Lovelyz Comeback Review: “WoW!”

I feel like Lovelyz is one of those groups who are kind of in the middle but still doing pretty well.  They haven’t yet achieved “notoriety” or reached some milestones considered important for a K-pop group’s success (like music show wins). But they seem to have a solid fandom, and their albums and songs chart well.  It seems like a matter of time before they will hit it big.  I’m not as enamored with “WoW!” as I was with “Destiny,” but I think it’s better suited for the group’s overall image and style.

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*WARNING!* This review assumes the reader has listened to the music and/or seen the music video!

Current Concept: Bright and refreshing

Previous Concept(s): Lovelyz has become known for their pure and innocent image (kind of like a new generation Apink in my opinion), but their most recent comeback “Destiny” had more of an elegant and and feminine touch. Some people may say that this all falls under the same umbrella of “cute,” but I think that there are some slight differences.

SONG:

Composed and arranged by: OnePiece (a frequent collaborator who has produced most of their title tracks)

“WoW!” is a very interesting song, and it wasn’t at all what I was expecting.  The verses and hook are like a very bubbly pop song – something you’d expect from current trending girl groups – but the chorus brings back that ethereal quality that we heard in “Destiny.” In fact, the two almost sound exactly the same (which makes sense because OnePiece also composed “Destiny”).  It’s classic K-pop “song-within-a-song” syndrome.

I do enjoy the different parts of the song separately (especially the catchy hook), but I’m not sure how well they work together. It gets a little better with each listen, but it was a little jarring the first time around.  Both styles are just a little too different for the song to mesh perfectly. The only part where I think it really works it the bridge, where each girl has a different line.  They start out kind of in a stylistic middle ground, and then Jisoo and Jiae make it more bubbly with their cute sing-talking.  But it does help build into Jin’s high note, which transitions nicely into the final chorus.

The two different styles doesn’t really bother me all that much because I like both of them.  Although it seems disjointed when you listen to it on its own, the other elements (choreography, music video, etc.) help make it a little more cohesive. And it fits well into Lovelyz’s previous discography because it does have some classic elements like their signature soft voices. It does border on being just a little too cutesy for me at times – especially Jiae and Kei’s part – but it’s nice to hear something from them that’s a little more bubblegum pop.

SCORE: 16/20

LYRICS:

Lyrics: Jeon Gandi and Kim Yina

This one is a little hard for me to grasp, because most of the translations that I looked at are a little confusing.  I believe the gist of the song is about a girl who is finding out that love is not what she expected.  Love is supposed to be two-dimensional – meaning that it should be simple and straightforward – but they also say that it’s a mystery. I take this to mean that love looks easy on paper (pun intended), but it’s definitely not.

The constant hints about this particular “love” being one-sided reinforce this idea.  There a lot of instances of the girl seeming wistful, wishing they could hold their loved one’s hand or that the person in question could read their mind or listen to their voice.  There’s also a nice bit of cute shyness, like in Sujeong and Mijoo’s lines. They get caught winking at the object of their affection and are quick to pretend that they weren’t.

“WoW!” is at its best when it’s working with the metaphor that it has set up.  The strongest section is the bridge, which is also my favorite: “Even if I can’t hear, even if I can’t reach / I’ll put my mind in this and that balloon (pop here pop there pop pop pop!) / When I fold my heart and raise it up / It will go over the two-dimensional space to your world.”  It takes the best of both worlds: beautiful imagery and cute quirky phrases.  And it has a beautiful meaning – that eventually the strength of your feelings will transcend any perceived barriers of shyness. (And that hopefully those feelings will be returned)

While the unexpected mysteries of love seem to be the core of the song, there’s a lot more going on in the lyrics. That’s not necessarily a good thing. There’s a lot of filler stuff to add some cuteness, like the “She’s pretty, she’s pretty” section. And although I like the hook, it seems a little nonsensical when it’s translated. Much like the song itself, it feels like the lyrics are going in a lot of different directions. It just kind of muddles everything.  It’s probably attractive or interesting to others, but unfortunately it’s not really the case for me.

