My fellow Wonderfuls, the event we have all feared is now upon us. After 10 years, the Wonder Girls are no more. They survived through multiple line-up changes and a 3-year hiatus, all the while making some of the most iconic music of the 2nd generation of K-pop. More than that, they made some of the best music from the second generation of K-pop, and the musical landscape is truly poorer with their loss.
In the face of this tragedy, all we can do is take solace in the excellent music the Wonder Girls gave the world. We already have one Side B on these talented ladies, but their discography is so loaded with musical gems that at the dusk of their career, a second was not only feasible, but necessary in order to understand just how talented and versatile the Wonder Girls were.
“Stop!” Wonder World
A thudding mass of powerful bass and synths, “Stop!” is quite possible one of the greatest pop songs ever recorded. This is the Wonder Girls first encounter with 80s-inspired synth-pop, and it is a glorious one. The mix is infectious, pulsating with energy and emphatic staccato points, and fully balanced by the vocals. The lush harmonies cascade through the verses, breaking the pop mold by starting high and falling down the treble clef, only to slam into the unyielding chorus as the Wonder Girls make it clear that they are done with a guy who cannot take a hint. “Stop!” is frustrated, classy, and immoveable; all wrapped up in a bouncy beat.
“Baby, Don’t Play” Reboot
Taking cues from artists like Belinda Carlisle, the opening from Reboot is effectively the album in miniature. Retro but still clearly the Wonder Girls, with a funky instrumentation, phenomenal vocals, and the ability to pull the audience right into their world. The vocals are what truly put “Baby, Don’t Play” over the top. Sunmi and Yeeun are tender, desperate, nervous, and utterly in love, and show that perfectly over the drawn out notes that rip into the very core of it’s audience.
“Girlfriend” Wonder Party
Wonder Party is not remembered as on the Wonder Girls’ best works, and while part of that comes from being a mini sandwiched between two amazing albums, the other part is that . . . well, it’s not one of their best works. However, it does contain a tragically overlooked gem in “Girlfriend”. A stripped-down ballad; “Girlfriend” is a significant departure from the concept-heavy bombast the Wonder Girls are usually associated with. However, that departure truly lets them shine, allowing them to show of their harmonization skills against an impressively desolate instrumental.
“Me, In” Wonder World
Let’s be real: we all knew that “Me, In” was going to be somewhere on here. This was Yeeun’s first time writing and producing– in this case rearranging an older song– but it showed us just what the girls were capable of when in control of their music. And it’s one hell of song. The Wonder Girls are calm and mocking while the music rumbles and shakes around them. Loaded with bombast and old-school rock flairs like a stomp-clap bridge, “Me, In” a song of domination, control, and authority.
“Sweet and Easy” Why So Lonely
A b-side off their (sadly) last single, “Sweet and Easy” is a fun romp that’s hard to pin down. A little funk, a little disco, a little pop, it comes together for a laid-back song that charms the ear into not thinking too hard. As the Wonder Girls extol the virtues of not overthinking relationships and just going with what’s easy, the chill vibe of the song is put against a more driving drum beat. The result is a song that feels too sweet to be truly seductive, but too deliberate to be anything else.
“One Black Night” Reboot
“One Black Night” is a song of reckless abandon. This is what happens when the good girls of the world snap and decide to embrace the seedier side of the world. Sunmi and Yeeun are desperate for a taste of the forbidden fruit, while Lim and Yubin are steady, already familiar with this world. Even the instrumentation sounds desperate. Laden with auto-tune and roiling with a sour undercurrent, the Wonder Girls sound like they’re drowning in the anonymous music and casual sex of the New Romantics. And it through it all, the Wonder Girls keep going back for more, having decided that if they’re throwing this night away, they might as well get all they can out of their one wild night.
This is by no means a complete list of the Wonder Girl’s best songs. Every choice had an alternate, one that was just as good, but was barely edged out. And in the end, we can take comfort in that. The Wonder Girls may be gone, but they left behind their music. And, oh, what music it is.