written by: drowningn00b
Simplicity is a hard thing to nail down. The line between a song that’s simple and one that’s boring is blurry, and attempting to fall on the right side of that fence is not always possible. Brown Eyed Girls’ “Cleansing Cream” is an example of simplicity gone wrong. The strings are grand and the piano is overblown. Not to be outdone by mere instruments, Narsha, Ga-In and Je-A let go of their reins and run amuck during the climax and the letdown of the song, leading to a cream that’s abrasive, rather than cleansing. Alternatively, Sunny Hill’s “Pray”, the spiritual predecessor to the aforementioned track, knows how far to push to make a cohesive song and still get the right emotion from the listener. The other side of this argument is the dance track.
Sunny Hill’s new single, “Princess and Prince Charming (Is the White Horse Coming?)” straddles the fence between an up-tempo dance track and a loud mess that is loud for the sake of being loud.
“Princess and Prince Charming (Is the White Horse Coming?)”, according to the liner notes for its MV, is how the girls feel about white knights in relationships. “Starting out with the question whether there really is a prince/princess on a white horse, “Is the White Horse Coming” speaks out for the members’ view and feelings about a generation that considers the search for their other half as an investment technique, looking only at the worldly specifications they offer rather than their character or personality.” (“Princess and Prince Charming” MV liner notes). Cultural commentary has a place in pop music [see Bruce Springsteen], but because Sunny Hill is a mainstream k-pop group, that commentary needs a musical edge. Since they have no established rapper for a street edge, why not rock? “White Horse” continues the wave of big band sounds Lee Min Soo is so fond of these days, following the format of BEG’s “Hot Shot” and Sunny Hill’s own “Bad Boys”. As a dance track, “White Horse” works, with a bass beat that does its job and regular shifts to keep the song dynamic. It even includes a fast playing Spanish guitar during the bridge that keeps the energy going. This is where the good parts in “White Horse” reach their peak. As an updated version of “Bad Boys”, this song needed a new reason to be heard, but it doesn’t have a firm foothold anywhere.
An electric guitar introduces the new single, leading you to believe it’ll be a pop-rock/dance song, until the horns start. From there, the electronic beats and the instruments compete with one another for attention; a cacophony of sound that’s closer to the trash-can-banging spectacle of “STOMP!” than a pop song.
What “Hot Shot” and “Bad Boys” got right, and where “White Horse” fails, is having a point of focus. All three are dance oriented, with horns blaring and high percussion sounds all over. They even have electronic elements (wouldn’t be k-pop without them), but the former two put the emphasis on the instruments. The electronics only serve as background harmonies to the raging horns and schizophrenic bass. On “White Horse”, the instruments drive the car, while the beats fool around with the stick shift. This competition is aided by Sunny Hill, themselves two sets of disparate vocal deliveries. Having to focus on those differences while also having to understand what to listen for musically is a terrible task for a listener, especially if one is expected to dance along to such a mess.
Sunny Hill works as a group when its differences are exploited, or done away with completely. “Pray” eliminates the distinct elements in the girls’ vocal deliveries and personae, while “Bad Boys” and “Is the White Horse Coming?” play them up to an absurd degree. This is one of the reasons I love Sunny Hill, whether Chang Hyun is there or not; their individual caricatures are given the space to come alive, but can come together effectively should the track require it. Composer Lee Min Soo failed to understand that for “White Horse”, who decided that more complexity on top of an already busy template was the right answer.