SCORE: 7/10

LINE DISTRIBUTION:

I remember reading a comment or post on Tumblr a while ago that said that Lovelyz tends to shift their main vocal for each song.  I believe that the official main vocal is Kei, and Sujeong and Jin are the lead vocals. But as that person pointed out, different songs showcase different members. For example, Kei was clearly the main vocal for “Destiny.” In “Wow!”, it would seem like it’s Jin.  Kei has more lines, but a lot of them are cute filler and not vocally challenging.  In this instance, Jin does what’s expected of the main vocal. She has more of the complex lines and the high note towards the end.

Although the line distribution itself is not that even, the way that it was distributed gives a lot of attention to each different member.  It’s very similar to Twice and “Knock Knock” in that respect.  I really like the hook, where all of the little sections are split between the members.  There are still members that I think deserve more lines like my bias Jisoo, but it seems pretty accurate based on the group’s general organization.

On a side note, I wish that they’d also give Jiae more to work with than a catch phrase here and there – even if she ends up with more lines in this song.  It seems like she always gets stuck doing the cutesy stuff.  Given that in real life she actually has a lower toned voice, I find the baby voice super weird at this point. She’s almost in her mid twenties!

SCORE: 8/10

CHOREOGRAPHY:

*NOTE: Yein is currently sitting out promotions with an injury

This dance is pretty much all about being cute.  It’s filled to the brim with aegyo smiles and cute hand gestures.  Based on the overzealous fanchants in their performances,  I’m sure that the male fans love it. While it’s fun to watch one or two times, I don’t really find the choreography more distinctive.  It does a good job of making the song more cohesive, but that also means that it doesn’t really go anywhere.   There are a couple of parts that stand out, but in general most of the moves are kind of forgettable and repetitive. I think it’s the kind of routine that’s designed to appeal to the fans, focusing on the overall effect rather than the performance itself.  It’s a shame, because Lovelyz is definitely capable of much more interesting and complex dancing.

That being said, the parts that stand out really are memorable.  Their key point during the hook is indeed super cute and matches the music well.  While it’s not the kind of dance that I will be covering, it’s very fun and bright and suits the members and the concept.

Cuteness

SCORE: 15/20

CENTER AND FORMATIONS:

The formations for “WoW!” are pretty standard, with a lot of lines and V-shapes.  There are a few moments with unique formations, but they’re pretty rare. While this tends to make the performance a little one note, it does help certain parts of the choreography stand out. I especially like the first hook, where they travel from one formation to another.Formation-Change.gif

Lovelyz doesn’t seem to have a traditional center, perhaps because main dancer Mijoo has pointed out that Lovelyz choreography doesn’t suit her style.  The only one who could be called a center is Yein, but since she’s out with an injury it’s hard to tell how much of a role she played in the original choreography.  Given the past few comebacks and a couple of shots in the music video, I imagine it was probably a lot.

As it is, the center is largely divided between Sujeong, Kei, Jin, and Mijoo. All of them fit the position well, but for different reasons. Mijoo is a natural choice because she’s the main dancer and has the skills and charisma needed for a center (and it seems like she’s also filling in for Yein). Jin comes in at a less dance-heavy part and centers the performance with her vocals.  And Sujeong and Kei seems best suited for the concept, with their girlish looks and heir natural aegyo.

Update, 3/23/17: Now that Yein has recovered, Lovelyz released a dance practice of all eight members.  It seems that I was correct in my assumption that Yein had significant center time.

SCORE: 8/10

MUSIC VIDEO:

The key part of the lyrics – love being two-dimensional – is also the key part of the music video.  We spend most of it in an apartment literally filled with Lovelyz. There are pictures and cutouts of them everywhere, taken from all of their different promotions over the past two and a half years. The girls themselves develop after images, and at one point they even turn into mischievous paper dolls.

Paper-Dolls

While the song seemed to be more about a story, the music video seems to be more of a concept. It’s almost kind of like the makers ran with this idea and tried to fit in as many cool technical effects as possible.  It’s a little gimmicky, but it’s all good fun.  And the music video is very well-edited.  I like the parts where a member is waltzing along in her paper form and then appears as “real.”  It’s a simple trick, but it’s very clever.

Mijoo

My favorite part of the music video are the close-ups of the members with stickers on their faces, and it’s not just because the stickers are super cute. Instead of a traditional close-up, the camera gets really close for some unique framing. It’s very aesthetically appealing.

