20141230_seoulbeats_sonamooTS Entertainment has a new group on their roster with seven member girl group Sonamoo. This group is being marketed with a more urban sounding release, and their team name translates to “pine tree.” There were some varying debut tactics being used to promote the group including a contest to name a member of the group via a fan vote. Interestingly enough,  Sumin, Minjae, D.ana, Nahyun, Euijin, High.D, and Newsun cite Big Bang as their influential role models.

Within their company, Sonamoo seems to fit somewhere between the (currently embattled) B.A.P  hip hop sound mixed with some of Secret’s musical styling.  The parts come together to somehow work and make for an unexpectedly compelling listen. Their debut mini album Déjà vu is well produced and, while the songs still feel like a group that is searching for a voice, their efforts have a lot of potential.

The intro song might be one of the strongest tracks even though it clocks in at a little over a minute. “Into Me (Intro)” is a sexy number that has the members harmonizing. Right off the bat, the group showcases a different approach with multiple rappers playing off one another. The vocal arrangement and layering is especially well done and the rapping fits in nicely between the two parts. It is a promising start to the mini, and oozes with sensuality in both the melody and lyrics.

“Déjà vu” is the title track. They worked with the production team Star Trek and the composer Marco to create it.  The hip hop song sounds heavy with a deep bass and staccato sonic lines mixed in throughout. There is also a dance break halfway through with some turntable scratching mixed in. While “Déjà vu” is a departure from more traditional K-pop dance songs, it does not immediately showcase any of the strengths of their members and certainly is not the best their mini album has to offer.

Lyrically, it falls under this typical territory of an attraction to a person that creates a feeling of déjà vu. The best part of “Déjà vu” is likely the rappers New Sun and D.ana. Even though their deeper tones sound a bit forced, their raps were able to cut through the thick production providing a welcome lyrical reprieve — accomplishing something the singing parts were not able to.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDcgN1uky8A]

Continuing right after their title song is “Love Call.” The transition was rather smooth, and this might be my favorite track off their mini album. “Love Call” may have been a better choice as a debut song. It retains the upbeat tempo and swagger of “Déjà vu,” but is not as busy sounding. While “Déjà vu” had a cluttered production that did not necessarily accentuate the group’s talents, “Love Call” features a sound that highlights each individual quite nicely. The singing is able to be heard over the unique rhythmic pattern. The rappers sound a tad more natural here, and their flow is bolstered by the production.There were also a few lines that served as a small tribute to their company’s seniors:

“No one can touch this secret,

It’s the best, absolute, perfect, feel this.

Like an evergreen tree that stays green all year.”

The next song, “People’s Little Sister,” is a lighter track when compared to the previous two. It kind of grooves along but devolves into sounding like a weird mashup as the last major rap verse feels awkwardly inserted within the track. The production is cheerily pop for about two thirds of the song, but then transforms — with a shift in the production to percussion and this zippy synth melody for a line — before reverting back for the last few bars.

If the group wants to be the little sister of the nation, this song shows them as the younger sibling that is facing an identity crisis. “People’s Little Sister” is confused about what it wants to be and by the finish, I’m confused about what type of group Sonamoo want to be.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEw-Cqw6zfA]

The shift in tone continues with the whimsical sounding “Just Go.” It has an even brighter pop gleam to it with a gentle piano line that underscores the track. The rapping is better integrated here without a need to shift the song’s production structure to fit the mold. I actually quite enjoyed this number, and the singers get a chance to showcase their range here. It is cheerful and something that would be more likely to garner them the title of being the nation’s little sister. It is a song that would fit nicely in a variety show about them and the encouraging lyrics about perseverance in the face of hardships is a great departure from their songs about love and relationships.

Finally, “Everlasting Love” is the standard mid-tempo ballad. I really enjoyed the rapping here as the slower tempo allowed the rap line to switch up their speeds and enunciate in interesting ways. The song, albeit a bit boring, is a perfect selection for closing the album. It has an anthemic quality that I can see their fans singing along to at the end of a concert.

Sonamoo have the potential to be great. They have a decent rap and singing line — both with room to grow. While the pieces of the puzzle aren’t fully realized yet, they do have strong potential to create great sounding tracks. Sonamoo seem to be wavering between a softer pop sound and the hip hop beat driven songs. For a group that is still constructing their image, this inconsistent sound might be detrimental to solidifying a succinct identity, but so far, their material has kept me interested enough to keep an eye out for their future releases.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

(TS Entertainment, YouTube [1], Asiae, Hankooki, Lyrics via Pop!gasa)