Oh My Girl Comeback Review: “Coloring Book”

I have such a soft spot for Oh My Girl.  There’s just something about them that’s so endearing. Anything they do puts a big smile on my face, so I was heavily anticipating “Coloring Book.” I think that this comeback has been a little divisive; either you love it or hate it.  I happen to love it. It’s so vibrant and fun!

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

Concept: Bright and energetic

Past Concept(s): Musically, Oh My Girl has always tended to stay on the cute and refreshing side of the spectrum.  Aesthetically, almost everything they do has a quirky streak.

SONG:

Music by: David Anthony, Valeria Del Prete, 72

Arranged by: David Anthony

K-Rush Magazine said this song has a “Northern European” sound, but I have no idea what that means. A Google didn’t further help me with any possible standout characteristics of said sound.  I assume “Northern Europe” is synonymous with “Scandinavia.” So if you’re from there, feel free to enlighten me. For now, I’ll say that “Coloring Book” is the most upbeat and energetic song we’ve heard from Oh My Girl so far.  It’s characterized by a catchy rhythm, loud joyful brass, and cute interjections. It also has colorful vocal runs that are similar to the chorus of Little Mix’s “Wings.” It definitely fits the bill for “bright” and “dynamic.”

The potential drawback to “Coloring Book” is that it’s all over the place.  It doesn’t have an easily discernible structure, and seems a little overwhelming on the first listen.  I actually couldn’t tell where the verse ended and the chorus began for a while.  Because it keeps the same energy level throughout, there are no indicators for how the song progresses.  It can definitely get confusing.

I would put “Coloring Book” in the same category as SNSD’s famously polarizing “I Got a Boy.” The song is undeniably a hot mess, but it really depends on if you like that kind of thing.  I’ve seen many people complain that “I Got a Boy” is a disaster of three songs mashed into one, but I consider it one of my all-time favorite K-pop songs.  So I bet you can guess where I stand with “Coloring Book.”

SCORE: 17/20

LYRICS:

Lyrics by: So Jung-ah

The lyrics are probably the most concise thing about this whole comeback.  The basic principle is that the object of Oh My Girl’s affections makes them feel complete – so much so that it feels like they’re a drawing being filled up with color.  (“In the blink of an eye, I’m beautifully colored by you”) This is such a great metaphor, and I’m surprised an idea like this hasn’t popped up sooner.  It yields such great opportunities for both the lyrics and the music video, which we’ll see later.

There are some lines with nice imagery, like Binnie saying she walks on stairs made of clouds or Yooa saying her beloved’s eyes are like half moons with stars. The lyrics tend to leave the more flowery stuff for the chorus, choosing to focus on more classic tropes for the verse (they feel like they’re in a fairy tale, it’s such a strange feeling, their hearts stop when their love looks at them, etc). But they do a good job of balancing the poetic with the cheesy – and there’s nothing wrong with cheesy lyrics! I do think constantly shouting “Ten fingers!” is a little weird, but perhaps that’s a language barrier.

SCORE: 9/10

LINE DISTRIBUTION:

“Coloring Book” gives more lines to Oh My Girl’s lead vocalists than the main ones.  Hyojung does sing a lot, but Seunghee has shockingly little for a main vocal. I’m not overly surprised about Yooa and Jiho, because they often get a lot of lines.  But I’m delighted that Binnie gets to sing so much, especially because she has a different vocal tone than most of the other girls.   It’s not necessarily an example of ideal line distribution – half of the members have a great deal more than the other half.  But it’s also an admirable decision to give the majority of the song to lead vocals. Plus it proves that Oh My Girl has a lot of strong singers besides Seunghee.

SCORE: 8/10

CHOREOGRAPHY:

Second-ChorusThis dance is so freaking hard.  I tried learning it one time and gave up out of frustration. It’s not really because the moves themselves are difficult, although there are some more complicated sequences.  It’s more that the choreography is a giant mish-mash of moves that don’t have any clear pattern, and speed of the song forces you to think fast.   To be clear, I’m not talking about the quality of the dance. There are actually a lot of moves that I really like.  All of the bouncing around and delicate arm movements really show off Oh My Girl’s cuteness.  For me, it’s more of a problem of organization.

Bang-Bang-Fireworks-ExplodeWhen you dance, you’re always anticipating the next move.  Some people are really good at free-styling and making it up on the spot. Most of us aren’t, so choreography tends to make sure that the moves flow logically. This is definitely not the case here.  There is no rhyme or reason to any of the dance.  While a lot of the steps are fun and cute, the overall result just looks patched together.  It’s a miracle that this dance didn’t turn out to look like a bunch of people flailing around.

First-ChorusOne reason for this is that the choreography is based on the rhythm over the melody.  In general, this isn’t actually a problem.  You usually want your dance to be in tune with the rhythm.  But “Coloring Book” has a very distinctive melody. It’s the standout point of the whole song.  So in this case, the choreography should mirror the melody or the vocal runs to look cohesive.  It sticks to the beat instead, which makes it look disjointed from the song.

Bang-Bang-Fireworks-ExplodeWhile the choreography should definitely be cleaner, I still really enjoy it.  I applaud the girls for pulling off such a hard dance and a hard song at the same time.  “Coloring Book” only has one section of repeated choreography, which is basically unheard of in K-pop dance.  It’s especially rare in girl group dances, where many repeat the choruses or various parts at least two or three times.  So while I think it’s kind of a mess, at least it’s a workout – both physically and mentally.  The choreographer had some great ideas, but the resulting dance just wasn’t polished enough.

