Pristin Debut Review: “Wee Woo”

Pristin has a lot of recognition for a rookie group that just debuted a few weeks ago. Most of them competed on Produce 101, and they got two members into I.O.I. The remaining ones held a series of concerts last summer to introduce themselves to the public. Plus they’re the sister group to Seventeen, who is becoming very popular these days. Anticipation for them was definitely high. For all of these expectations, I think that “Wee Woo” is a pretty solid debut.  It might not be ground-breaking or innovative, but it shows that they’ve clearly mastered the basics. If they play their cards right, they could become a force to be reckoned with.

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

Concept: Girly or feminine.  This isn’t actually a K-pop concept to my knowledge. I just use it as a catch-all term for girl group concepts that are a mix of different things.  There are cute and bubbly parts, and there are also hints of more sexy things. (Other groups that use this concept are SNSD and Twice)

SONG:

Music by: Sungyeon, BUMZU, Anchor, Park Kitae

Arranged by: BUMZU, Anchor, Park Kitae

The producers of “Wee Woo” clearly know what’s in these days, because it’s got all the makings of a quintessential trendy pop song.  It’s upbeat, it’s easy to listen to, its got an addictive melody, and it’s bright and bubbly.  It’s like they followed the recipe for what makes a classic pop (and K-pop) song. It’s definitely a solid title track for a rookie group making their debut.

“Wee Woo” is definitely an earworm.  It has a lot of catchy elements: the lively and repetitive guitar, the pre-chorus chant of “You’re my super superhero,” random fun interjections like “bu bu” and “dugeun dugeun”…and of course, the highlight “wee woo” sound. These are all designed with the intention of sticking in your head.  You notice them when you hear the song, and they’re catchy enough for you to randomly remember them when the music isn’t playing.

In K-pop, at least half the songs that you will hear are super repetitive.  Most of those are guaranteed to get stuck in your head at some point, but how they do it is key. There are some that kind of force their way in and stay until you like them, like Red Velvet’s “Rookie.” There ones that you just love immediately and want to listen to over and over, like Girl’s Day’s “I’ll Be Yours.” (Both of those examples are totally subjective, by the way!) I think “Wee Woo” falls somewhere in between the two.  It’s catchy, but not persistent.  It pops in and out of my head, but it always knows when it’s overstayed its welcome.

When I first heard “Wee Woo,” I was pretty ambivalent.  I didn’t hate it, but at the same time I wasn’t wowed.  But repeat value is definitely a thing in K-pop, and I like it a little more with every listen. I do really like the “wee woo” sound; it’s catchy and it’s very girly.  It adds a nice feminine touch without being too cutesy. I wouldn’t say “Wee Woo” is one of my absolute favorites, but it’s still pretty darn good.

SCORE: 18/20

LYRICS:

Lyrics by: Sungyeon, BUMZU, Bae Soojung, Gustav Karlstrom

In this song, the girls compare falling for someone to be dangerous yet exciting.  Their heart flutters madly when they see the object of their affection, and the “wee woo” noise is a warning siren.  It’s a little stereotypical, but I think it’s also quite relatable for their demographic.  Who hasn’t had a high school or college crush that was equally thrilling and terrifying?

Unfortunately, there are a lot of clichés in the lyrics.  There’s a lot of, heart racing, being dazzled, getting dizzy, going crazy because they like this person so much, etc. And of course, they wonder why everyone seems to like and notice them except for this particular one. (“The kids who like me are standing in a line / Why aren’t you standing in between them?”)  There’s nothing wrong with clichés.  There’s a reason why they’re popular, and I don’t think a song like “Wee Woo” needs anything deep or meaningful. It’s just that there are so many of them.  The comparison between heart jitters and a siren is an interesting one, and it provides lot of potential for interesting lyrics. I wish they would have played more with that.

The one part of the song that I really like is the bridge, where the girls wish that they had same spellbinding effect on their crush:

“Rub a magic lamp, cast a spell to make you mine
On the sun, moon, and stars
Casting a spell, let’s check and see if the spell worked”

It does seem a little bit out of place, but it gives the song a little quirkiness and some extra fun.  And who knows?  Maybe it’s realistic too. I do seem to remember playing with magic eight balls and tarot cards to find out about my romantic future back in the day.

SCORE: 7/10

LINE DISTRIBUTION:

Apparently, Pristin doesn’t have any fixed roles when it comes to vocal or rap.  This means that anyone can do anything, although I would say some are more firmly established as a vocal or rapper. This approach is really apparent when you look at the line distribution.  It’s not completely equal: Xiyeon has the most lines at 15%, while Yehana has the least at 6.4%.  But they’re constantly rotating who sings what. The member who’s singing changes every line, or sometimes even every half-line.  So while it’s not really equal, it feels like it is.

