You’ve asked, and we’ve delivered. Contributing writer drowningn00b has written his review of ‘So Cool’ by the B-E-S-T SISTAR. Does this album help these ladies push (push) their way up the idol ladder? Well, read on and find out!
If you have never heard of Sistar and ‘So Cool’ was your first introduction, you cannot be faulted for liking them or the record. The album is fun, bright and energetic, full of party songs and many hooks to keep you singing along. ‘So Cool’ has all the hallmarks of a Brave Brothers production that make it at once enjoyable and recognizable. Sistar, the group, is full of charisma and personality without a clear concept, which is unique considering every group debuts with one.
That being said, ‘So Cool’ is the textbook definition of repetition, making this LP unoriginal.
“Let’s Get the Party Started” is the intro track that begs the question, “why was this not a longer song?” It has all the elements of a good pop tune, mainly shouting and driving drums, but it cuts too short. It becomes clear as you listen to the rest of the album why the intro is short, but it would have been nice nonetheless. While on the party topic, we reach the latest single “So Cool”. As my first introduction to Sistar, I gravitated to this song like a moth to a flame. The song is fun to listen to; it’s a great party song, with hooks aplenty and a bridge that should have been a rap segment by Brave Brothers, but it still works. However, Soyu sounds strained, as if she’s trying to reach the high notes Hyorin hits with ease. As much as she tries, Soyu falls flat. She has a nice voice within her range, which is where she belongs. As for Dasom, she also suffers from the over-reaching problem, as well as not being a good singer. Overall, “So Cool” is one hell of a song, a success for Sistar, and one of the top songs of this summer.
Following is the synth-heavy “Girls Do It”. Production-wise, it is one of the deeper base songs, which is nice, but it could have gone even deeper. The vocals respond well to this, sounding better as a group. Besides that, “Girls Do It” does not have much going for it. “Girls Do It” is a filler song, and it comes across as such. “Follow Me” starts with a nice guitar loop, but the ubiquitous hand-clapping starts and you’re instantly reminded of a similar hit circa 2NE1’s “I Don’t Care” of 2009. Both are identical for the most part, sharing the aforementioned clapping, the slower pace, as well as the vocal stutter near the end of the hook. The difference between the two is the ramp up to the busier and louder chorus in Sistar’s song. The 2NE1 cut is much better, so go there for your hand-clapping needs.
Out of the new tracks, “New World” is one the gems. The string loop is great, reminding me of graduation ceremonies. The girls sound great together and not just Hyorin + Sistar. The production, though just as busy as any of the other tracks, is more cohesive in scope. No add-on sections for the rapping and bridge sections, making for a smoother listening experience. It does have auto-tune, but it isn’t as intrusive as it is in other pop songs, and it actually helps (!) the song sound better. “New World” is Sistar branching out into new territory, which is a welcome sign.
For Sistar, a ballad isn’t a ballad in the traditional sense. For both “약한 남자 싫어 [I Don’t Want A Weak Man]” and “Oh Baby”, they can be considered mid-tempo ballads. The girls pull off the harmonies well in “Oh Baby”, while Hyorin does her vocal acrobatics on “약한 남자 싫어 [I Don’t Want A Weak Man]”, never overpowering the song and the girls. Though both are over a year old, they show a side of Sistar that should continue. Sure, the brand is devoted to making hit singles, but songs like these help give Sistar more dimension and character as a musical act.
While on the topic of the slower Sistar cuts, “Shady Girl” and “Ma Boy (Special Version)” do it right, the latter including Dasom and Soyu. Both songs have the drum bass loop, the hooks, and the other features I mentioned above. Come to think about it, both songs work because they are copies of one another. What makes them stand out is Hyorin; as an idol vocalist, she’s fantastic. A range out of this world and a presence that’s bigger than she is, Hyorin is an ideal k-pop idol. On both “Shady Girl” and “Ma Boy (Special Version)”, she shows her range and vocal chops, making me wonder when a Hyorin solo track will appear on a Sistar record. (For those wanting to see her in all her glory, check her out on “Immortal Song”, the idol singing competition show.)
“Over” is an interesting cut. For all the bright sounds throughout ‘So Cool’, “Over” is the most hip-hop the album ever gets. The girls don’t sound that great. Hyorin’s ad-libs get buried at times under the loud musical effects, but there is an underlying anger in the vocals. For a group that’s constantly smiling and trying to please their fans and admires, “Over” feels like a rebellious teen. The vocals are deeper than normal and the siren heard throughout is distorted and looped in a way not heard before in k-pop. As one of the stars within the group, Bora steals the spotlight. Unlike other Sistar songs, Bora is heard throughout, shouting lines in distortion and her 16 bars have a slight edge that’s refreshing, even if absent from the new material. “Over” shows a level of experimentation that Sistar seems to have gladly left behind.
Sistar and Brave Brothers are meant for one another. Sistar wants to create a space for themselves within the k-pop mega sphere, and Brave Brothers are hit makers; Sistar is the ideal muse and platform for Brave Brothers to use their tried and true production style on. What becomes clear while listening to ‘So Cool’ is Sistar is the Brave Brothers act that Brave Girls clearly isn’t. Where Brave Girls gets the more experimental and newer elements of the now infamous production, Sistar gets the same production quality that was popular last year with the hyper polish of the Sistar brand. “So Cool” is the better version of “How Dare You” and that is an improved version of “Push Push”. Sure, there is a steady progression from good to fantastic, but at their most basic, all three are exactly the same song. The biggest problem with Sistar is no matter how good they get as a group, they are always retrofitted with their previous big hit to make the next one. Acts like Sistar, and the success they garner are the reasons Brave Brothers will continue their rehashing of that tired style because fans will eat it up as something new, when it isn’t.
As a whole, Sistar’s ‘So Cool’ is a fun listening experience. Brave Brothers knows how to make a hit, and Sistar pulls it off without a hitch. Their pleasant personalities make for a good time, though déjà vu will hit you at almost every song. Sistar’s ‘So Cool’ is still good contemporary pop, with a few interesting and new notes to hit, though wrapped in very stale bubble gum.
Hi! My name is Xtian, and I’m a total pop music whore. I’m from NYC and can be seen dancing in the streets with headphones permanently glued to my ears. I may not have had a musical background, but I’m a lover of all things music, so I’m excited to be bringing a new voice to the McRoth’s funhouse. Y’all can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or better yet, follow me on twitter, where I do most of my social media-ing, @drowningn00b. See y’all lataz!