written by: Drowningn00b
Female sexuality in k-pop is such a tricky thread to tread. A starlet can’t go too far because she’ll get banned and branded awful labels and phrases by the k-pop audience. But they also can’t hold so much back because then the effect is fake. Cube Entertainment throws out those rules when it comes to their two flagship ladies, G.NA and HyunA. When they’re together, these girls aren’t great. They first appeared together tangentially for Lim Jeong Hee’s “Golden Lady”, which couldn’t light a match, even with lighting fluid (great song, though). They then collaborated for HyunA’s debut mini, “Bubble Pop!” in a syrupy ballad titled “A Bitter Day” with Junhyung. Like I said, not great.
Apart, however, things get crazy. Ever since “Bananas”, G.NA can’t seem to leave on enough clothes to perform on stage (see “2Hot“). And HyunA’s “Bubble Pop!” was so apparently hot, that it lead to the promotion of “Just Follow”. Throughout it all, though, I couldn’t take it seriously. HyunA’s gyrations weren’t enough to convince me that she was a sex kitten. “Bubble Pop!”, as an allegory for sex, could turn me on like a clam mouth.
To make matters worse, the idea of a put-on persona was strengthened with the release of the video to her latest single, “Ice Cream”. Are those fake tattoos? Why do they look so bad? Did she really just say “my dark skin” without a hint of bronzer on? And is anyone still listening to Psy? Is there more to the music than this synthetic hair exterior, or is “Melting” doing just that: melting?
As it opens, “Melting” commands you to listen, literally. Starting with a marching troupe with accompanying snare drums, band-style, “Straight Up” puts HyunA, alone to lead this ship, whether you like it or not. Having helped pen some of these songs, HyunA wants you to view her as more than just a trash pop princess; she wants you to believe she’ll seduce you, make you believe you did so, do what she wants with you, and leave you without so much as batting an eyelash goodbye. “Straight Up” largely fulfills the commanding part, bringing a relatively deep hip-hop vibe the boys have been doing for a while. The middle eight underwhelms because nothing happens, making me wonder why in hell didn’t Cube get Zico back with HyunA for this.
The driving drums get faster in the lead single, “Ice Cream”. This year’s “Milkshake”, this track is noisy and busy. The synth is too persistent throughout the entire track, and though I thought it would only be in the hook, it’s everywhere. For reasons I can only label as insane, the synth actually gets louder in the chorus. Are they trying to blow out my ears? For his part, Maboos’ bit was a complete waste, only serving as a hype-man who was allowed more time than necessary. You didn’t see Sistar’s hit titled “So Cool feat. Brave Brothers”, now did you? And cheap sexual allegories aside, Cube dropped the ball here. This is clearly a summer song. To be released in the middle of fall is terrible timing. Yet while all of this is negative, I still kind of love this song. The “sexy swag” is there and the beat is catchy and irritating. Her come-ons are as fake as acrylic nails, but there’s no one in the idol sphere who can throw it down like HyunA can. She may be uncomfortable with extending the persona elsewhere, but she’s a natural at faking it on “Ice Cream”.
Thankfully, and disappointingly, “Melting” offers two surprises. On the good side, the indie-dance feel of “Rotten Apple” took me for a turn. Indie sounds have been making the rounds in the idol realm, so it wasn’t a shock to hear it here. That said, I was not expecting Cube to put HyunA anywhere near smart pop. There’s a lightness and aegyo to this song, elements that are not associated with HyunA, that she makes work for her. She isn’t stretching her voice anywhere, remaining one note throughout; a great thing for the vocally challenged to do. As a sexpot who “raps”, hearing her poke fun at herself with such a title shows HyunA is in on the joke.
The disappointing surprise, however, is how much a terrible mess “Very Hot” featuring Liwon is. Banned by two of the three major broadcast channels, it’s the successor to her previous album-closer, “Just Follow” feat. Dok2. Both share the swag of the she-bitch side of her persona, but where the previous was a tighter and fully realized work, “Very Hot” is loose in everything from the production to the lyrics, to the rap style from both Hyuna and Liwon (whoever that is). I like the deep bass in the beginning, and if it was just that throughout the track, A+. However, the drum machine kills the mood. It’s shrill and competes with the Engrish in the chorus. And HyunA doesn’t redeem herself, either. In trying to sound naïve about her physical attractiveness, HyunA manages to throw off the energy built in the beginning.
I like parts of “Melting”. Different sounds for different sides of her. The EP is a step up from “Bubble Pop!” in some ways, while a step back in others. I’m glad there are no dub-step portions, and “Rotten Apple” is a surprisingly good track that takes HyunA into self-deprecating territory. As a single, “Ice Cream” makes HyunA fully embrace her put-ons, where “Bubble Pop!” played too tongue in cheek. Sure, “chocolate ice cream like my dark skin” (source: popgasa.com) is a ridonculous line for someone so pale, but it beats the virginity allusions in the prior single. “Straight Up” brings in a Block B vibe with the heavy hip-hop opener, and it feels like a lost opportunity Zico was not chosen for a recording after his amazing run promoting her Dok2 rap duet, “Just Follow”.
Frankly, I would have released a studio version of that remake than the baffling “Very Hot” and Hyuna’s bland “To My Boyfriend”. It’s a mixed bag, but when at its better moments, “Melting” can be hot.
| Points scale
0 – could do without
0.5 – mediocre/filler
0.75 – pretty good/grew on me
1 – liked immediately
|To My Boyfriend||
Points to stars conversion: [(3/5) x 5] + 0.25*
*there is a 0.25 bonus for every album. The logic is that, if every song were “pretty good”, it’s a 4-star album.