I’ve never been much a 4Minute fan, even from the start. And even after years gone by, I have only been able to reluctantly admit to being a Hyuna fan girl and being unable to enjoy all but maybe two of 4Minute’s Korean releases. 4Minute’s latest,”Volume Up,” was a lackluster song accompanied by a hodgepodge album I really couldn’t bring myself to care for, and only furthered my poor opinion of the group as a unit. But even when animosity has struck a chord in me to loathe one group’s music, a second chance still found a way of happening.

4Minute recently dropped their latest Japanese single “Love Tension” onto the masses, and I must come clean and say I am thoroughly impressed. The sleek wardrobe and clean aesthetic, not to mention the addictive nature of the melody, have come together to create a production I never thought I could expect from the likes of 4Minute.

The line distribution seemed more evenly dispersed, and for once it seemed like everyone got their fifteen seconds of face time instead of this being another MV starring Hyuna, featuring 4Minute. Whoever styled the wardrobe did a phenomenal job of keeping the colors simple but the lines flattering, and the neutral scheme accented by the shades of pink (as seen in the shoes, flowers, lipstick, etc) was a beautiful approach to the presentation of the song. But watching the “Love Tension” PV and enjoying it as much as I did also made me question why 4Minute doesn’t bring this kind of edge to their K-pop.

At least in my personal opinion, 4Minute has always come to the table with the sassy, party-girl-next-door image. And while I think it’s great the girls consistently bring their charisma to the forefront, something about them still seems unoriginal. Their brand is a mashup of After School’s maturity, Wonder Girl’s charm, and 2NE1’s over the top fashion; I can’t help but see other mainstream influences in their music and image so much so that I simply can’t bring myself to be much of a fan.

There have, however, been a handful of 4Minute releases that I have enjoyed, “Love Tension” aside. I did like “Mirror, Mirror” and “HUH,” and both for the same reasons. In these two songs it appeared as if 4Minute was channeling their own concept and sound. It was in these moments that 4Minute’s performances were more signature, and I couldn’t see a reflection of another group.

 

Of course, I’m not trying to say that 4Minute has not been successful doing that they’ve been doing. Quite frankly, by sticking to their guns, 4Minute has made their way into the big leagues of K-pop and won over much fame, so it needless to say they’re doing something right. Rather, what I am suggesting is that now 4Minute has finally been established, it may be worth developing a more unique image that is synonymous with 4Minute, and not readily identified with other acts on the K-pop scene. The chic and sleek aesthetics of “Love Tension,” and yes, even “Mirror, Mirror” and “Huh” all seem to be steps in the right direction.

The image I am talking about is sophisticated, seemingly effortless, and alluring–an image that fewer female acts in K-pop choose to do and even fewer do successfully. 4Minute has the girl power to be the bridge between the outright mature and the downright whimsical. Somewhere in them is this capacity to be fierce and also feline, a balancing act of grace and attitude that can create an image iconic to them and only them.

And “Love Tension” is exactly that: a harmony between two images, one girly, one sophisticated. I’ve never seen 4Minute look more stunning, and this is coming from a person who has never been much a fan for 4Minute from the beginning. After this release, I hope 4Minute can recognize these strengths  and monopolize this image to their own benefit. For a group of girls who’ve braved the treacherous climb up the echelons of the K-pop thus far, they deserve an outlasting image that brands their music for what it’s worth. For now “Love Tension” may be Japan’s new gem, but here’s to hoping 4Minute keeps coming back to the plate with something just as commanding in presence. That way they don’t pale against the comparison of others, and can shine in a light all their own.