Monday, July 2nd, 2018

Yubin – Lady

Wonder Girl turned City Woman…


Iain Mew: Sometimes you want to carefully pick out a chocolate from your selection, and sometimes you want to take your whole ’80s city pop box and eat them a row at a time without even consulting the key.

Jessica Doyle: I did go on a city pop-listening binge after hearing this, and concluded that for all the cosplay there was something just slightly off about Yubin’s presentation. It may be as simple as me hearing lower-quality production and mistaking the less forceful sound for wistfulness. It may be that Yubin comes off as too confident to sell the listener-flattering idea of the strong façade being no more than a few millimeters thick. “Lady” might have worked better with a singer whose voice was a little breathier, a little wispier, a little [The Jukebox apologizes for this attempt to pass off Hyelim bias as an actual review.]

Thomas Inskeep: K-Pop goes city pop with this debut solo single from Yubin, formerly of K-pop queens Wonder Girls. This isn’t an exact replica — it’s more like a take on the City Pop revival, from SoundCloud artists like Night Tempo (whose 2016 remix of Mariya Takeuchi’s City Pop landmark “Plastic Love” sounds like a definite influence on “Lady”). The video even features scenes of Yubin driving along darkened city streets! That said, there’s also a bit of Stock Aitken Waterman here, especially in those ultra-’80s handclaps and the drums — Sinitta calling! And then, then, there’s the lyrics and Yubin’s sassy deliver thereof: “Stop beating around the bush,” she sings, “Be up front about it/I made time especially for you … There are tons of boys/Who lined up for me.” Lay down the law girl, and tell him what time it is! #Summer2018Anthem achieved.

Julian Axelrod: There’s “disco” — the kind of half-hearted pastiche with empty Bee Gees harmonies and limp Chic guitar that’s become an escape hatch for boring artists of all stripes in the past few years — and then there’s disco. “Lady” has a million tiny details that prove it’s the real deal, from the swooping strings to the sidewinding pre-chorus melody to the programmed drums that wallop in all the right places. But the most important distinction is a palpable joy, and Yubin’s powerhouse vocal struts, shimmies, and soars with the liberation of a woman who’s truly free. When that guitar solo arrives to carry you up to disco heaven, you know you’re dealing with the genuine article.

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: Yubin going full city pop is a bit of a surprise; Yes, Wonder Girls were the absolute queens of retro in the K-Pop universe, but Yubin is commonly known as the group’s rapper, and a solo single without a single line of rap, rather opting for the disco diva approach, is a bit out of left field. However, it’s in the execution of this concept, both sonically and aesthetically, where “Lady” really hits. Yubin simultaneously projects energy and sophistication in every note, and if this is the musical path she will take in her future solo endeavours, we’ll be definitely on board. 

Will Rivitz: Now that vaporwave has been passé for long enough to appreciate through the more neutral lens afforded by a true retrospective, we’re finally in a place where we can appreciate the artists in the scene whose music is good enough to have stood the test of time and still be worthwhile five years after the scene’s peak — namely, Saint Pepsi (or the artist formerly known as Saint Pepsi) and absolutely no one else. Fortunately, Yubin’s future funk approximation lifts Pepsi’s vibrantly torpid ’80s cheese with aplomb, absolutely nailing the lushness that makes his sound still tantalizing. Cheap neon is better when it’s not ironic.

Ryo Miyauchi: The glossy ’80s revival fueling Wonder Girls’s final full-length Reboot lured me into this then-new thing in my life called K-pop, but before I can tune into more from the retro queens, they unfortunately decided to call it quits. So it’s very satisfying to have Yubin from the group continue where the group left off with this glamorous city-pop anthem. More than the sound, I’m won by her confident sass. “I ain’t got time,” she snaps at her foolish prospects in romance, and her off-to-the-next attitude is one I longed to find in other songs by her peers whose claims to “bring the boys out” didn’t really resonate beyond pure pop gesture.

