written by: testamentvm
Spica’s latest single, “Painkiller”, off their repackaged album (also titled “Painkiller”) is yet another Ryan Jhun-produced power pop-ballad that does not fail to impress. Jhun, a heavyweight in kpop production circles, is known for producing songs like “Ring Ding Dong” (SHINee), “No Other” (Super Junior), and “Chiddy Chiddy Bang Bang” (Lee Hyori). Given his impressive track record, I was not surprised that Spica’s new single would be a keeper.
On the instrumental
Despite a cliché (if dramatic) piano intro reminiscent of Christina Aguilera’s “Hurts”, the song immediately follows with an textured drum kit with multiple layers on the kick for that bricolage-style, complex crunch attack that’s become trendy stateside. Despite the inevitably predictable structure of the instrumental (a ballad is a ballad is a ballad), it was invigorating to hear this type of production and creativity reach kpop. Combined with a great, space age-esque 80s synth that comes in the buildup the chorus, the instrumental comes together as a tightly produced, clean work.
On the song
The similarities between “Potently” (one of the more egregious mistranslations of a kpop song title I’ve seen in a while) and “Painkiller” are unmistakable. “Painkiller” follows a similar structure to “Potently”, where the two main vocalists, Kim Boa and Kim Bohyung, sing the majority of the verses, and the other vocalists (Kim Narae, Park Juhyun, and Yang Jiwon) sing the chorus. For that reason, the verses, rather than the chorus, are where the song draws its staying power.
That said, “Painkiller”’s clearest improvement over “Potently” comes from its dramatic, emotive dimension. The arrestingly raw darkness in “Painkiller”, and the poignant voices of Spica’s two power vocalists make this song a fine example of a what a well-executed kpop ballad should sound like. In particular, the whispered, airy, “It’s unbelievable”, was a creative touch that provided a meaningful contrast to the vocal firepower in preceding sections.
In particular, leader Kim Boa deserves a special mention. At 25 years (27 in Korean age), Boa – who, for better or worse, shares the same name as the SM cashcow BoA – is the eldest in Spica, with a deep, striking voice and the confidence of an industry veteran, which, given her experience first as a guide vocalist and later as the vocal trainer at Sweetune, is not at all unmerited. She’s Kahi with a touch more sass, and a helluva pair of lungs to match. On this track in particular, Boa brings the final bit of sensitive anguish to breathe life into the otherwise flat lyrics.
Spica’s “Painkiller” is a fabulous 3rd single, and more importantly, represents an improvement for a group well on their way to becoming the dominant female rookie group of 2012.