K-pop’s most underrated girl group returns with the delightful “Hwi Hwi”!
As the “Honorary Producers” ‘page’ indicates, Laboum still isn’t out of the commercial underwoods yet. A year ago, the same crowdsourcing helped launch “Fresh Adventure”/”Journey to Atlantis”, a masterpiece single that won them some well-deserved plaudits (from Nation’s First Love Suzy included), and which gained sufficient notice to allow them to even re-shop the previous winter’s terrific but overlooked “Aalow Aalow” on Korean radio.
Undoubtedly 2016 was better to the girls than the previous year: the gap between “Sugar Sugar” and “Aalow Aalow” was worryingly long for a rookie group. But “Journey to Atlantis”, which saw no fewer than seven performances on Show Champion, was soon followed by “Shooting Love” and their first proper “mini-album”. And with winter they launched “Winter Story” with a luxuriously mounted fairytale-themed video.
“Hwi Hwi” shows the same quality control in its radiantly sharp photography. The theme here of course is thoroughly contemporary and full of Pop colors, and while it may lack the props and luxe production design of a high-dollar digi pedi production, this video is technically polished and a pleasure for the eyes. Just soak up the Technicolor lighting on Haein’s face during her fortune teller interludes, or the film musical whimsy of Soyeon set inside the crescent moon.
This video doesn’t have the narrative pull of “Shooting Love” with its delirious spycraft romp and the girls trying to bug or bomb one another. But with its nods towards A Pink’s “Mr Chu” MV, it’s full of girlish high spirits (as well as bright tennis skirts).
Yulhee’s goth interlude seems to come out of nowhere, but how can we deny the charm of “the two youngest” frighting each other. And then Yulhee gets the video’s best moment when she blows her kiss and pops off her gun, gets her hair blown, and then realizes she’s “shot” the balloon’s strings.
Soyeon apparently has at last set aside her Frozen hair extensions: they constitute quite an “era” but I guess it’s time to move on! Solbin’s orange tints flatter the “little wicked” funk of the theme, and Yujeong, always porcelain, looks terrific with her bob.
And while ZN isn’t really given any one moment as iconic as Yulhee’s wistful gaze from the bleachers or the other shots mentioned above, there is a lot of ZN in this video and song, and she beams with charisma.
Musically, “Hwi Hwi” may not rival the delirious melodicism and sheer defiance of convention in “Journey to Atlantis” or “Rough” or “Black Swan” or “Hi”. It’s not exactly a pop symphony, no. But let it be said: this is radio pop polished to a gleaming pitch of perfection within the bounds of those conventions. Unlike several noted K-pop releases of late (I’m looking at you, Red Velvet’s “Rookie”), “Hwi Hwi” doesn’t try to get by on some weird pop-punk artsy sense of whimsy that winds up in anemiaville: this is dance power-pop, fully revved and windexed to a perfect shine, and with a whistling earworm that might set off a mass infection. It’s loveable and a lot of fun, and maybe finally this will be the one that carries them through to the trophy.