Alfred Soto: I played this twice last night while gelling my hair and applying discreet pats of cologne to my neck, moving my shoulders to the beat. It’s got a welcome slink, and it does smell of Saturday night, but its recombination of several smooth dance sounds is more rehearsed than felt. So what. It’s Saturday night.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: While labels like Matador allowed for Shibuya-kei to gain visibility for otherwise Japanese music-ignorant Westeners, city pop received widespread love from manners far more Internet-dependent: specialized blogs, YouTube algorithms, and freely available mixes (not to mention vaporwave/future funk, numerous reissues, and the rise of Japanese tastemakers and record store owners). While none of this seemed to happen with the help of streaming services, it was a natural extension of the musical trends that gained traction since the turn of the decade. The increasing popularity of new age and soft rock, as well as the general decline of scuzzy lo-fi pop, is well-aligned with city pop’s relatively pristine veneer and indulgent ventures into AOR, quiet storm, jazz fusion, disco, and funk. These shifts in prevailing musical tastes are a natural response to what happened musically during the mid-late 2000s, but also feel like a quasi-extension of postmodern sincerity and the (non-conservative) political/social ideologies of the 2010s. While Korea had some music that was analogous to City Pop — Kim Hyun-chul comes to mind — “Lady” is specifically aiming for what was happening in Japan during the ’80s (even more explainable considering the genre’s popularity within various Korean circles). In typical K-pop fashion, this is such a meticulously crafted pastiche that it takes on a new form from that of its source material. There’s an excess of riches here, yes, but it comes from a digitally glitzy sheen and not from moments where you can revel in individual instruments; everything here solidifies into a monolithic disco mass. The guitar solo at the end, for example, feels horrifically short — most city pop would allow for such instrumentation to take center stage and unabashedly continue for as long as it felt necessary. So while “Lady” is certainly catchy, the mixing and structure stifle what it wants to accomplish. Which is to say, this isn’t memorable in the way city pop is; it’s memorable in the way K-pop is.

Reader average: [6] (9 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

3 Responses to “Yubin – Lady”

  1. Vaporwave and future funk were almost completely trash but my favorite thing by far was James Ferraro’s 2012 Primavera set. Far Side Virtual was also interesting at the time and seemed significantly more involved/labored over than the countless releases being churned out by the vaporwave community from the years that followed. That said, I liked some stuff from Ramona/Vektroid/etc, Amun Dragoon, and OPN’s eccojams.

    Anyways, into all the blurbs here. This song is undeniably good despite my reservations, and I would’ve written a lot more if I had the time.

    And, does anyone have the excerpt of the B side for this that got scrapped? I saw Night Tempo post about it on Facebook, and even talked with him about it, but didn’t actually click on the link for the song preview (welp).

  2. Jessica: I, too, am a big fan of Van Paugam’s YT mixes! Great for at-work listening!

  3. One thing that’s critical to remember when it comes to the aesthetic of this song’s music video is the viral success of Celeb Five, which occurred just a few months before. The video and performance of the song “I Wanna Be A Celeb” (and the fact it is a parody/reprisal of a “Dancing Hero” were laden with 1980s overtones and affectations, from certain choreographic decisions to set and costumes. To be clear, Celeb Five are a group of Korean comediennes who decided to spoof K-Pop with a ridiculous and over-the-top performance. They could not (and did not, it would appear from interviews) expect the public to go nuts.

    But the public did go nuts, and I would not be at all surprised if the song we hear in “Lady” is very much a nod to the popularity Celeb Five enjoyed when they released their hit. The arrangement has an “80’s summer tune” quality to it, the costuming and choreography are on point for that, but perhaps the most direct nod to Celeb Five is the choreography where Yubin stands in the center of a five-dancer formation wearing shimmering silver sequins (say that five times) and performs and energetic bit of shaking and turning.

    The song is great, but perhaps the coolest part (in a sort of cult-film kind of way) is a not to the surprise hit of the decade.