Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Hyuna – Babe

Baa ram ewe… baa ram ewe……


Ryo Miyauchi: Coincidentally or not, the digital breeze of “Babe” unwinds Hyuna from her more commandeering presence and returns the singer emotionally to the age of her debut — exactly a decade ago. After 10 years of showing different ways how she can capture attention, she flexes effortlessness over stylistic flair here. While she still switches between multiple hats, the soft, toy-box sounds make all of the role changes feel like a breezy stroll. It may lack glamor for such a personality, but she has more than earned a moment to just lay back.

Jessica Doyle: So last time she came out with something defiant and dance-focused and I said it sounded lonely (and Kogan disagreed); now she comes out with something more seemingly insecure and seems… much happier? As in, smiling all over her lives (and shrugging off the lip-sync even more than usual) and having her backup dancers turn the official dance practice into a Try Not to Laugh video. I do have opinions about “Babe,” namely that calling it her least catchy single since “Ice Cream” is praising with faint damnation, and that Following is probably my favorite album of hers so far, and if “Tell me I’m your babeh, babeh” didn’t come from the same songwriting session as “Natbodaneum bame wa” then I will eat LE’s eyeliner. But mostly I’m just happy that she’s happy.

Nortey Dowuona: Bouncy, clinking synths slide over the both slinky and at once filling bass and cascading drums. Even the trap breakdown doesn’t feel appropriative. It also helps Hyuna’s a superb pop singer, swagging on her beat with so much chill it feels powerful.

Patrick St. Michel: I’ve accepted that certain parts of my mind are practically locked in amber because of my age. Like, how I’m probably never going to hear music that truly tilts me off my axis the I did before age 25. Hyuna’s “Bubble Pop!” was such an instance, one of several K-pop songs that found thrilling new angles to American-born sounds and made me want to learn everything about this world. “Babe” feels reflective, both for this younger self and for a time when Korean pop seemed decade-ahead of everything else. Echoes of global pop circa 2016-17 abound, from the pitch-shifted syllable squeaks to the whole “tropical house” tempo, yet the song never feels like something emptied out of “Shape Of You”‘s grease trap. The small details add a lot, like that 8-bit glow around the chorus and the slight beat changes, but ultimately it’s the feeling of twisting the conventional around — lacking in a lot of K-pop, much of it prone to recycling. Yeah, it’s nostalgia, but “Babe” indulges in it too, the subject of the song sparking up feelings that fade over time and even twisting it into a joke by the end. Hyuna time travels backwards, and finds a familiar joy here.

Kalani Leblanc: “Babe” feeds the grand K-pop trope of incorporating age with femininity (see: IU’s magnum opus “Twenty-Three” and Song Jieun’s originating  “Twenty-Five”) in the most Hyuna way possible. The xylophone might be Hyuna riding on the back of worn out trends, but it sounds uncannily fresh since it’s paired with the most passioned effort in her solo releases since “Red.” Shinsadong Tiger’s detailed background even adapts to the singing and perseveres through that rap. If you wanna give Hyuna enough credit, the lyrics like could be a mutter of annoyance to the watchful public, who still see the bright eyed 4Minute member, hiding like E.T. in a blanket under a boyfriend plot. 

Alex Clifton: Hyuna pulls a Benjamin Button in front of her crush, going from a worldly, confident 26-year-old to a “baby girl.” I get the sentiment, although the de-ageing process makes me feel a bit weird as someone Hyuna’s age. (What does this make me, an old maid?) Musically, “Babe” is weirdly disparate, featuring a seductive xylophone intro, chipmunked vocals I don’t hate, and a hearty synthy chorus, all pulled together with a killer hook. It does get a bit grating after so many production changes, preventing me from immediately hitting the replay button, but it’s a nice change of pace from Hyuna’s previous solo work.

Ramzi Awn: The textbook production on “Babe” fails to take advantage of its candy-coated sweetness. Hyuna’s delivery is commendable, but the song falls short. 

Alfred Soto: As soon as the trop house sequence and manipulated vocals started, I mourned the lost evening. Turns out “Babe” has overdubs and tricky changes commensurate with the lustrous vocals.

Adaora Ede: Vintage synth gets thrown in line with the overall ageless theme, polkadotted across the entire track are subtle post-post-punky vibes, Hyuna LITERALLY coos her verses, and it all goes together in a not-mashed-up-together way. Weirdly, I am somehow reminded of early-Charli XCX’s witchy house a la 2013’s “You (Ha Ha Ha)”. “Babe” is good because you don’t know where it going to go. Sonically, it’s not as deliberate and set in method and genre as other Hyuna hits (read: “Bubble Pop!”‘s, well, bubbly summer jam and “Red”‘s snotty trap) but it’s a seamless trip into the world of space pop.

Maxwell Cavaseno: A mantra-like scale of deceleration (26…) tethered to a classically nasal whine (25…), “Babe” works like a regression to childhood far (24…) from Freud’s creepy insistence on some shit involving startling horses and your mom (21…), but more or less closer to Cobain’s insistence that it’s infants (19…) who have the ability to truly express our joy with one another. Chimes (17…) are used in gestures of esoteric wisdom but are also simple lullaby tricklets (15…) falling down alongside you as you fall further and further back alongside Hyuna. By the time the record ends, her voice moved from nag to coo to cyber-quartzed gurgling. The love is so infantile, so strange, it doesn’t even feel like something human or rational. It just is.

Reader average: [6.8] (5 votes)

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4 Responses to “Hyuna – Babe”

  1. Wasn’t the whole point of this that she’s been infantalized over the course of her career or did I massively project something onto this that wasn’t there.

  2. @Anna; That’s been a commonly fielded interpretation, but as well there’ve been a couple people who argue that she’s been typically pushed as ‘mature’. In the meta sense it still works along the former, but I admittedly parsed it down to the sake of this one song in how I absorbed it.

  3. um…. this was OK

  4. @Maxwell it is absolutely both of these could be true at the same time :)