. It’s more embarrassing for them than it is offensive, but still, it was stupid to use these images for a song like this. It also steals the sax from Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” which is the most banal thing you can do nowadays.

Result: Tie. “Too Fancy” is overall offensive and “OUCH” is offensive to eyes and ears of the world over, so you can’t separate them.

Lip Service have come out on top with their strangeness being the deciding factor while A.cian have had generic sounds following them throughout their career. Despite some well executed tracks and bad production nearly making them interesting, it isn’t enough to beat a flop girl group. These parody girl groups tend to be some of them most interesting things that K-pop produces. The potent mix of sincerity and desperation creates sounds and looks that transcend what we know as pop music today.

Who do you think is better A.cian or Lip Service? 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.