Monday, April 12th, 2021

Brave Girls – Rollin’

(Air Raid Vehicle)


Kayla Beardslee: Not a lot of good things have happened in the past year. My one consistent consolation slash coping mechanism slash form of escapism during the pandemic has been following pop music: 2020 was a genuinely great year for the genre, but in the first few months of 2021, major Western pop releases have slowed down significantly. Even in K-pop, where things are always happening, the biggest drops of Q1 were mostly bullying allegations. I’m tired all the time; I’ve been staying at home for over a year; I desperately want opportunities to live vicariously through other people’s art and experiences right now. Enter Brave Girls. In late February, this under-the-radar K-pop girl group and their 2017 single “Rollin'” went unbelievably viral in South Korea thanks to this video. In the span of just a few weeks, they went from the literal brink of disbandment to breaking streaming records, winning music shows, and gaining the enthusiastic support of K-pop fans and the Korean general public alike. It was nothing short of a miracle, and following their rise has been one of my biggest sources of joy in 2021 so far. In a world that sometimes feels hopelessly unfair, “Rollin'”s success is a reminder that good things can still happen when people work hard to achieve them; that patience and perseverance remain powerful, invaluable traits; that even for those who can’t envision a better future at this moment, there may still be a miraculous light waiting for them at the end of the tunnel. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the song that saved Brave Girls’ career is a bubbly, dancey, optimistic summer anthem from another decade: we all just want to be anywhere but here, in any time but now. Eventually, we’ll get there. And in the meantime? Well, I’m no expert in optimism, but try to hold on to the happy feelings. Personally, I’m going to go watch this video again.

Katie Gill: I can see how this fell through the cracks for… what, four years? It’s fun! It’s cute! And it was a song with a summer vibe released in March; that music video is doing them no favors and an even catcher summertime bop was released later that year to utterly dominate the summertime bop conversation. I’m glad that the Brave Girls are seeing success now, but I have to wonder how damn good a compilation video that was to elevate this perfectly serviceable yet kind of forgettable song to viral status.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The sudden revitalization of “Rollin'” is welcome given that Brave Girls always deserved better (both this song and “Deepened” ruled). Still, it makes sense why it wasn’t popular upon release: It’s somewhat slight compared to what K-pop singles usually entail, and compared to previous Brave Brothers productions, this is fairly anonymous due to the simplicity of the production and the lack of distinct vocalists (c.f. AOA, SISTAR, and 4Minute). Still, it also makes sense why “Rollin'” moved so many people in 2021 beyond the annoying Korean military backstory: it’s refreshingly simple in a way that K-pop singles rarely are today. As I think about the past 10 years of K-pop, the dominant story is that of a genre stripped of all its playful charm, transforming into something firmly, regrettably serious (I blame Western cultural imperialism, in part). “Rollin'” thus stands mighty tall today, just as it did back in 2017 when trop-house singles were ubiquitous; good or bad, Korea’s attempts at such summery pop never dared to be as barebones as “Rollin'”–it’s AOA “hey!” chants, a curlicue synth, and a barely there beat. It works because it injects a lightness into our current everyday; music doesn’t need to be such a big deal.  

Juana Giaimo: I love fun and fresh songs like “Rollin'” — yes, it still sounds fresh to me even when it’s four years old — that capture the light feeling of having a new crush. The playful synth that appears after the chorus and it’s silly choreography immediately puts a smile on my face, but it’s Minyoung’s voice who makes the difference here and caught my attention the first time I listened to it. The line distribution is not well-balanced, but nobody complains. With this kind of song, you’d expect sweet vocals, but instead she appears with her loud nasal voice that sets this song apart from the rest. I have to also mention that I love the way Yuna pronounces “baby” with such confidence in the chorus. It’s not a revolutionary song, but it can surely make you have a really good time — and honestly, that’s a lot in this life.

Dede Akolo: The success rate in K-pop is so slim that stories about these groups that get that stroke of luck always make me so happy. Happy that their stages are taking more of the bright, summery feeling rather than the vampire aesthetic popular in 2017. 

Katherine St Asaph: I know this is from 2017 so it technically doesn’t count as the thing I’ve been noticing more and more, but the world can apocalyptically implode centuries into the future, and it will still be too early for a revival of Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite.”

Michael Hong: Producers Brave Brothers wanted a more mature (read: sexier) concept. So much that their music video requires you to sign onto YouTube to view it. “Rollin'” itself can’t seem to decide whether it’s sexy or whether it’s fun, rolling through smooth, sensual verses but bursting with a chorus that feels like summertime. So four years later, Brave Girls are deciding. They’re having fun: the version the public wants to see, the version that went viral. And K-pop is so much better when it’s fun. It’s not perfect — there’s a line in the second half of the chorus that comes too fast and too strong, momentarily bursting the bubble — but nothing can detract from just how much fun Brave Girls are having.

Joshua Lu: There’s like a dozen different vocal deliveries going on here, all sequenced without regard for cohesion. First they’re coquettish, then it builds up in intensity, then it suddenly simmers down to a neutral tone, then it throws in some falsettos before that rollicking “ROLLIN-ROLLIN-ROLLIN!” slams in, then it’s all subsumed by a rather ugly rap. None if it really works, especially when laid out over a disappointingly un-chaotic instrumental, but I can’t deny that it still turns out to be rather fun — those South Korean soldiers were justified in their reactions.

Alfred Soto: Another time, another place: 2017 feels as remote as 2008. A bop is a bop. 

Reader average: [8.33] (3 votes)

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5 Responses to “Brave Girls – Rollin’”

  1. Kayla, your blurb is perfect <3

  2. God I can’t believe I missed this… anyway the real miracle of Brave Girls, the reason the military fanboys love their roadshow, is first of all the viral dance moves, and second of all the fact that Minyoung can actually hit those screaming high notes live.

  3. Like you assume… the song is autotuned up to those shouty high notes… but no…

  4. Twice singles when??? We need twice reviews

  5. We’ve covered Twice plenty of times! We only missed last year’s singles, but last year was complicated (to say the least) so we covered less songs.