Close-Ups

I personally really enjoyed the music video, perhaps more so than the song or the performance.  It does bring other girl groups to mind, but I think that Lovelyz was able to infuse their style into and make the idea their own.  I’m generally not one for cutesy videos, but it was really clever and well-edited.  And it added a bit of a fun quirky side to a group that I would consider to have a more delicate and innocent image.

Mischievous

Update, 4/1/2017: I actually just watched an interview with Lovelyz that I hadn’t seen before. In it, they said that the apartment actually belongs to a person that is a huge fan of Lovelyz and keeps trying to catch them – except they turn into paper.  Looking back on the music video now, I sort of get that.  Especially since there a lot of first-person perspective shots.  I wouldn’t say that I could immediately tell if you see the video for the first time, but it does fit into the quirky and fun vibe that they’re going for.

SCORE: 18/20

STYLING:

Lovelyz has always been one of those groups that have had pretty uniform styling, at least in terms of haircuts. They’ve always tended to sport the same natural hair colors, and if they do change shades it doesn’t stand out too much (like Yein’s dirty blonde in “Destiny”). So I was a surprised when I didn’t recognize half of them in the teaser!  Most of the girls still stick with natural colors, but there are a lot of variations between brown, dark brown, and black. Plus a lot of them have more unique styling, like bangs or waves and such. I have mixed feelings about the more radical hair color changes. I do like Jin’s strawberry blonde hair, but they keep dressing her in colors like red or pink that directly clash with it. I’m also not completely sold on Mijoo’s blonde hair.  While it does look natural, I think it kind of washes her out.  But I can’t get over how more mature Yein looks with that jet black hair!

The girls have very colorful outfits in the music video and in most of their performances.  They seem to be mostly bold primary colors and a lot of orange, and gives a fun rainbow effect.  Some people might think that too many colors would clash, but I have personally always loved bright and bold colors.  I actually used to dress a little like this when I was younger, so I enjoy it. This is a little random, but I also think the distinct square shape of the outfits is a nice touch.

STYLING MVP: Sujeong, who in my opinion best fits the concept

Sujeong

SCORE: 8/10

FINAL TALLY:

Song – 16

Lyrics – 7

Line Distribution – 8

Choreography – 15

Center and Formations – 8

Music Video – 18

Styling – 8

TOTAL: 80

CONCLUSION: Lovelyz is one of those groups that I like but don’t actively follow unless they’re promoting.  I’m generally not drawn to their pure innocent concept, because it feels a little young for my particular demographic. I really loved “Destiny” – it’s a little outside of their normal style, but they did it so well.  Truth be told, I was a teeny bit disappointed when “WoW” didn’t continue in that direction.

Personal preferences aside, I acknowledge that “WoW!” is probably a better fit for their overall image.  It’s a good balance of concepts that are similar but not the same.  It keeps a lot of what they’ve done before that’s worked.  At the same time, they’re simultaneously laying a foundation for what’s to come.  While the song does fit the trend of what’s popular for girl groups right now, the girls still retain their own signature style and identity.

I think it’s great that Lovelyz is trying to expand their horizons a little bit, but I think there are some issues with the overall execution. While the comeback is fairly solid as a whole, it falters when the different elements are pulled apart. I think the music video is the strongest thing about the comeback, which is not always something that you want.  And without it, the song and dance lose a little bit of their quirky and unique appeal (at least for me). This is more minor, but I also don’t quite get how “WoW!” and “Destiny” fit into the same trilogy.  Aside from similar-sounding choruses, they don’t have anything in common in terms of narrative or aesthetic.  I’m inclined to believe that “WoW!” is a bridge to whatever is coming next.

The reactions that I’ve found on “WoW!” have been mixed.  Some really enjoyed it, but some don’t. I personally like it, but I don’t love it.  I don’t think that it’s so bad that they’ll lose fans, but I’m not sure how many they will gain.  That being said, I’m interested in what the third part of the trilogy will be like.

Sources: Youtube, Woollim Entertainment, Wikipedia, Seoul Beats, K-pop K-fans(Blogspot), Hit The Stage Episode 7 (MNET), KBS World Magazine K-Rush Episode 1 (KBS)

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