Pledis Entertainment‘s Hello Venus, one of the more notable rookies this year, managed to attract with a fair bit of attention with their debut “Venus.” The girls’ debut, while far from being out of the ordinary, was very well handled, with their title track and debut album able to imply a future direction for the budding group. Moreover, with very stable live performances, a likable set of personalities, and undeniable energy, it seemed like the girls were well equipped to succeed in the future. Now complete as a six member group (member Yoonjo was largely absent from the majority of the girls’ debut promotions due to injury), Hello Venus recently returned with “What Are You Doing Today?” and their second mini album of the same name.

And to be quite honest, while far from a bad comeback, their return felt largely anticlimactic. For this effort, the girls trade in their more exhilarating and blatant energy for a much more subdued, subtle sound. While not necessarily a bad thing, the energy that made Hello Venus stand out was definitely missed in this effort. However, the effort is still a very exceptional one for the rookie group, and while it’s less impactful than what some were expecting, the album still has its redeemable moments, and what moments they are.

Starting off with the quirky lead single “What Are You Doing Today,” the cute and aegyo-laden vibe that Hello Venus is becoming synonymous with makes itself apparent right from the start. Interestingly, unlike some of their peers, Hello Venus handles the often-times agitating aegyo quite smartly, staying cute and excessive without ever purposely crossing the line of being overbearing or annoying. This also applies to the very bubbly lead single, since instead of being a major bubblegum fest it was probably made to be, Hello Venus adds their spunk and confidence to the song, making for a very eccentric and enjoyable listen.

While the girls’ sass and quirk made the listen much more interesting, the flaws of the song are still quite blatant. First of all, much like many idol songs before it, the rap of the song felt largely out of place and unnecessary. Even my admiration for member Lime couldn’t redeem it for me. Also, the chanting in between the verses, while endearing in certain moments, could potential get grating with its high pitch sound, unfitting for the girls’ more mature vocal tones. However, even considering its flaws, the song still makes for a pretty intriguing listen. The percussion-heavy instrumental is quite refreshing to the ears with its unorthodox progression, and the whimsical verses are pretty amusing to listen to. Moreover, the chorus is a very pleasant surprise, managing to be well-transitioned and startling at the same time; and the bridge — which weirdly reminds me of SNSD‘s Goobne Chicken CFs — is admittedly very addictive.

The second track of the album is “Romantic Love,” a very down to earth piece heavily contrasting with the eccentric track preceding it. Starting with a very soothing piano instrumental before being complemented by some stable percussion, the track is one of my two favorites in the album. The song makes good use of the group’s more mature timbres for a relaxing mid-tempo that fully highlights the group’s vocal capabilities. Lime and Ara sound particularly amazing in this song, though the other members don’t slack at all as everyone’s vocals are able to be highlighted by the more minimal instrumental.

A more traditional ballad in the form of “First Love” is the next track of the album. Even if the song occasionally treads the border of being boring, the song is at least able to consistently showcase the members’ vocal capabilities again. While the verses do drag with its more generic sound, the chorus and bridge are definite highlights, adding some spark to an otherwise forgettable song.

The down-to-earth feel of the album only continues with the highly enjoyable “Same.” Unlike the more minimal songs preceding it, however, “Same” does a great job with its complex and dynamic instrumental. Starting with the solemn sound of piano at the opening verse, the sound slowly builds with the introduction of other instruments before finally culminating in the very compelling chorus. The chorus is definitely the song’s high point, with its emotive vocals and its busy yet subtle instrumental. Even the rap break was handled quite skillfully, being introduced naturally and not disrupting the flow of the song in the slightest. The fleeting moment of silence in the middle eight was surely memorable, full of the tension the album needed; and collectively, “Same” accompanies “Romantic Love” as my favorites of the album.

The mood picks up again for the last time in the album’s closer, “Winter Fantasy.” While the track’s highly digitalized sound makes it especially unsavory in certain moments during the verses, the track as a whole is definitely a cheery goodbye to the album. The beat is very catchy, and again, while the rap break did nothing for me, “Winter Fantasy” still proves to be an enjoyable listen, closing the album quite neatly.

While definitely not a perfect comeback with its slightly anticlimactic feel, What Are You Doing Today still redeems with its surprisingly stable sound. As a whole, the mood of the album feels very subdued and down to earth, contrasting from the highly energetic sound the girls debuted with. While it made me yearn for the energy that attracted me to Hello Venus in the first place, this slight yet notable change in sound allowed their vocals to show improvements, a development I have no complains with.

Overall, I’d give What Are You Doing Today a 3.2/5. Being a rookie group, Hello Venus still has much time to improve, and while this comeback was surely not exactly what I was expecting, it’s still a significant step in the budding group’s career.

Readers, what are your thoughts on Hello Venus’ comeback?

(Pledis Entertainment, Fantiago)