I think it’s admirable that they have chosen not to pick main or lead roles. It gives everybody a fair chance, and members can improve and grow without being stuck in a certain label.  But at the same time, a group usually has structure for a reason.  The most relevant one here is that it’s a good way to help potential fans figure out who’s who.  A line distribution like this is good for a group like Twice, where all of the members are well known and popular.  It doesn’t work so well for a group that’s just debuting. Ten members is a lot, and you need some definitive ways to distinguish them.

I realize that this is a very small issue, but I do think it’s important in the long run. I had a very hard time telling half the members apart, and the only reason I can now is because I watched their videos a bunch of times for this review.  I understand not wanting to have designated roles, but I would suggest a slightly different approach.  It would probably work better if they chose the roles for each title track, and then switched who is showcased more every time – at least in the beginning.

SCORE: 7/10

CHOREOGRAPHY:

“Wee Woo” has everything you need for a classic pop song, and the choreography has everything you need for a classic girl group dance.  It’s eye-catching, entertaining, and memorable. I am a big believer in K-pop choreographies having a distinctive key point, and Pristin has delivered on that front.  I absolutely love the leg lift.  It’s such a simple move, but it fits the “wee woo” part perfectly. Plus it’s flirty and feminine, which is exactly what they’re going for.

Wee-Woo

I’d say it falls somewhere in the middle of the difficulty scale.  There are some more complicated sections, but for the most part it’s straightforward and easy to remember.  But at the same time, easy choreography isn’t a bad thing. If the wow factor of a routine doesn’t come from complicated dancing, it comes comes from how entertaining the performance is.  It’s simple enough to learn the steps, but they’ll fall flat if you just dance the moves.  Routines like this need to be filled with bright smiles, on-point expressions, and tons of fan appeal.  And every move has to be big and bright. Perhaps it’s because they’ve built up a lot of pre-debut experience, but the girls are already very skilled at showing off their charms.  This is really important for a rookie group, so they definitely have an advantage here.

You're-my-super-super-hero

I wrote before that a “girly” or “feminine” concept is kind of an umbrella term for concepts that are a bunch of things at once. We can see a lot of different styles in the dance throughout the different moves.  The hair flip move that they begin with is sexy.  The chorus is bubbly and cute.  The “wee woo” key point is flirty.  And the ending is and energetic with cheerleader vibes.  While this has the potential to be a very disjointed dance, it actually all blends together nicely because all of the moves match the rhythm and music.

Final-Chorus

Personally, I really enjoy this choreography.  It’s well-balanced in style and difficulty, and it lets the girls both show off their moves and draw us in with their performance.  I also appreciate that there’s not a lot of filler, which is very common in girl group dances. At the same time, the routine still has plenty of those nice girly touches fans like to see.  Best of all (in my book), the movements are very clean and dynamic. It’s clear that the overall look and flow and were well thought out.

Bridge

SCORE: 19/20

CENTER AND FORMATIONS:

I don’t really think formations ever make or break a dance, but they definitely add dimension and shake things up. You don’t miss them if they’re not there, but you’ll definitely take notice if they are. Groups with lots of members have an advantage in performances because they can create a lot of cool formations.  Pristin’s brother group Seventeen is especially good at this – just watch “Pretty U.”  Pristin isn’t quite up to that level yet.  In fact, they mostly just stay in the same three clusters. But they do use tactics like staggering the members’ movements and changing levels to keep it fresh and fun.

Ending

I’m not sure if their stance on no fixed positions applies to dancing. They’re all about the same level, so I’m not sure who exactly would be dance line.  Nayoung is the center, which I think is a good choice for many reasons.  Most importantly, she’s a skilled dancer. But she also has popularity and recognition as an I.O.I. member.  And she’s good at doing both sexy and cute, which are the two main cornerstones of the feminine concept.

Hair-Flip

Although Nayoung gets the most time in the center, there are plenty of other members like Xiyeon and Roa who have a turn.  Eunwoo and Yuha also center the choruses.  I’m a little surprised that Kyulkyung wasn’t in the center as much as Nayoung, given her dancing prowess and her popularity. But overall, I would say that all of the girls got pretty decent individual exposure.

SCORE: 8/10

MUSIC VIDEO:

This music video is actually a lot deeper than it first appears.  It took me the longest time to figure out what it was actually about. I understood the idea that they represented different types of girls (girly girl, bad girl, sporty spice girl, etc.), but the supernatural stuff threw me for a loop.  Before I looked at the lyrics, I thought that the story was that they all got haunted by a ghost and got together to do a seance or something.  But that didn’t quite seem to fit into the tone of the song or their concept.

