Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

GLAM – I Like That

The 90s as performed by people born in the 90s!


[Video][Website]
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Iain Mew: “Party (XXO)” introduced GirLs be AMbitious (yes, really) with one of K-Pop’s more impressive 2012 debuts. “I Like That” is a statement of defiant singledom — the solo barbecue and karaoke of the video is a literal reading of the lyrics — which sees more of the song given over to the group’s two rappers Jiyeon and Zinni. This is a good thing. Jiyeon exclaims the three words of the title in increasingly elaborate and impassioned ways, while Zinni supplies a verse of drunken bravado based around lines ending in squeaks that is even more charged and attention grabbing than the fine popstep touches elsewhere. The peppy choruses sit a little oddly in the song, coming off as an obligation if a well-managed one, but there’s still enough to be worth getting very excited about.
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Brad Shoup: I just couldn’t get over the Madonna pastiche they teased in the intro. Missy Elliott-style line endings try to package vocal deficiencies as attitude, while the kiddie chorus is a marketing bridge too far. But if you’re not going to offer me vintage house-pop, I’d settle for a whole song like that strummy refrain.
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Edward Okulicz: The slick beats of the verses and the bubblegum pop of the chorus are both good enough that when either ends and folds into the other, I get a bit disappointed, then a bit thrilled. Pulling off sickly-sweet with attitude is an impressive feat, and the near-drunken ways the titular line gets delivered and mangled are enjoyable too.
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Jonathan Bogart: I really like the expanded sonic palette they use to make music which function in pretty much exactly the same way as every other modern dance-pop song: when the chorus hits, and I expect the backing to be full-throttle heat-blast synths, and it’s close-miked shimmery acoustic guitars instead, the effect is enough to make me absurdly grateful.
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Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Once upon a time, I accompanied my mother to see Will Young live and, at some point in the evening, fell asleep. I defended my nap with the following rhetoric: pop music should scare or unsettle your parents on some level, even if it’s juvenile. I recognise that on one level this is a garbage way of thinking, but I couldn’t help but remember that evening when listening to GLAM’s ‘I Like That’. The hip-hop/dance verses quite literally explode out of nowhere, bending a sample from the Shah Rukh Khan vehicle Baazigar to its will — and homaging 90s K-freestylers Chuli and Miaein the process, all the while leaving the original in the dust. It’s all very “now,” full of the sass and fashion-addiction that we’ve come to associate with the latest strain of idol groups. Then the main chorus hits, a bubblegum hook of guitars and morris-dancing audience-inclusion that splits the song in two. Suddenly, the song feels homogenous — it’s not the pop music that would ever unsettle parents. On repeat listens, the guitars are more welcoming but they’re still jarring, a weird intrusion that stops the song from gelling completely into the devil-may-care banger it threatens to become.
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Patrick St. Michel: How does a new group stand out in the Korean pop market?  GLAM, who debuted last July, seem to be trying to be the outfit that provide hyper upbeat pop songs coupled with equally positive messages, sorta like a catchier Up With People (GLAM equals GirLs be AMbitious). Last year’s “Party (XXO)” revealed its message four lines in — “Are you a boy?/Girl?/I don’t care/passion is the key/a hot heart is your ID” — and paired it with a dizzying chorus. “I Like That” turns to the lonely and dumped and tries to convince folks doing stuff alone can be fun. GLAM sing about eating Korean BBQ, singing karaoke and catching cockroaches by yourself, and how they “like that.” They are clever words, albeit at times they seem like they are trying to convince themselves. The verses cop a bit too much from 2NE1, but the chorus finds GLAM operating in a mood that suits them well. They could stand to be a bit more ambitious, but they have potential alright.
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Frank Kogan: A girl group swamped in context, subtext, pretext, and blatant text, and hooray for them. The lyrics to last summer’s “Party(XXO)” were about girls desiring other girls and acting that out, lips pressed against lips. This time out they’re celebrating being alone and refusing to hook up, while not glossing over how much being alone hurts: “Even when I’m drunk and crawling back home/You, who used to take care of me, aren’t by my side/So it feels crappy but I like that, I like that” (trans. pop!gasa). Complex stuff, and they seem to have the biz on their side (they’re on a JYP subsidiary, distributed by LOEN, w/ acclaimed producer “Hitman” Bang taking them in hand). As far as I know, for Korea this is a major-label first. And, on the subject of forbidden love, if you love GLAM you can say, like Margaret Berger, that you’re in love with a robot, since not only do GLAM perform with the Vocoloid SeeU (Vocaloid being a computerized gizmo into which you can type melodies and lyrics and she, the Vocaloid SeeU, will sing them back), but GLAM’s very own Dahee is the woman whose voice was sampled in the making of SeeU. “Party(XXO)” was pale in the melody, but GLAM have righted that on “I Like That,” pulling forth a hot, twisting “Uhwoo uhwoouh uhuhwoo uhwoouh” sample from Chuli & Miae’s early ’90s freestyle and house confabulation “Why You,” the GLAMsters seemingly unaware that what they’ve sampled was itself a sample from the Cover Girls’ “Because Of You” (h/t Maura Johnston and a couple of commenters at Omonatheydidn’t for identifying this). The music follows the jittery daring of freestyle, the rap and singing voices hopping through flak and then smoothing out for a chorus that’s almost a different song, bright sunshine and voices chanting “like it” over and over, then the song returning to choppin’ and hoppin’. Tension, release, and back to tension, done very well. And how is the public reacting to all this social richness? Well, our nitwit Netizens, ever with an eye to what truly matters, are getting into arguments on comment threads as to whether ex-member Trinity was kicked out for being a celebrity stalker, and whether wearing backward baseball caps means that GLAM are copying 2NE1. So, Awesomeness, let me reintroduce you to the Trivial.
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Ian Mathers: Oh, there’s the real chorus, and it’s fantastic. I was worried for a minute. (Not that the first minute was bad, it’s just that the first chorus is like the sun coming out.)
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Reader average: [8.4] (10 votes)

