2018 in K-pop: EDM Until You Drop (Part 2)

In part two of this EDM extravaganza, we look at even more EDM. Wow, shocking. Here’s a gif of Pristin telling you you shouldn’t miss it. Before we start though, I gotta apologize for the fake out, Pristin V will have its moment in the next installment of 2018 in Kpop. And no, it’s not EDM part 3.

Olivia-Hye (ft. Jin Soul), “Egoist”

Drops, while great at developing cathartic moments within a song, have a reputation in pop-music for being a lazy way of composing (see Jennie‘s “Solo”). “Egoist,” like several of its LOONA solo predecessors puts many of those arguments to dust. Not only are there three distinctive drops within the chorus/post-chorus, each one is used as a piece of the puzzle, not as a moment of culmination. That doesn’t make “Egoist” perfect–Olivia’s immature vocals falter when forced to hold up an aggressive arrangement, and the Jinsoul feature felt haphazard. That’s a small price to pay though for something as self-confident as this.

Weki-Meki, “Metronome” (Lucky)

If APink takes the crown for pop-drop, “Metronome” wins best groove. I always feel like the Jay-Z head-bobbing meme when listening to it–which fits the concept of a metronome–so extra points are deserved for that. Unfortunately there is a tendency for songs reliant on an underlying pulse to sound droning. “Metronome” doesn’t really escape that, but it interjects just enough smooth sectional changes and parallel rhythmic vocals to keep things less monotone while its concept stays whole.

G-IDLE, “LATATA” (I Am)

This a song that makes its mark through style and approachability. The melody is beautiful and has a really nice balance against Soyeon‘s distinct, but nearly overbearing rap presence. There’s a lot of deliberate restraint despite sailing down river of popular tropes.  The verses have a whispered staccato that gives parallel to the punching, but equally understated beat. The pre-chorus is particularly stunning in its use of glissando that is counterintuitive in its appeal given the traditional role of the pre-chorus as a crescendo to the chorus (which “LATATA” still does in a classic way). The chorus has its own gorgeous use of descending scales that give it a melancholic flair behind the upbeat synth. The drop is appropriately understated as well but still punchy enough given the stylized “LA – Ta -TA” post-chorus. I can’t help but tip my hat to a song that takes the boring K-pop “I’m cool” formula and undercuts it ever so slightly.

CLC, “Black Dress” (Black Dress)

Where “LATATA” lacks in vocal punch, “Black Dress” from older sister group CLC carries it in spades. I can even forgive stupid chant section that infamously ruins many a song because it is just that good. The elation in the pre-chorus alone is worth a place on best of lists. Then a nice crunchy drop that slides itself easily into a post-chorus and the outro? Vocals with musicality and depth? Balanced production? Arrangement that doesn’t stale?  A dance break before the second verse?? “Black Dress” not getting its due in a year of songs blowing up left and right while embodying everything K-pop is about musically is a tragedy.

(And you know what goes harder than the original version of “Black Dress”? The REMIX.)

Younha, “Parade” (RescuE)*

The best word to describe the brand of EDM in “Parade” is “gentle.” It doesn’t aspire to be complex in rhythm or melody, and that is perfectly fine. In fact, “Parade” is a grounded re-interpretation of Younha’s prior ventures into atmospheric pop/EDM meant for a pop audience versus the music found in SubsonicWhile I personally prefer Younha’s music in the Supersonic–Just Listen–Subsonic triad, RescuE brings with it a modern look and a stronger K-hip-hop influence that works well with Younha’s timbre. The synths are twinkly, and the melody is full of classic Younha vocal grace. From the airy stroke of a paintbrush that is the pre-chorus to the ad-lib-vibrato flourish in the chorus hook to the middle 8 worthy of a Younha piece, I can’t say that I’m too upset about the change that is RescuE.

(*yes it’s technically a 2017 album, but it came out late enough that it wasn’t in 2017 discussions)

GWSN, “YOLOWA” (The Park in the Night–Part 1)

What stood out to me when listening to “YOLOWA” was hearing a lot of tropical house and reggae influence yet never feeling like the influence was being advertised like most songs. The main drop is driven by synths with a clear reference to steel pans. There is phrasing and melody common to such K-pop reggae-ton (see “LATATA” for a comparative example). So the style is clearly there along with every cliche ever–and for some reason I’m not too bored. Maybe it’s the nonchalance and joy. Maybe it’s the kazoo-thing at the end overlaying the outro-drop.

It’s definitely the kazoo. You can’t go wrong with kazoo.

LOONA, “열기(9)” (++)

While I’d never fight for this song as a title track or call it inventive, there’s one thing going for it, and that is a melody with comfortable flow and beauty. The synth drop is less of a drop and more of rhythmic piece for the vocal line, with a simple, cutting, arpeggio that is its at its best during the outro. Not a lot of EDM puts faith in its melody and this is one of the few tracks that does. Sometimes the ED part of EDM is better an afterthought.

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