Monday, January 25th, 2021

(G)I-DLE – Hwaa

Time for some K-reggaeton?


Kayla Beardslee: The good: this is (G)I-DLE’s most musically interesting title track since 2019. It’s dramatic and artsy, which is the mood that suits them best, and the members get lots of distinctive, meaty vocal parts that play to their strengths (e.g. Yuqi coming in alongside the beat in the first verse, immediately followed by Minnie’s ethereal prechorus). The bad: during the chorus, something in the right channel is mixed so screechily that it verges on making the song unlistenable. And why does Soyeon hate proper final choruses?!? Please, just once, give us a satisfying ending, Soyeon, I’m begging you! “Hwaa” and its accompanying mini album move in a promising direction, but I think (G)I-DLE still hasn’t reached their full pote–

Rose Stuart: Thirty more seconds. Thirty more seconds and this song would have been great. Sure, it’s just “Hann” all over again, with some refrains taken from “Latata”, but the song is richer, with more layers and actual instruments to bulk up the synths. It finally succeeds where “Lion” and “Oh My God” failed. Then it ends. All this song needed was 30 more seconds.

Alfred Soto: It builds the drama until the reggaeton beat’s entrance, and when the track relaxes a bit in its last third I regain interest after the dull chorus. Sparks but no flame.

Thomas Inskeep: It’s fascinating to hear artists around the world using reggaeton rhythms, especially in a case like “Hwaa,” where (G)I-DLE mix it with a big-money EDM chorus and a rap — and yet what results just sounds 2021 pop: truly global and truly borderless.

Ady Thapliyal: “Hwaa” is (G)I-DLE making good on their globetrotting idol concept. There’s a slight intimation of an erhu in the intro, and then we’re plunged into a dance-pop take on reggaeton for the first verse. In the chorus we get a wordless glissando hook reminiscent of Middle Eastern vocal improvisation, the second verse brings a tabla and a start-stop trap stutter, and bringing us full circle, the last chorus returns to China with guzheng twangs. World pop of this sort are at their best when they collapse nationalistic music-myths, pointing out the historical hybridity from back before there were borders. Listen carefully to what I referred to as a guzheng in that last chorus. You hear that steely, nasally tenor, utterly unlike the mellow sound of guzheng strings? My guess is that it’s actually a sitar sample, but being played like a guzheng, or on that note, like a Japanese koto, or Vietnamese đàn tranh, or Korean gayageum. It’s a hybrid, entirely fictional instrument, a brilliant ode to the pan-Asian string tradition. Now if only the topline weren’t so bland and crusty, we’d have a real masterpiece on our hands. 

Iain Mew: It gets across the same level of high drama as “Oh My God” with a different set of musical signifiers, which is a very smart move. Unlike that song, though, when the energy of the higher tempo sections is diluted they don’t do quite enough with the space to make it pay off.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Like most (G)I-DLE singles, “Hwaa” is decidedly not fun, and this commitment to a bloodless, emotionless sort of music is frustratingly tedious. The beat lumbers forward without an accompanying groove or hint of sensuality, the horn stabs signal decorum in the most uninteresting manner, and the vocal hook doesn’t aim to be catchy as much as a signifier of Something Serious. In an era of K-pop that’s lacking in levity, (G)I-DLE’s worst singles are some of the worst offenders. To make matters worse, they don’t even try to sound snarky or mischievous or beguiling: this is too paint-by-numbers to stir up any actual feelings.

Reader average: [4.66] (3 votes)

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One Response to “(G)I-DLE – Hwaa”

  1. Ady’s blurb just @’d me and told me to study for my ethnomusicology midterm….TSJ is an education tool