“Color of K-pop:” A Promising Palette Gone Wrong
The “Color of K-pop” was a project courtesy of SBS for their annual Gayo Daejun. Calling on a total of twenty K-pop idols from ten different idol groups and four of the more noteworthy composers in the K-pop scene at the moment, the project was surely a promising one.
The groups involved were Sistar, Secret, Kara, 4Minute, After School, MBLAQ, Beast, 2AM, Infinite, and Teen Top. Two representatives of each group were called to participate, and the idols were then separated into four groups (two male groups and two female groups) of five. Fans themselves voted which idols were to be put on which team with a producer later being assigned to one of the four teams, all named after colors: Dramatic Blue, Dynamic Black, Dazzling Red, and Mystic White.
The goal of the project was for each group along with their producer to make individual singles to be performed exclusively on SBS’s Gayo Daejun as special stages. The proceeds from these singles would then be donated to charity.
After a reasonable period of voting, the following groups were formed. For the guys’ side, Infinite’s Woohyun, Beast’s Yoseob, Teen Top’s Niel, 2AM’s Jo Kwon, and MBLAQ’s G.O. were placed into Dramatic Blue along with producer Sweetune, and Infinite’s Hoya, Beast’s Kikwang, Teen Top’s L.Joe, 2AM’s Jinwoon, and MBLAQ’s Joon were placed into Dynamic Black to work with Shinsadong Tiger. As for the girls, Sistar’s Hyorin, Secret’s Hyosung, 4Minute’s Hyuna, Kara’s Nicole, and After School’s Nana were partnered up with Brave Brothers as Dazzling Red, and producer Kim Do-hoon was assigned to Mystic White, made up of Sistar’s Bora, Secret’s Sunhwa, After School’s Lizzy, 4Minute’s Gayoon, and Kara’s Jiyoung.
Generally, the way the groups were formed was very predictable and typical. Each of the members of each group share roughly the same images (especially notable for the girls) or skill sets (more prominent with the boys). From the sexy and sensual members of Dazzling Red or the more feminine and cutesy girls of Mystic White, it was pretty easy to predict what type of songs were going to be given to the groups. Likewise for the males, the members of Dramatic Blue were dominantly the main or lead vocals in their respective groups, while Dramatic Black was composed of mainly dancers or rappers, with sole exception of Jinwoon who was likely added for vocal support. And while these set-ups were very predictable and unimaginative, they probably worked best for their respective idols. As all of them share similar images, their respective producers gave them songs they were all able to work with, keeping them in the environments they work best.
Needless to be said, the project was a very ambitious one, being a crossover of huge proportions. The groups and producers involved were very well established on the scene, and consequently, the project attracted a fairly sizable demographic. Furthermore, the collaboration was extensively advertised as well, as SBS released numerous behind the scene clips of the temporarily formed groups practicing choreography, recording their songs, or filming their special stage’s (excessively extravagant) opening sequences. Moreover, each of the groups were also interviewed on SBS’s Inkigayo, promoting their then upcoming singles. However, as ambitious and promising the entire effort was, I’m sad to say that it unfortunately fell short. While the idea itself of gathering idols for a major collaboration was ingenious and should definitely happen more often, the songs actually made were lackluster and generic, falling short of the hype surrounding the project.
First of all, there was Dramatic Blue. As a group of potent vocalists, this was probably the group I had the most expectations for. Moreover, the group also bragged Sweetune, one of my favorite producers in the K-pop scene at the moment, thus heightening my expectations. However, contrary to my expectations, the group’s “Tearfully Beautiful” ended up my least favorite of the bunch. Seeing as the group is comprised solely of vocalists, I’d expect a powerful ballad or a touching mid-tempo that would fully challenge the members’ vocals in ways not practical in their respective groups.
However, what was instead given was an awkward, semi-ballad dance piece more fitting for a drama OST than the hyped up collaboration. The track lacks Sweetune’s signature ’80s style synths and instead features a clumsily upbeat instrumental of fast paced percussion and acoustics. The track is very one-dimensional throughout, with its inelegant verses and unspectacular chorus. Furthermore, the song even fails to fully highlight the competent members’ vocal skills, a feat one would think should be compulsory considering the masterful skill of the group.
The only saving grace of the song is probably its execution by the members. While their voices should have definitely been more challenged, the diverse vocal tones of the members were a treat to hear. The song did highlight the more nasal qualities of Yoseob and Niel’s voice, but the contrast between their voices and the deeper tones of Woohyun and G.O. was a pleasure to listen to. Jo Kwon also did an exceptional job with the chorus, redeeming this overall disappointing effort somewhat.
