Hey, we ran out of words, give us a break…
Alfred Soto: This newly minted K-pop group curls their vocals around bits purloined from Kesha and Grimes with the zealotry of the converted.
Brad Shoup: All those OMGs are Minajian; the bridge is frightening, like Britney in high dudgeon. “Crush” is frantic but not desperate. It’s like experiencing a rainstorm in a car with good tread.
Cassy Gress: I.O.I. has the problem that I imagine SNSD and Super Junior had when they first came out – there are way too many members to smush into one three-minute song. If I.O.I. sticks around for a while, then familiarity will help a lot with that issue. Aside from that, “kungkwang oo-oh-oo-oh” is a great hook, and lyrically this evokes some of the chaos of a new crush, though the sound doesn’t evoke much more than “dance.”
Thomas Inskeep: This is supposedly “trapical [not a typo] Dutch funk,” which I think is someone having a bit of fun, because to my ears it sounds like contemporary dance-pop that gets a little pneumatic on its chorus. Ridiculously fun.
Iain Mew: “Crush” reminds me of the all-action approach of the kind of songs that got me into K-pop in the first place. It’s not just the passage of time that means that keeping up constant energy isn’t enough on its own though. Ideally this kind of thing should sound like it was thrown together in ten minutes but also that the ten minutes was of such magical productivity that there would be no way to improve on it. This sounds like it was thrown together in ten minutes and pressing deadlines kept anyone from going back and fixing it to fit together properly.
Patrick St. Michel: If you haven’t watched Produce 101… well, maybe don’t read too much about the people who appear in the “Crush” video, because you should really spend a week of your life burning through the just-finished show, wherein a new K-pop girls group is put together in a show half American Idol and half AKB48 election. There is no way I can listen to “Crush” without being a bit biased — mainly because I’m so happy for you, Kim So-hye, who likes collecting trash and playing the ocarina — but it does a good job of, well, highlighting all the things these women were judged on, gathered in a tight package. It peaks with the chorus, a nice electro explosion, but it’s so good it makes the forced elements (errr, the rap) feel OK.
Madeleine Lee: In the period where most of my K-pop-loving peers were following Produce 101, I became obsessed with the Japanese franchise Love Live! School Idol Project. It follows nine girls who become “school idols” to keep their beloved school from closing, but are really just a front to sell character goods and CD singles. The songs are solidly written and hit on the major strains of mainstream J-pop: the uplifting anime theme song, the sparkly electropop song, the epic rock song, etc. For every song, each character’s voice actress records the entire thing, and then the line division is adjusted in the mixing. This probably isn’t how “Crush” was made, but it has that same quality of sounding both highly individualized (the performances) and completely impersonal (the assembly). I realize this accusation could be made towards many large K-pop groups, and that this tension between the individual and the interchangeable is the nature of Produce 101 itself. Still, I can’t help but hear this song as a fill-in-the-blanks template for whoever the top 11 contestants happened to be, and it doesn’t do much to convince me that it’s not. Basically, if you’re listening for your best girl, you will enjoy her part and probably wish she had more. If you’re not, it’s a lightly clubby girl group track with shouty bits and a smooth chorus, and the song that description makes you think of is probably more compelling. Another Love Live!-obsessed friend wondered what the Korean equivalent of its accurately generic J-pop might be like; between the “35 Girls 5 Concepts” sampler and “Crush,” Produce 101 seems to be the answer.