MV-Xiyeon

That still might actually be one interpretation of the music video.  I have no official evidence proving or refuting it.  But now that I know the lyrics, I think the “hauntings” are more symbolic.  They represent an unfamiliar situation for each girl that she doesn’t know how to handle, which according to the lyrics is having an enormous crush.  Most of the reactions are startled and surprised, like in the song itself. Once they become more comfortable or control the situation, they seem much more at ease. (Dream Teller has a similar idea, although I don’t agree with all of his points)

It’s a really strong idea, so I’m a little disappointed that it got muddled in the execution.  I think that a little more consistency would have gone a long way. For example, they could have had something weird happen to all of the members, instead of just some of them.  It would have given us more clues to what was going on, because a few examples don’t make it clear. It depends on the member, but we don’t always know basic information: who she’s supposed to be, why she is in that particular setting, and what’s going on. We don’t necessarily need an actual story with a narrative arc; we just need to get the basic premise on the first watch.

Even defining their “characters” more would have helped.  I’m not sure what half of the “types” were supposed to even be. Production design (costumes, decor, props, etc.) can be really helpful in giving visual clues, but it’s half-hearted here.  I think it’s because the creative team is clearly focused on having a uniform aesthetic, which pretty much translates to “pretty girls.”  There’s nothing wrong with that, but that also means the stereotypes these girls are playing are too similar.  They’re trying to be quirky and show off their individual charms, but it doesn’t work if they’re all basically an attractive version of something.

That being said, it’s still a fun music video that’s pleasing to the eye.  I’m a huge fan of the aesthetic. It’s colorful but not overly bright, and I enjoy the red and yellow accents that remind you of sirens and caution tape. I also really like the camera work, especially the one-shot sequences.  The more obvious one is the panning scene with all the occult stuff, but I also like the tracking one in the school hallway.  The camera tracks back as Kyulkyung walks through the halls, and the other members start to appear in small groups.  By the end of the sequence, they’re all winking and waving at us.  Those kind of shots take a lot of work, and it paid off because it stands out. I think they succeeded more in the moments where they charmed the fans than the ones where they were trying to implement an idea. But all in all, it’s a pretty solid music video for a debut.

MV-Hallway-One-Shot

SCORE: 17/20

STYLING:

I still maintain that the stylists should have put more effort into giving the girls a “type” for the sake of the music video’s narrative.  And they should have actually dressed them appropriately according to said “type.”  I mean, I was an actual bookworm in high school and I looked nothing like Nayoung.  That doesn’t mean that they should make them ugly or quirky looking, but if they were going to do the “pretty girl” thing, they should have just cut the stereotype idea

However, from an aesthetics point of view I think it’s a relatively minor issue.  If we’re talking about just the styling, it’s so on point: clothes, hair, makeup, everything.  The girls look absolutely fabulous and flawless. What’s great is that the styling will be pleasing to all of the fans.  Male fans’ hearts will probably be going “wee woo” when they see some of those outfits.  And on the flip side, I literally want to copy every single look.  K-pop relies heavily on visuals and that isn’t always a good thing, but having good ones might help Pristin put their foot in the door like it did Twice.  At least they won’t have any awkward debut photos or videos that will come back to haunt them.

STYLING MVP: Roa.  Honestly they all look amazing, but I personally prefer her look.

MV-Roa

SCORE: 9/10

FINAL TALLY:

Song – 18

Lyrics – 7

Line Distribution – 7

Choreography – 19

Center and Formations – 8

Music Video – 17

Styling – 9

TOTAL: 85

CONCLUSION: A lot of new groups tend to have a distinct rookie vibe when they debut, but there are some that come out of the gate with a more professional feel.  I think that Pristin is one of those groups. There are a few missteps like with most debuts or comebacks, but “Wee Woo” is solid. Their debut has many indicators for success: a great catchy song, a fun dance that’s easy to learn, an aesthetically pleasing music video, and flawless styling and visuals.  They’re obviously not as experienced as girl groups that have been around for a few years, but they’re definitely making their mark.

I’ve noticed on social media and in articles that a lot of people are comparing Pristin to Twice and their debut. I did notice a lot of similarities to “Like Ooh Ahh,” and I do think that “Wee Woo” is a song that fits in Twice’s wheelhouse.  But I don’t believe that they’re outright copying them.  Instead of labeling Pristin as generic, boring, or unoriginal, I choose to look at it in a different way. This kind of concept is super popular right now, so I see it as Pristin being savvy and playing to the current trend.

A girly or feminine concept might not be anything exciting, but it’s a good way to prove what you’re capable of.  Pristin has already shown us that they’ve got a good grasp of the basics, and they have what it takes to become successful.  They’ve also indicated that they could branch into a whole different bunch of concepts: cute, sexy, or girl crush, to name a few.  I’m not sure what will come next, but I’m definitely excited to find out.

Sources: Youtube, Pledis Entertainment, Wikipedia, Soompi, K-Pop K-Fans (Blogspot)

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