On their last couple of releases APink has seemingly hesitated on what step to take next. Pink Revolution saw them try to sound a little more mature; its follow-up, Pink Up!, saw them take a step back. If anything, it proved that the K-pop veterans can do both – and also that a gradual evolution is the way to go. That makes One & Six a bit of a surprise: it is a giant leap. The visuals are different; the name drops the “pink” convention again; and the lead single, “I’m So Sick”, hits the accelerator on that classy, clubby sound – a sound you’d not expect from the girls, despite the whole evolution thing we just said earlier. It makes enough of an impression that, even if the rest of the mini settles down into something more familiar (but with a bit more edge), you can’t help but imagine that hazy aesthetic. Does it suit them? It takes some getting used to – and the lead single reminds me of Lovelyz at the start, for some reason – but they can carry it, no doubt. Whether this is really the direction they’ll take now, or if they’ll take another step back, remains to be seen. [NB] | 3/5
First, an update from an entry we wrote three months ago: Momoland’s “Bboom Bboom” has become a legitimate hit. (Just when I got cautious in making that prediction.) It never quite topped the official Gaon charts (they were held off by Ikon) but it lingered in the top ten for months. And, in a scene where songs have a relatively short lifespan, it finds itself stretching its arms out around the world, a feat usually reserved for groups from bigger agencies. I’ve just seen two cousins of mine, who’d otherwise not post about K-pop, talk about how “Bboom Bboom” is stuck in their heads – and they’re just among many others on my feeds. So, we’re reacting to that by featuring five songs from famed Korean producer Shinsadong Tiger, he who’s responsible for that earworm – and many others across this wave of K-pop success.
APink’s last album, Pink Revolution – note: I am not counting Dear, mostly a compilation of rearranged singles – saw the group shift their sound ever so slightly, towards a more mature, R&B-ish sound that made the most of the group’s vocal strengths. That, somehow, did not click with everyone. I liked it, but some were alienated, and while it did well on the charts, the reaction seemed more muted. Is Pink Up the group backtracking? It certainly sounds more familiar, more APink, down to lead single “Five” being an almost note-for-note flip of their earlier single “Luv”. (It’s not unusual in K-pop.) Perhaps the only concession to the last album was second track “콕콕”. And yet I’m not disappointed. I was hoping they’d continue down that path – or maybe I’m just completely into “Only One” from the previous album. But, then, APink has pinned down that innocent sound that does not feel cloying like most stereotypical K-pop girl groups – not even the ones I actually like. It makes sense for them to revisit it, to return to it, even. I don’t know. Maybe it really is just me. [NB] | 3/5
APink has not strayed from their innocent (but not cloying) lane since their debut, but with Pink Revolution, their third full-length album, the, err, revolution is both subtle and shocking at the same time. Just one listen to the opening track (and lead single) “Only One” hints at a more mature sound that, save for a couple of tracks, builds towards something that’s not much of a grand statement but an expression of intent. Pink Memory was not cloying, sure, but it still had the hallmarks of your typical K-pop “innocent” sound. That album proved that the sound still suited them – especially when they swerve towards ballad territory, especially when Jung Eun-ji is leading the charge – but the entry of acts like GFriend somewhat made these vets stick out a bit. But, again, this isn’t a grand statement. It’s not a “we’re grown up” thing. They never needed to claim that. You don’t even get an inkling of it from the release of their fan appreciation single “The Wave”, which closes this record. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Pink Revolution is how it just happened – they themselves claim the decision to get producing team Black Eyed Pilseung for their lead single came naturally – and it’s so much of a no-brainer you don’t even notice it. [NB] | 4/5
A similarly daunting task stares down at us in this week’s installment of How to Collect Korean Pop Music: the girl groups. To our advantage, this means something far more up Rainy’s alley, which means we don’t have to rack our heads thinking of acts worth putting here. (Let this be an apology to the people who told us we missed out on a critical boy group, TVXQ, who are arguably the K-pop scene’s first boy group to amass the following we’d later see with Super Junior and Exo. Yes, we know, we know.)