K-POP / REVIEWS

Breaking Down After School’s Japanese Singles “Diva” & “Bang!”

 

Contributing writer drowningn00b isn’t feeling After School this year. Find out what has his panties in a twist below!

This has not been a good year for After School at all. The AS sub-unit Orange Caramel keeps releasing the same song with different lyrics, AS RED and BLUE failed to gain traction, and as amazing as their tap routine was, “Shampoo”, the single and album, didn’t live up to expectations. Lastly, one of their better assets, Bekah, “graduated”, leaving a gaping hole of sass and color in the AS roster which has yet to be filled. So why not turn around that bad luck and try Japan?

Girls’ Generation exceeded expectations and garnered controversy for being a “leggy” group (whatever that means), while BoA has reigned supreme forever. Even KARA has found amazing success on their Japanese conquest. Following those examples, AS released Japanese versions of two of their hits, “Diva” and “Bang!”. How do these stack up? Read on and learn how.

The first revision, “Bang!”, is a hyper-remix, with more electronic beats than the Korean vocaloid SeeU making the rounds right now. The original had pronounced drumbeats and hand-clapping, with pseudo-horns blaring every once in a while, as well as unpolished vocals, singing closer to shouts than actual harmonies. To update it, the producers decided to add heavy electronic swirls, a bigger sound and chirps aplenty. The result, in short, is a mess. The remix adds too much to a song that already saw an update in the ‘Shampoo’ record. If a couple of layers were removed, this would have been bearable. Sadly, it’s annoying as hell to listen to.

Their second single “Diva” follows “Bang!” in terms of remixing, but not completely grating on the nerves. The original is my favorite AS single, mainly because of the shouting, the production that made it easy to follow and Bekah and Kahi ruled that track. It does have its problems, including auto-tuning JungAh beyond recognition and the dance break leaves something to be desired. The remix has similar problems to its predecessor, but it does have its positives. The song is smoother in its execution and the dance break is improved by the synth overlay. Still, the track is way too busy. Bekah’s replacement on this one, Lizzy, does not have the personality of her unnie, making her rap feel like water; no flavor, but necessary.

I will say, however, that After School sound better in the updated versions as a group. The years of practice since the originals have worked out the kinks in their harmonies, making them a unified choir, if you will, than a bunch of rookie girls shouting together.

That being said, “Diva” and “Bang!” work as pop songs because of their sing-a-long nature and the raw quality of the overall voices and production. The Japanese remixes, as polished as they are, are flat and uninspired. The gloss works in their original Japanese song “Super Sexy”, where the production is unique and layered over itself, not on an existing track. However, Kahi, on all Japanese tracks, sounds like an insecure 12 year old newbie than the over-30 k-pop veteran that she is. One would think that with three months between singles this would have been fixed, at least addressed, but Kahi’s personality on “Diva” is a ghost of the leader I’ve grown to appreciate.

After School is not the first to re-do their Korean singles for the Japanese market, but the quality disparity between those singles is clear. Within that time, AS, as a group, has moved away from their Pussycat Dolls-esque concept (or pussy pop, made famous by McRoth here) to a sophisticated girl group after the success of “Because of You”. The mistake was to replace the originals’ approach to the songs with their new style.  The results were clunky to say the least. “Diva” is a step-up from “Bang!”, but in order to get out of its current rut, After School needs find a better mix of concept and vocal styling than these two remixes.

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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 paulaboy2505@aol.com, or better yet, follow me on twitter, where I do most of my social media-ing, @drowningn00b. See y’all lataz

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