Friday, August 3rd, 2018

Apink – I’m So Sick

Seven years into its career, K-pop group makes its Jukebox debut…


Alex Clifton: Have we finally found the successor to the Wonder Girls’ Reboot? I think we have, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I love disco and chilled synths and stuff that ends on a minor chord so I have the compulsion to play it again, so this hits literally all my pop buttons. This is so different from Apink’s previous material — I remember them as catchy but almost sickeningly cutesy — so I am really excited to see how they follow this one up.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I’d readily argue that Apink peaked in their debut year, with “I Don’t Know” and “My My” fleshing out their cutesy shtick enough during a time when SNSD had moved into more “serious” territories. The following year, they climbed higher on the charts with the markedly different “Hush,” but it was “Bubibu” that foretold their future. To be certain, Apink’s success is in large part due to their consistent sound and image — one that has sustained itself through K-pop’s overt sexualization (ca. 2013) and numerous genre trends. While a smart strategy, it’s been hard to care about their output for much of their career. Given the ubiquity of cutesy girl groups as of late, and how I’ve even heard their type of music in South Korea’s CCM scene, a shift in style feels more welcome than ever. The group enlists Black Eyed Pilseung to do the job, and it’s immediately clear that this is not another “Only One.” “I’m sick of lying, you gotta know that” is uttered with a soft, pained tone; it stands in stark contrast to the doe-eyed oppa-isms that Yookyung used to spout, and prepares the listener for the dancefloor catharsis that follows. Musically, this very much sounds like a tastefully tropified version of “Hush,” and its chilly synths bring to mind other 2012 K-pop songs. Six years ago, a version of “I’m So Sick” would’ve sounded a bit too T-ara-esque, preventing listeners from feeling how muted every synth wobble and vocal sample is. And that’s ultimately the song’s biggest asset: the instrumentation feels dull despite all the flash, highlighting the numbness that’s spoken of in the lyrics.

Alfred Soto: “I’m So Happy” more like — the synths and vocals signify as pure euphoria. 

Julian de Valliere: “I’m So Sick” starts off sounding like a statement of strength — only to swiftly crack and reveal itself as the tears-on-the-dance-floor banger it truly is. One of my favourite aspects of these types of tunes — and something which this track in particular does exceptionally well — is the recognition that no matter how desperately bad your life situation may be, the world rarely affords you time to sit in your feelings. So now you’re trapped in a sweaty club with a bestie who’s too drunk to be attentive, a song playing has triggered a very specific memory that you were hoping not to deal with, and you can suddenly feel a grand concoction of fizzy emotions sloshing round your chest — seconds away from rushing up to your head and bursting right out. Apink too, are struggling with the pressure to stay moving while the wound’s still raw — and while the defiance initially put on display makes for a fun time, the ensuing chaos feels far more real, and “I’m So Sick” is all the more beautiful for it.

Anjy Ou: As the singers struggle with the conflicting demands of heart and head, the production moves from melancholy synth-pop to defiant disco and dance-your-tears-away EDM, drawing connecting lines between the genres. It’s kind of brilliant, to be honest. Apink has never failed to deliver on the vocals, and they sound effortless here. Maybe not a banger, but definitely a bop. I hope the group continues to explore new sounds and expand their range because they’re clearly capable of more than they’ve shown us in the past.

Katherine St Asaph: Reaction trajectory: wholehearted approval of the intro, especially the traded-off vocal runs; most audible of groans when the trop-pop came in; relief, somehow, when it turned into a 2011 Calvin Harris breakdown; pleasant surprise at the ’90s R&B glissando and skidding car in the bridge, or the music dropping out for a whispered “do you love me?”

Will Rivitz: If we’re going to be pulling from genres that have been out of pop vogue for at least a decade or two, I’d have preferred nu-metal.

Jessica Doyle: #ConfessYourUnpopularOpinions, APink Edition: “Five” is (1) underrated and (2) more of a precedent for “I’m So Sick” than the videos and styling for each would lead you to believe. (Witness APink refusing to take this concept any more seriously than they took any of the previous ones.) So I’m less inclined to give this new song points solely for breaking APink out of the cutesy dungeon. Or, for that matter, shrug off my experience of the pre-chorus: I can’t tell if it’s my headphones or my hearing or the mixing or what, but it seems like after the relative spare setting of Naeun’s and Chorong’s lines, we have a deeper beat kick in, plus a rising synth, plus an unlocated oooh, all trying to build momentum, while Namjoo, who is also trying to build momentum, can hardly be heard at all, and Hayoung, with an additional squelch to deal with and a line that ends four beats before it should, doesn’t fare much better. The result is a bit of a mess. So even with Most Formidable Leader getting far more mileage out of “himdeuro himdeuro himdeuro baby” than would have previously been considered possible, I’m unsatisfied.

Anna Suiter: Apink has been known for a consistent sound, and in general it’s worked for them. But this works too for a group that’s seven years in and don’t need to prove much anymore. Maybe they aren’t “sick” of promoting, but they are a little sick of love, here, and they make that more convincing than maybe anyone was expecting.

Reader average: [6.66] (9 votes)

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8 Responses to “Apink – I’m So Sick”

  1. @ Jessica 100% agree that “Five” is underrated

  2. This song is ICONIC. Naeun and Chorong’s bubbly verses are ICONIC. The tonal shift in the verses is ICONIC. Namjoo’s prechorus is ICONIC. Eunji’s vocal is ICONIC. The chanting breakdown is ICONIC.

  3. Yes, this song is IT! I’m hoping because of it’s unexpected success (previous outputs didn’t do so hot) that they get to comeback with a full album and actually deliver on the REBOOT promises. The EP has some great cuts, let’s hone in on that girls!

  4. I’d up the score by a point but Anna’s pretty on the money here. Surprisingly sleek and a welcome change of pace that turns out to be one of the year’s best kpop singles.

  5. It’s been an extremely dire summer for girl groups. Twice, Red Velvet, LOONA, Gfriend, Gugudan SeMiNa, Momoland, Blackpink, (G)I-DLE, Laboum, Dreamcatcher, Elris, Pristin V, and Mamamoo all released singles that ranged from terrible to good-but-not-spectacular. I think this song’s proven to be the best of the bunch, but I guess we’ll see if DIA and Berry Good can deliver. So yeah, I’d also say that this is one of the year’s best K-pop singles heh.

  6. The Elris single was v. good Josh you coward.

  7. It’s the best of the ones I listed, yes. I forgot I also liked the fromis_9 single.

  8. Laboum??? Even middling???? Josh, are you deaf?

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