It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since Gugudan debuted with “Wonderland”. In the interim, they’ve gone coy, catty, kooky, and confident. There’s also been the debuts of two subunits, Gugudan 5959 and Gugudan SeMiNa, plus Sejeong’s solo debut. Given the range of material they’ve gifted us over the years, it seems right we take this anniversary to look back at some of the excellent b-sides in Gugudan’s discography.
While “Wonderland” was a disappointing debut, the EP Act. 1 The Little Mermaid is far stronger than you would think. “Diary” starts off deceptively gentle, but it’s pure pop rock. Both electric and acoustic guitar appear, balanced out by the softer synths on the verse, before the chorus slams to life with the percussion. Acting as the counterweight is Gugudan’s intense vocals, reminiscing on a past boyfriend with a mixture of nostalgia, peace, and regret that hits home every time.
Opening Act. 2 Narcissus is “Rainbow”, a track of pure joy. It straddles the line between confidence and egotism as Gugudan extoll the virtues of themselves, without hesitation or qualification. “Rainbow” perfectly captures the feeling of having the world at your feet. It’s backed by extremely uplifting production, peppy and manic, grounded by touches of horns. It’s a track that feels very theatrical, as if it belongs on a stage, but it never fails to warm my heart.
“Lucky”, from Act. 3 Chococo Factory, veers more towards funky, with the deep bassline and jangling guitar. However, it’s still poppy, filled out with handclaps and synth riffs. “Lucky” is a fairly mellow track, celebrating the moment when you finally get together with someone you like, mixing joy with anticipation, smugness, and a touch of frustration as Gugudan spell out that they like you, you like them, it’s now time for kissing.
Meanwhile, a splash of retro-inspired fun comes from SeMiNa’s “Ruby Heart”. Pulling from 60s surf rock with the garage rock guitar and scatting influences on “shuby-ruby-ruby-ruby”, this is a song of low-key aggression with SeMiNa unquestionably on the prowl. The mixture of percussion riffs, moments of piano, and distorted keyboard create a sun-soaked track that almost demands a cocktail to be enjoyed properly. Topping it off are the playful, rich vocals, matching the lighthearted production but also providing a touch of gravitas to “Ruby Heart”.
Rounding out the list is “Do It”, from Act. 5 New Action. Built on an incredibly funky bassline, “Do It” marries girlish vocals to aggressive production wonderfully. The clear earnestness and interjections during the chorus provides a level of innocence that play nicely against the scheming of the verses. The harsh drums and short guitar bursts during the verses give “Do It” a level of menace. The end result is that you’re not sure if Gugugan are flirting or plotting murder, but end up on their side either way.
Gugudan has had no shortage of good songs, getting this list whittled down got painful! If there are any Gugudan b-sides you adore, go ahead and leave them in the comments.