Friday, December 22nd, 2017

LOONA / Odd Eye Circle – Girl Front

Next up, a frenzied, fizzy mystery…


Mo Kim: As it nears the end of its eighteen-month rollout, the LOONA project has grown from a series of self-contained solo releases into a universe-bending mythos which grows more complex by the second, left for fans to piece together via close analysis of meticulously-arranged videos (often with cameos), promotional graphics, press releases, and cryptic URLs referencing Mobius strips. It’s to the credit of the group, however, that the music has remained its foundation: whether revealing Choerry’s ability to jump between dimensions via a well-placed drop in “Love Cherry Motion” or making a 180 from the sweeter concepts of the first few members with KimLip’s sultry “Eclipse,” Blockberry Creative has been just as ambitious with their songs as they have with every other dimension of their unfolding multimedia narrative. Even if you didn’t know anything about LOONA or Odd Eye Circle (its second subunit), “Girl Front” would still knock you off your feet like a late-summer breeze. Its Max Martin-esque melange of synthlines and sticky beats (with a generous sampling of contemporary sonic trends, especially the ominous trap-tinged coda following each chorus) distills driving down the 101 in Los Angeles with your windows down into as perfect a road trip song as I’ve heard. Yet there’s something about the surrounding context that takes the drama of a budding romance and blows it up to inter-dimensional proportions. As the girls trade lines on the chorus about a budding romance that “makes things hotter” and “makes them draw closer,” a massive mix of beat-em-up synths and hard-hitting beats wallops you with the force of an asteroid: one feels as if they could be singing about their own impact. The verses filter in bits of plucky guitar and sunny piano chords that the production leaves sounding just a touch haunted, like the cassette player which opens and closes the video. Even the one moment the song lets up, in a bridge that registers with the clarity of a daybreak, turns its wistful gaze back on us in what may be my favorite musical moment of 2017: the three members of Odd Eye Circle, finally united after four months of twists and teasers, stare lovingly into a tri-colored moon in the sky, tinged with each of their representative colors (red, blue, and purple). Composers Ollipop and Hayley Aitken cruelly let the swelling synth melody that’s been looping in the background for the entire song step to the forefront for just three measures before killing it with a well-placed record scratch. On screen, the girls turn in unison and break the fourth wall, staring right into your souls: if you think this is the end, think again. Instead of easy resolution, they leave us in their final chorus with a promise: “I’ll say I love you first.” I’m always left wondering, at the end, what is really there. I question the irony of becoming infatuated with a song about infatuation, about how the “love” in “love song” can work like gravity, pulling you towards becoming the person you’ve fallen for. Maybe I spent most of 2017 buried in LOONA because, in the simplest terms, it tells a story of possibility: a girl can become any concept she puts on; can find her place in the music and the mythology; can stitch together the worlds she occupies. Return to the title of “Girl Front”; “Front” because, as the theory goes, Mobius strips enchant you in loops you circle with purpose but without end; “Front” because an empowered girl makes it happen herself. The cassette player, a signpost for our nostalgia, refuses to give us an answer, rewinding instead, and in an year that constantly challenged me to think through my place in the world, the message feels clear: you’re getting closer. Keep listening.   

Micha Cavaseno: As the LOONAverse proceeds far off into its cosmic spiral, their seemingly esoteric design evolves against tunes that feel more and more plunging away from the preceding singles and their reaches for star power into something more star-struck. “Girl Front” is a galloping rush of enthusiasm and excitement as Choerry, Kim Lip and JinSoul eagerly manage to pitch infatuation like fastballs offset by those real clunker ‘drops’ aiming for I guess some sort of ‘hipness’ that ever since “Eclipse” the poor girls have been burdened with having to appeal to (which is ever overwhelmingly pointed on fellow LOONAffiliate Yves’ “new” but that’s another tale), and tend to detract from the record. But the winding melody on the chorus’ “woo” or the sudden shift into the dubstep-stomp along for Kim Lip on the second verse are the moments when “Girl Front” can not only sound urgent but utterly world-departing.

Ryo Miyauchi: For a single not-so-slickly tucking in self-reference, it makes sense the production also picks the the best bits from each of the summer LOONAs’ solo singles: the devilish sweetness of “Love Cherry Motion,” the zigzagging of “Singing in the Rain,” the breathtaking grace of “Eclipse.” The trio get upstaged by the production despite their best efforts to introduce their individual personalities, but really, what a dazzling beat to get lost in.

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: K-Pop that sounds like it takes serious cues from the #weirdsoundcloud scene. The post-chorus breaks could feel at home on a de-constructed club mix, and the synth risers, in the transition from the bridge to the final hook, could make Myles Dunhill green with envy. LOONA was the most interesting Korean project of 2017, and their brilliance lies not only in their versatility but in the quality of the execution. They’ve given each of their members their own sonic and visual little universe, and each release has been scarily consistent. I have big expectations for them in 2018. 

Edward Okulicz: How this song turns on a dime so frequently from amazing K-pop banger, to different kind of amazing K-pop banger, to a part that convinces you the whole thing is going to turn into a god damned trap song suggests a complete mastery and love of pop as an artform. I don’t think listening to it could possibly be as fun as it was making it, but it’s probably pretty close.

Nortey Dowuona: Glittering, shiny synths and light, puffy eyed bass spread out with blank droning synths and flat drums that become rigid and stuffy around the side. Plus the singing by Loona and the Odd Eye Circle seems both too light and yet too heavy.