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12 Responses to “GLAM – I Like That”

  1. Wow! Two candidates for the sample! I’d still vote Cover Girls, not just because that’s what I committed to first and because the Cover Girls made some of my favorite music ever (“Inside Outside” even more than “Because Of You”) and because I’d never heard of Baazigar, but also because “Because Of You” came first (1987) and it is freestyle so is therefore the sort of track I’d expect a self-consciously freestyle* outfit like Chuli & Miae to sample, and the timbre sounds more like Angel Sabater and crew than like the Baazigar trill birds. So I’m betting Cover Girls but I wouldn’t bet the entire farm: when I blogged Chuli & Miae I hesitated a bit as to whether it was a sample rather than just a copy. I am voting Cover Girls either way.

    *Freestyle on that song “Why You,” anyway, which is freestyle not just in the sample but the melody, which runs very close to the mournful yet ferociously rhythmic freestyle tracks Elvin Molina and Mickey Garcia were producing in late ’80s NYC, e.g., Cynthia’s great “Change On Me.” (“Why You,” unlike “Because of You,” does go a bit house both in its mashup tendencies and the rhythms it adds when it walks away from the main melody.)

  2. But the Baazigar track is very good. Thanks for linking it, Daniel, and if you ever want to post a top ten favorite tracks from South Asian film musicals, that would be appreciated. It’s an area of music I know almost zilch about, though back in the ’90s when I wasn’t afraid to live in an apartment with a TV I’d sometimes watch Namaste America on one of the grab-bag this-and-that ethnic cable stations.

    (Since they’re both 1993, it could be that Baazigar was copying the Chuli & Miae track.)

    As for my speculating that “this is a major-label first,” I meant GLAM’s girls-kissing-girls stuff, not their endorsement of being alone. (Here are the translated lyrics to Party(XXO),” just to dispel any doubts as to their subject matter.) And of course I’ve not been paying close enough or long enough attention to know if there really is or isn’t any major-label precedent. I’m sure industry people have noticed that girl shrieks for tomboy Amber of SM Entertainment’s f(x) are at least as loud as for anyone else, but I don’t think f(x)’s lyrics have acknowledged this yet.

  3. Ha, thanks for the call-out Frank – it’s fascinating that we saw the two different sources. I was trawling youtube to see what people were calling the sample, and yeah, there’s a chance that Baazigar was jocking Chuli & Miae but I don’t see it working out.

    I can’t say I’m the best for a top ten as I’m still in my B-wood etc education! I’d love a top ten freestyle though, that’s an area I wanna learn more about.

  4. Just a general request: if anyone would like us to cover Tamil pop, Bollywood soundtracks, etc., email me or something. I put a Master Saleem album on my Pazz & Jop ballot, and would like to start figuring things out in 2013.

  5. Frank — the “Drive Me To The Moon” video was clearly two-girl romance, though gender isn’t explicit in the lyrics.

  6. There have been quite a few same sex romance plots in MVs where the lyrics don’t mention it. Baby Girl ‘She’s A Flirt’ MV (2012) was straightforward about it. K Will’s MV for ‘Please Don’t last fall made it the twist ending. Starring in that video was Seo In Guk who also starred in 2012′s breakout drama hit ‘Reply 1997′ which had a sweet gay storyline. Back in the day even After School did it for the ‘Because Of You’ video.

    Frank – f(x) lyrics are hard to decipher fully on the best of days, but this could suggest something like that

    ‘Listen to what I say, unni
    I’m in the trance
    What are these feelings now
    It’s a first for me
    My heart is pounding
    As if I’m dreaming
    I’m floating to the clouds
    It must be love’

    Of course she could be confessing something about someone _else_ to her unni (‘sis’) as well, but earlier in the lyrics it doesn’t seem like it.

  7. Rimi’s not major label though, is she?

    I was just watching a subbed version of After School’s “Because Of You,” with the lyrics all about a boy but the video not confirming this. I remember now that I’d seen it before, went searching the YouTube comments for an explanation (one needs the help of YouTube commenters to understand plots to Korean videos, which are made deliberately complex and cryptic). I just found this for “Because Of You”: “Kahi and Jooyeon both love Uee. Jooyeon & Uee seem to be close in the car scene. Kahi turns away looking heartbroken seeing Jooyeon wash? Uee’s hair. Jooyeon looks evilly jealous watching Kahi pillow fighting Uee. Then Kahi seems to be dead (omg!) probably poisoned by Jooyeon who is wearing black. I don’t really understand what’s up with the guy but I think it’s Kahi that’s with him but he looks suspicious at the end…ARGH my brain hurts.”