The better song from the boys is definitely Dynamic Black’s “Yesterday.” Considering the notable dancers or rappers of the group, “Yesterday” is surprisingly a sullen mid-tempo. The song starts off very slow and calm with Jinwoon and his trusty acoustic guitar before more intense and climactic synths are added with the introduction of the other members. The transition between the intro and first verse was sudden yet very enjoyable, and the verses themselves are charismatic and subdued. The chorus adds the power the song needed while the bridge does it part in providing a refreshing change in pace.
The execution of the group is on-point, as all the members manage to embody an intensity needed for the song. Jinwoon undoubtedly carries the group vocally, but Kikwang, Joon, and Hoya were more than able to provide vocal support. Hoya in particular impressed with his surprisingly stable vocals. The rap section featuring Hoya and L.Joe was also nicely implemented, making for an overall acceptable, albeit unspectacular listen.
As for the girls: first of all there was Mystic White and their single “Mermaid Princess.” Considering the cuter, more childish images of the members, I was expecting a song similar to a generic girl group song, being full of unnecessary aegyo and annoyingly high pitched vocals. This was probably the group I had the least expectations for, yet interestingly, their effort turned out to be my favorite.
The song’s success should probably be credited mostly to the producer of the song Kim Do-hoon, who I learned to be the originator of many of my favorite songs, including G.NA‘s “I’ll Back Off So You Can Live” and Ailee‘s “I’ll Show You.” Kim crafts a very intriguing and dynamic instrumental that makes the inevitable aegyo of the group much more bearable. From the delicate acoustics to the surprisingly sassy saxophone bridge, the instrumental tones down the excessive nature of the song and properly gives feelings of the sea, the song’s main theme.
However, while the success of the song is largely due to the composer, the girls’ wonderful execution should be commended as well. The song doesn’t demand much vocal strength which is a good thing considering how the group is definitely not the strongest vocally. However, while it was occasionally difficult to differentiate members, all in all, the group was very successful in bringing life to the song. Gayoon is the strongest vocalist of the group, and it’s able to show, as she provides much of the group’s vocal support. However, Lizzy, Sunhwa, and Jiyoung, idols who are usually overshadowed vocally in their own groups, were the ones who were able to really shine in the song, as their thinner and deeper vocal timbres were able complement the song’s instrumental perfectly. Lastly, while she could have just as easily been a member of the sexy Dazzling Red, Bora made a fitting addition to the group, as her rapping is probably the most likable out of the female idols participating.
Lastly, there was Dazzling Red with “This Person.” Unlike the other groups that managed to catch me off guard with their choices, “This Person” was exactly what I expected it to be. In its entirety, “This Person” retains Brave Brother’s infamous signature sound from the smoky synths and elongated sound, sounding way too similar to a traditional Sistar song in terms of progression and content. Like most Sistar songs, the track is sensual and sexy, complementing all of the members perfectly, but the familiarity of the song keeps it from being as spectacular as it should be.
The main highlight of the song is certainly the members’ execution. Due to being approximate equals in terms of stage presence, despite featuring renowned spotlight thieves in Hyorin and Hyuna, all of the members are still allowed their moments to shine. The vocals of the ladies were very distinct yet fierce, providing a much more balanced and dynamic sound. Quite obviously, Hyorin took the lead in terms of vocals, however her influence didn’t overpower compared to Sistar’s other songs.
Nicole, Nana, and Hyosung in particular shine in this song, as their distinct vocal tones allowed them to stand out. Hyosung’s sultry and smoky timbre admittedly went perfectly with Brave Brother’s signature sound, and Nana’s higher, slightly nasal vocal tone was able to provide some contrast to the huskier voices of her fellow members. This more varied vocal selection also did wonders for Nicole, whose surprisingly powerful vocal complexion is usually lost in Kara’s often chipmunk-like sound. Lastly, Hyuna’s raps were acceptable, sounding less basic that usual. Overall, while “This Person” was very predictable, it still manages to deliver only because of the charismatic ladies that carry it.
As much as I loved the idea behind it all, the end result of the “Color of K-pop” project admittedly fell short. The idea of an huge idol crossover was definitely an ingenious one, and a happening that should happen more frequently. At the end of the day, it could be said that the project was just nothing more than an extravagant form of fanservice. Which it was. I probably enjoyed watching my biases from different groups interact and perform with each other more than I enjoyed the actual singles. However, it can’t be ignored that the four singles offered ended up generic and uninspired, with only few redeeming qualities in each to keep the project from being a complete disappointment.
Nevertheless, if another similar project were to be offered, I’d definitely support it. Despite the mediocre results of this project, the gimmick of an idol crossover is already invaluable enough for me.
But readers, what are your thoughts?