Alex Clifton: The best bubblegum pop feels innocuous at first, but comes out of nowhere to hit you square in the brain. “Girl Front” is sparkling and light overall, but that chorus is a knockout and is definitely going to be stuck in my head for the rest of the day. It’s the kind of song I know I would have played to death when I was fifteen and unable to talk to most people I liked, but I also like it at twenty-five because it gives me the sugary rush that I need from pop music. I’ve not been following LOONA’s formation entirely, but if this is how good their subunits are, I’m ready to be wowed by the whole band in 2018.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Shortly after the release of Odd Eye Circle’s “Sweet Crazy Love,” Digipedi director Seong Wonmo noted that he had intentionally included Korean-language signs in its music video. K-pop always looked to the pop culture of the West, he said, studying and imitating it in numerous ways. As a director, there was a sense that he shouldn’t let Hangul appear in any frame–it would, after all, only make the content seem more “foreign.” But it’s 2017, and with K-pop’s ever-expanding global presence, Seong finally felt comfortable with doing just that (note that this was ten years into the career of an already-legendary figure of the industry). When I read his comments, I thought about where I was ten years ago, and how much I related to what he was saying. As one of five Asians in an otherwise all-White high school, I had made subconscious efforts to be “just one of the (White) guys.” But as I started learning about K-pop, I also started to take some pride in being Korean. I wouldn’t dare tell my White friends about Wonder Girls or Big Bang, but I would tell them about some Korean music that seemed less embarrassing to mention. I will never forget, for example, how excited I was to show off my copy of Seo Taiji’s 7th Issue to a friend–as we sat in class, I watched as he examined the album’s unique packaging, and I eagerly awaited his opinions on the album’s pop punk/emo songs. Years later, I’m constantly gushing about Korean music to non-Koreans, and K-pop has played an enormous role in helping me come to terms with–and eventually love–my Korean-American identity. That Seong specifically decided to show Hangul in a LOONA video is appropriate. More than any other group this year, they represented the best of what the K-pop industry had to offer in terms of engaging pop songs and their promotion. Subunit Odd Eye Circle’s music was especially noteworthy; their mini album featured the incredible Art Angels-indebted “Loonatic” and an R&B song that most boy bands would kill for. The best of the bunch was “Girl Front,” the lead single that took everything good about the members’ solo tracks and morphed it into something more ambitious. At its core, it’s a chipper pop song about being infatuated with someone, but what sets it apart is the degree to which every bit of instrumentation captures the manic frenzy of wanting to tell someone you love them. Producer Ollipop was wise to bury the arpeggiating synths low in the mix, allowing them to mimic the fluttering hearts that characterize such situations. What ties everything together, though, is the chorus. The girls initially state that they’re “cool,” emphasizing it with a wavering vocal melody that hops along briskly. It’s immediately followed by a sultry coo that’s meant to resemble the sound of their heart–an admittance of how they’re actually feeling. It’s considerably smoother than what preceded it, and shamelessly long. They’re not denying how they feel anymore, and they’ll happily let their crush consume their thoughts. What makes “Girl Front” so heartening is that it isn’t content with things ending there; this is a song that’s about mustering up the strength to confess to someone that you love them. And as the song progresses, there’s an “opening up” of sounds to reflect this. The first verse has flickering synths that are halted by a bass guitar, as well as a vocal melody akin to those in the chorus that abruptly ends. But in the second verse, relatively “natural”-sounding keys stand in place of their punchy counterparts. There’s also a sleek mid-verse shift that registers as sensual, and it all leads into the girls shouting “woo!” before entering the chorus again. By the time “Girl Front” ends, they declare their intent to express their feelings to this person directly. We don’t know if they actually will, but things look hopeful. Sometimes, the best thing you can do to keep moving forward–to get yourself to do things that seem impossible–is to constantly remind yourself of the things that make you happy. In “Girl Front,” it’s an overflow of desire for this person that helps them reach a point where they can say “I Love You.” It turns out that listening to K-pop was a way for me to eventually say the same thing to myself.

Reader average: [9.07] (52 votes)

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12 Responses to “LOONA / Odd Eye Circle – Girl Front”

  1. i really love everyone’s blurbs here! what a great song

  2. Big fan of this Kim Sandwich

  3. LOONA best K-pop act of 2017 and likely 2018. Unless f(x) comes back, LOL.

  4. my LOONA friends <3

  5. this is so good that it doesnt hurt me as much that palette fell out of the top 10

  6. i love all the blurbs here!!! what a great collection of thoughts.

    if people want to get into LOONA, here’s a quick intro i put together! it has a little bit about the project, the members, and all of the media they’ve put out :)

    happy Amnesty, all!

  7. @Natasha

    Surely you must admit that Red Velvet is serving as a perfectly good stopgap in f(x)’s absence.

  8. every time I see the name Loona I have to remind myself it’s not the singer

  9. LOONA stans unite! so glad to see more of them on here. i’m sort of freaking out because we only have two more girls left to reveal before the final subunit and then the full 12 member debut.

    if any of you haven’t had a chance to listen to yves or chuu’s singles, definitely take a look. “New” is the 80’s synthpop jam Tiffany wished she released and “girl’s talk” is without a doubt the club anthem of the century

  10. This song and this kind of casting bands are just horrible , like soulless dolls. Would any of the commenters like a group like this if they were American or English? I guess not. This is music produced forests a mass market. Not my style..

  11. Do the members of PRETTYMUCH count as soulless dolls

  12. @Katze are you deaf lamo