20140104_seoulbeats_rainbow_hyunyoungAs a sequel to the sweet collaboration songs between vocalists and rappers seen this past year, Rainbow‘s Hyunyoung has teamed up with Sool J to release “Honey.” Composed by Cosmic Sound, the same producer behind duet singles “A Midsummer Night’s Sweetness” and “Call Me Noona,” “Honey” closes the year with a continuation of a lighthearted love song: cute, and best enjoyed as a couple.

While Rainbow hasn’t released anything collectively since Rainbow Syndrome in 2013, as a vocalist Hyunyoung has remained relevant in the music industry in the last year through her participation in the group’s most recent subunit RB BLAXX promoting their extended play album, as well as lending her voice to a track on the Vampire Flower OST. Sool J is no stranger to the stage either, being best known as a rapper under the hip hop label Freestyle Town with a discography comprised of solo singles, freestyle tracks and quite a few collaborations with fellow Freestyle Town labelmates. “Honey” is his first venture packaged and marketed through mainstream music channels rather than the underground, thanks to his partnership with Hyunyoung and DSP Media.

The song’s lyrics, penned by Sool J, offer two perspectives to a relationship as the girlfriend wholeheartedly asks her love interest to stay by her side, her chorus of “oppa-ya” broken only by verses from the boyfriend, who confesses his affection for her despite his rough exterior. Staying true to the song’s lyrics that state, “I may have an accent, but my love for you is standard,” portions of the song are sung and occasionally spoken in Gyeongsangdo regional dialect.

Hyunyoung’s girlish voice fits well with the lovestruck lyrics, and Sool J’s rap, while a different direction from his much more hardhitting solo ventures, manages to convey the affectionate exasperation of the boyfriend. In addition, his smooth tone suits the song more so than a grittier pair of pipes would. The song itself is mid-tempo and nothing new as a pop duet, though the chorus does have somewhat of an earwormy quality to it.

As a music video, “Honey” does one aspect differently by forgoing the actors and accompanying plotline in favor of an animated lyric video. Kinetic typography is not new to K-pop, having been done most recently by Shinee in the “Symptoms” video as well as in comeback teasers for BTS. Leaving the lyrics of a song in the forefront for both the audio and visual medium, however, requires stronger lyrical content in order to hold the viewer’s interest. For “Honey,” the lyrics simply don’t feel impactful enough to deserve the center of a video for three minutes and forty-six seconds, and the repetitiveness of the lyrics and resulting animation make the finished product feel more like a cute karaoke guide rather than an actual music video. These sort of sweet, easy listening sort of songs seem to actually benefit from a storyline in order to add some substance behind the lyrics, or at the very least make the song more memorable.

20140105_seoulbeats_rainbow_hyunyoung_sool jWe do get more than tropical scenery and typography with an illustrated couple who mingle over the course of the music video, as well as several cute heart cartoon characters. What the video does do well is capture the cheekiness of the song, with lyrics such as “If you look at other girls, I’ll kill you, be good,” sung as a shower of pink hearts fly across the screen, accompanied by dancing cartoon shapes.

There’s no doubt that pairings between indie/underground artists and female vocalists have risen in popularity this past year, and seeing collaborations such as Soyu and Mad Clown‘s “Stupid in Love” achieve all-kill status on music charts has only spurred a continuation of the trend, including “Honey”. The often-followed formula of a lesser known rapper, capable female vocalist and a public friendly song has emerged as a way for these underground or rookie rappers to raise name recognition, and perhaps prime for more projects in the popular music market.

This is, of course, not to say that female vocalists do not reap any benefits, as these duets often recruit overlooked members of a group (who are less likely to overshadow their partner) and give the girls an opportunity to show their abilities at center stage for once — 2014’s collaboration queen Soyu is a shining example. Duets of this nature are relatively low-risk for the established vocalist who still has the opportunity to return and promote under a group following the side project, while the rapper may view the collaboration as his only avenue to the mainstream audience and therefore face higher stakes regarding the song’s success.

As for “Honey,” the song delivers what is expected and nothing more, providing a dose of sugar for listeners in love and empty calories for the more cynical. While probably not the next hit duet by any means, the song does showcase the individual talents of Hyunyoung and Sool J and the amount of personality conveyed by both artists make for a likable listen. As 2014 fades, it’ll be interesting to watch where the trend of duets goes next, as there’s certainly more crossover and creative collaboration between musicians of all genres to be expected in 2015.

MV/Song Rating: 2.8/5

(YouTube [1] [2] [3], Images via DSP Media)