    Speaking of hurting brains, there’re a confusing number of “Because Of You”s lurking about. I was scoping out Rhapsody’s meager collection of Orange Caramel tracks, and I saw they had “Because Of You,” and said to myself, “That’s a mistake. Rhapsody is confusing Orange Caramel with main group After School.” But then out of curiosity I clicked it, and it turned out that Orange Caramel had covered Kelly Clarkson’s “Because Of You.”

    I forgot Brown Eyed Girls’ video for “Abracadabra,” with the kiss betw. Narsha and poly-everything Ga-in. But the ending’s like Hamlet, a clean sweep. (Is a video I recommend highly; the way to understand the plot is to pay close attention to what happens to the dog.)

    I don’t make the most attentive audience. I’d never watched the K Will vid through to the end. Now I see it. (Good song, too.)

    “Party(XXO)” does seem to be something else: a celebration, rather than Longing.

  8. Narsha & Ga-In completed the ending to that at the end of their S&M cover for their Xmas concert last month http://youtu.be/-vS6GhLqru4

  9. A Freestyle Top Ten (I’m sure I’m forgetting something obvious; Shannon’s “Let The Music Play” is great but has never quite seemed like freestyle as such; ditto Madonna’s “Everybody”; and I’m definitely not counting L’Trimm as freestyle, though they’re related), chronological order, more or less, though “When I Hear Music” is also my favorite:

    Debbie Deb “When I Hear Music”
    Exposé “Point Of No Return”
    Sequel “It’s Not Too Late”
    Judy Torres “Come Into My Arms”
    Cover Girls “Inside Outside”
    Company B “Fascinated”
    Cynthia “Change On Me”
    Corina “Temptation”
    Lisette Melendez “A Day In My Life Without You”
    Pajama Party “Over And Over”

    Five Favorite Korean Tracks That Owe A Lot To Freestyle (the first is from ’87, the others are within the last few years):

    Kim Wan Sun “The Dance In The Rhythm”
    4minute “Hot Issue”
    Kara “Jumping”
    Leader’S “Hope”
    ChoColat “I Like It”

    I guess that last one’s borderline having-much-to-do-with-freestyle, but Melanie, who let’s loose with “I want it all, all or nothing,” has that wail. Song was written by Swedes.

    Three fairly recent, excellent American pop songs that are freestylish despite being performed by people I’d have thought were all wrong for the style (their voices being excessively lite, among other things):

    Brooke Hogan “About Us”
    Vanessa Hudgens “Don’t Talk”
    Selena Gomez & The Scene “Love You Like A Love Song”

  10. By far my favorite K-Pop single from 2013 thus far. The verse about eating two people’s weight in barbecue alone warrants a [10].

  11. A couple of days ago on Music Bank: GLAM have now added a live dubstep/breakdance dance break, though they seem to have sacked the Vocaloid (unless the Vocaloid’s merely out sick).

  12. Daniel, the plot thickens. First, by now my ears tell me it’s overwhelmingly likely that Chuli & Miae were sampling the Cover Girls. Same timbre, texture, ambiance, whatever you want to call it. So the story of the sample goes Cover Girls –> Chuli & Miae –> GLAM. So where does our tune, “Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein,” from the Bollywood flick Baazigar, fit in? I’d lay money (though not a huge amount) that the songwriters were indeed copying Chuli & Miae. They’re not going to have gotten it from the Cover Girls, since their motif follows the way Chuli & Miae looped the sample, rather than following the progression in the Cover Girls’ “Because Of You.” The other possibility is that the resemblance between “Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein” and Chuli & Miae’s “Why You” is just coincidence. The reason I doubt this is that, like “Why You,” “Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein” uses a freestyle riff. Now, there’s a reasonable chance of a melodic motif from one song coincidentally resembling the motif from another song somewhere else in the world – it’s a big world, after all – but the chance this is a coincidence drops way down if the two motifs are in the same year and in tracks that reference the same genre.

    And – I promised corn starch and flour for our plot, and here they are – “Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein” ranks even higher than I’d thought in the category Songs That Resemble Other Songs in that after we get beyond the opening motif that seemingly copies “Why You,” and then the freestyle riff, we arrive at a melody that seems identical to Marco Paulo’s “Eu Tenho Dois Amores,” which was a huge hit in Portugal back in 1980 (thanks to Jorge Lopes for dropping by my lj to let me know this, though now I see that YouTube commenters have also long been on the case). This isn’t to criticize “Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein,” which is an improvement on both “Eu Tenho Dois Amores” and “Why You,” more alive and at ease in its rhythm (though not more alive or more at ease than “Because Of You” and “I Like That”). But I’d say the chance of a double coincidence is way down from what I think is already a small chance of the single coincidence.