It doesn’t always hit me how thick the K-pop jelly is until people start requesting I write reviews for pop groups that I have either never heard of or have completely looked over. One good example of such a group is the female sensation, Dal Shabet.
I didn’t realize they were actually popular (and still alive, for that matter) until they started snagging a shit-storm of awards for best rookie group of 2011. Then I kind of had to start paying them attention because they were likely here to stay. And stay they have, because the ladies are back this week with their latest single, “Hit U“.
Musically, Dal Shabet are another run of the mill girl group that hasn’t exactly broken new ground on the K-pop front. They have, however, maintained a strong sense of self, which I guess counts for something. So far, Dal Shabet’s singles have captured a ooey-gooey sweetness that once plagued the scene in 2010, and while I can’t say that you’ll find me vibing to their music (yet), I certainly cannot deny the fact that there is a certain “charm” to their flavor of hyper, electro-pop.
Cutesy pop music exists because a lot of people enjoy the shit out of it and carries with it a very vibrant character that, while not necessarily catering to everybody, definitely caters to a ginormous chunk of people who indulge themselves in Asian pop music (and pop music, in general).
As much as the best of us would rather cutesy music die and burn in the pits of fucking hell, it’s an “art form” that will always exist in one form or another because the music industry needs it. The music industry needs to be pulled in every which way – be it toward cutesy, angsty, or hood (wha-what) – because this way it won’t remain stinky-stagnant and monochromatic forever.
Besides, it’s not like it has to suck big, hairy balls, and something tells me Dal Shabet have at least attempted to interpret cute, electro-pop in a way that isn’t entirely unforgivable. For instance, one of their hit singles, “Pink Rocket“, was extremely chirpy and colorful, but I have to admit that it didn’t necessarily annoy me. In fact, it was kind of…hypnotizing? It had a great beat and interesting melodies, things that carried through into their later music. (“Pink Rocket” Music Video)
By now, it pretty much goes without saying that Dal Shabet are really driving the ‘cute’ and ‘girly’ style home. How out of character was it then when they came back this month with “Hit U,” a song that is the exact opposite of everything I’ve come to describe of Dal Shabet? A part of me would have preferred these ladies to continue experimenting with different degrees of electronic influences in their cute style, so I can’t say that I’m too thrilled to see yet another K-pop group go bi-polar on dat ass.
“Hit U” is not strong. It wants to be, but it doesn’t quite get there. “Hit U” sounded promising in the teaser, but listening to it now, there’s definitely not enough of a structural development for it to stick. Dal Shabet were inclined to feature some interesting electronic beats and nuances in their frillier tunes, but here, those details are completely lost. It’s as if Dal Shabet literally traded in their rosy costumes for tight-ass black shit and called it a day. Uh, no ma’am. It may seem easy to go emo all of a sudden, but it’s way more difficult when one has to be “dark” and also bust out music that resonates true to one’s musical identity in the process.
In almost every medium – film, literature, music, and art – going “dark” (conceptually) seems to be automatically perceived as something good. Like, “Omo, look at poor noona, she’s sad and angsty! Oh, this is so deep!“. In many ways, yes, expressing a “darker” side is refreshing. But is it really always a good thing? Well, I don’t think so, especially when it just doesn’t make sense to go so dark and to such extremes as K-pop seems to in their concepts. We’re all human and we’re all capable of feeling like shit and some of us even feel like beating people up because they make us feel like shit (cue “Hit U”), but for “going dark” to translate well into a visual and audible experience, all the correct elements have to be there or else the interpretation will be futile. I think it was this exact measure of how dark to go that screwed Dal Shabet in the ass because what they have presented with “Hit U” is not genuine or good. It’s a cheap, lifeless and, above all else, a very emotionally deprived “dark” idea that was fucked from the start.
It doesn’t even matter if Dal Shabet can sing well (which we’re not even getting into) or if the beat of the song is catchy. “Hit U” doesn’t correlate with who Dal Shabet are as a girl group. It doesn’t have the spunk or appeal that was present in their previous singles, and most importantly, Dal Shabet had no business going dark. It’s as simple as that. Aside from the fact that they’re just following the same, tired K-pop habits, this whole concept was very poorly executed in my opinion. Their company went into this thinking that if Dal Shabet go dark, we’re suddenly going to think they’re good, but no, that’s not true. It actually very rarely works in K-pop now and that’s just a fucking shame.
The bottom line is that Dal Shabet need to go back to being overtly cute as fuck because they actually had that shit on lock. For real.
via Asian Junkie
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