SCORE: 17/20

CENTER AND FORMATIONS:

The formations are very simple because the choreography has a lot going on.  While they change constantly, they usually end up in something standard like two lines or a V formation.  “Coloring Book” is excessive in almost every way, so it’s nice they showed some restraint here.

Yooa-CenterYooa is undeniably the center, and she occupies that spot for a good two thirds of the song. She’s a skilled dancer, she has the most lines, and she’s also the face of the group.  In other words, this is a very logical decision. Jiho and Arin take up most of the other center time, which are also reasonable choices. Putting Arin in the center makes up for her lack of lines, and Jiho is the visual (and also possibly dance line, although I’m not sure).  If you take both line and center distribution into account, Seunghee is the only who really got shortchanged.  But considering that she has more notoriety than some or most of the other members, I think it’s passable to sideline her for one comeback.

SCORE: 9/10

MUSIC VIDEO:

MV-Cloud-LifeTrue to its name, “Coloring Book” is a colorful delight. The members are cloud girls who live in an all-white cube. Their favorite activity seems to be baking. When a ball of dough rolls off the table, it bursts into color – resulting in a rainbow paint fight. Emboldened, the girls decide to explore the colorful world outside of the cube.  Though they ultimately return home, the colorful cake they bake indicates that they haven’t forgotten their adventure.

MV-Color!!!Oh My Girl has always had pretty colorful music videos.  For example, “Liar Liar” was a pastel delight.  “Coloring Book” focuses pretty heavily on the rainbow.  Everything is bright, bold, and vibrant.  Some people might feel that it’s too much, but it’s right up my alley. I especially love the beginning, when the girls mess up their pristine white cube.  It provides such a cool contrast.

MV-ColoringThe quirkiness that Oh My Girl is known for is also quite evident here.  The outside world is clearly a fantastical one, and it’s a lot of fun.  The girls enjoy the outdoors by sitting on a bridge made of their paint-splattered furniture. Yooa chills in a bathtub while Arin pour sprinkles into it with a watering can.  Seunghee goes fishing and catches a pink dolphin.  Mimi gets colored in by Yooa and Jiho, in a nod to the song’s lyrics. And Hyojung floats back up into their home holding a big cluster of balloons.  Cute concepts are very in right now, and it’s so easy to get lost in the crowd.  Oh My Girl stands out by having making their music videos light-hearted and whimsical.  Their aim is to put a smile on our faces, and they succeed on all counts.

SCORE: 20/20

STYLING:

Oh My Girl has got looking cute nailed down. I’ve always thought they looked particularly doll-like, and I think their clothing adds to that.  They’ve been promoting in various colored outfits, but the style is always the same – full and flouncy skirts, with different tailored blouses.  I personally think they look absolutely adorable, and I like how each member has her clothing tailored to her personality.  For their music video outfits, they keep it quirky with oversized and mismatched clothing items.  Again, each outfit seems to suit the member.

STYLING MVP: Binnie, because that outfit is killer.

MV-Binnie

SCORE: 10/10

FINAL TALLY:

Song – 17

Lyrics – 9

Line Distribution – 8

Choreography – 17

Center and Formations – 9

Music Video – 20

Styling – 10

TOTAL: 90

CONCLUSION: I never expected Oh My Girl to release a song like “Coloring Book.”  The majority of their music is quite upbeat, but their preferred way of singing and dancing gives them a softer image in my mind. I’m now fully convinced that they can tackle any variation of the cute and innocent concept. Although I love “Coloring Book” for the craziness that it is, I tried to evaluate it objectively and factor in its flaws.  I’m well aware that others might not score it so highly.  But I also think that Oh My Girl’s true goal with this kind of comeback is to make us smile.  They’ve certainly accomplished that, because I can feel that goofy grin spread across my face every time I queue up the music video.  So I’m willing to give them higher mark.

I went most of the post without mentioning it, but I did want to briefly address the absence of JinE.  I find it very impressive that the comeback looks complete with seven members (although I’m sure they prepared it knowing she wouldn’t participate).  I don’t mean this unkindly or cruelly, because I’m not talking about sentimentality.  I’m sure many watch “Coloring Book,” think of JinE, and hope she’s doing well.  I know I do.  I’m talking purely in terms of the quality of the comeback, because sometimes a song or dance will seem lacking if a member isn’t there.  I can think of at least three other groups that are coming back without a member right now. Compared to them, I think Oh My Girl has handled it pretty well.  When JinE returns, I’m sure she’ll blend into “Coloring Book” seamlessly.  But although we miss her, the comeback isn’t lacking due to her absence.

In terms of popularity, I would compare Oh My Girl to Monsta X.  Both of them seem to be very well-loved by idols and fans.  They also consistently produce good music and give good performances.  But they still haven’t had a hit that made them top tier (a.k.a. dominated the charts or won a music show), despite having everything needed to do so.  I feel bad for many underrated groups, but I especially do with Oh My Girl because they’re being worked really hard.  They had three comebacks last year, and they probably would have squeezed another in if not for JinE’s health issues.  I really hope 2017 is the year where they start hitting those milestones.  “Coloring Book” probably wasn’t the song that would do the trip, but I think it’s another step on their climb to the top.  Given their rising success, I imagine they’ll get there soon.

Sources: Youtube, WM Entertainment, 1theK, Wikipedia, M! Countdown (MNET), K-Rush Magazine Ep. 6 (KBS)

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