The moment 2ne1 stepped onto the scene the k-pop world changed forever. Until then girl groups had two choices: be unbearably cute or jaw-droppingly sexy. YG Entertainment created a third option; it was downright Rousseauian. The girls of 2ne1 had all the swagger to keep up with any boy group out there. Case in point, their Big Bang label mates.
Since then we have seen that formula copied a million times over. We saw 4minute turn into a pseudo-sexy hot mess. We saw T-ara channel their inner Britneys and Christinas. And we saw Amber try to out-tomboy CL herself. The list goes on and on. Girl groups are no longer about dressing homogeneously and singing odes to the Siwons of the world.
It’s about being different, fierce and breaking the rules.
Two years and a slew of girl groups later, enter A Pink.
It’s like these girls hopped in a time machine and rode to the mystical world of 1998. They have been dubbed “organic idols” and compared to the likes of S.E.S and Fin.K.L. Visually, it appears as though they are banking on society’s nostalgia and discomfort with the current provocative concepts. But do they amount to any more than that?
To answer this query we need to look at their first mini album The Seven Springs of A Pink. The album opens with an orchestral intro that sounds like it belongs in a Disney princess movie. A minute and thirty seconds later it melts seamlessly into the first song “I Don’t Know.”
The first thing I noticed listening to this track is that it lacks the punch and glamour of most modern k-pop songs. It’s light and fluffy and sounds exactly like the music video looks. In fact, it’s reminiscent of something Adam Young of Owl City would produce. The bubbly synth sounds paired with the string and brass sections make it a well-rounded, marketable song. This makes sense as it is their promotional track.
From “I Don’t Know” the album moves on to “It Girl.” And really, there isn’t much to this song. In an album of only four songs it manages to be a filler track in that it’s adorable, flat and doesn’t go anywhere. There is no difference between the verses and the chorus and the end result sounds like something borrowed from Girls’ Generation‘s first album. On the plus side, the english at the beginning was coherent so that was nice.
The last two songs “Wishlist” and “Boo” take all the synthesized elements from “I Don’t Know” and kick it into overdrive. The diverse instrumentation has all but melted away and what’s left is definitely from the same vein as Fireflies or Light’s Saviour.
There is a very distinct sound to k-pop these days. It doesn’t matter if it’s SM, YG or one of the numerous smaller companies. Right now loud electro pop reigns supreme. Heavy electronic beats plus processed vocals equals success. Think 2ne1′s Go Away or SHINee‘s Lucifer. The departure from that sound is what could make A Pink one of the most successful idol groups this side of 2009. The songs on The Seven Springs of A Pink are as catchy as mainstream k-pop but they have that synth pop feel. They are original while still being only semioriginal.
However, I am a pessimist when it comes to the staying power of concepts in k-pop. It is considered a desirable skill to be able to drop one look and immediately pick up its polar opposite. Inasmuch, Son Na Eun looks adorable in her school uniform today but could just as easily pull of hot pants tomorrow.
Hello there. You can call me Penny. I’m just a girl from New Mexico with an affinity for pop culture. I spent half my life in ballet shoes and the other half staring at sheet music. Now I tentatively review k-pop for McRoth’s Residence. I think we should be friends. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on twitter @maxwellattack.