To be a romantic is to be in love with the idea of love. To express yourself in a romantic way is to speak or act with heartfelt and poetic conviction. And to approach life with a romantic point of view is to see the beauty in even the most mundane events, and to intensify the wonder in already exciting occurrences.
By all these definitions, WJSN (Cosmic Girls) are true romantics. Their career has contained plenty of versatility. Though best known for their fantastical releases, WJSN have also repeatedly gone for quirky and sophisticated concepts. In fact, the group’s sub-units, WJSN Chocome and debuting this month WJSN the Black, lean into those two specific aesthetics.
But no matter the style of any individual release, WJSN always retain their romantic ways. This comes through in their signature lush musical sound, and in their evocative and impassioned lyrics.
Such completely committed romanticism risks becoming cloying. WJSN escape that trap by not taking themselves too seriously. The fairy tale aesthetics and twinkly musical details of WJSN’s best known songs are a great example of how the group have self-aware fun with their romanticism. WJSN also vary the specific musical context and story content of their romantic tracks so that no two songs feel overly similar. Best of all, WJSN demonstrate the same emotional ardor in songs about self love as they do in tracks focused on romantic love. The result is a discography packed with earnest emotions and delightful surprises.
In their early years, WJSN’s songs were full of naive romanticism. This doesn’t exactly make them special. Many rookie groups, especially girl groups, embrace this specific concept. But even as they followed a predictable path, WJSN added a fresh dramatic flair to their youthful romantic musings.
Take “Miracle”, a b-side off their first (and as of now, only) full album Happy Moment. In “Miracle”, WJSN sing about discovering that special someone. However, while many groups would simply label their love as wonderful or breathtaking, WJSN take their description of their feelings to the most charmingly overwrought level:
You are my light, you are my miracle
It’s you, it’s you, it’s you, from every moment
It’s you, it’s you, it’s you, like my dream
Everything has changed since I met you
The lyrics for “Miracle” could be too much if they were surrounded by treacly production. Instead, the song opts for bouncy beats and playful musical touches, like the children’s voices that open the track and the “ai ai” vocal trills that fill out the refrains. The love “Miracle” celebrates may not be mature or especially distinctive, but it is too much fun to resist.
Happy Moment ended up being the final bow of WJSN’s cute rookie aesthetic. From then on, the group threw themselves into the unique fantastical sounds and visuals they had started developing in title tracks like “Secret”. WJSN also began exploring the more challenging, or at least emotionally ambiguous, parts of love. “I-Yah” is one result.
Off mini album WJ Please?, “I-Yah” is a song that conveys a haunting and arresting fairy-tale worthy mood. WJSN sing about a love that has slipped away, but which they protect within their memory, hoping for a second chance one day. The track frequently references childhood with lines like “My heart is still a child, my heart is forever a child”, but “I-Yah” definitely represents a more grown-up twist on WJSN’s romanticism. Part of that is actually thanks to WJSN’s recognition that there is a certain childish vulnerability to their feelings that even the brutal realities of heartbreak can’t destroy. “I-Yah” is a song full of fantasy, yet it has an emotional maturity that is unexpected and compelling.
At first glance, WJ Stay?’s “You Got” might seem like a regression from the complexity of “I-Yah”. “Baby you got what I need, Baby you got what I want” isn’t exactly the world’s most original lyric or sentiment. But what surrounds the predictable chorus of “You Got” is much more interesting.
Far from experiencing a perfect love, WJSN are equal parts disenchanted with and inextricably connected to their partner. “Like a sigh, I spit your name from my mouth” and “While you’re holding my hand I can’t turn away from you” exist side by side, creating an intriguing emotional atmosphere. “You Got” also allows WJSN to stretch themselves sonically. The group retain their richly melodic musical charisma, but step away from their signature fantasy pop, instead exploring a vintage-influenced yet brightly modern synth-heavy sound.
“Let’s Dance”, from For the Summer, continues the sonic experimentation. Production-wise, the song would fit right into a Momoland album, with its jolly horns and blaring bass line. The track is also notable for its party time subject matter, not a common one for WJSN. What truly makes “Let’s Dance” special though is how it is a stellar example of WJSN using the same level of evocative language and emotional intensity to describe self-love and a fun “girls night out” as they do when recalling a charged meeting between lovers:
As if I am the hero for today
As if I am the most beautiful girl in the world
Shining light, our own night out
Just do it (oh ya ya ya ya) just like me, now it starts, night out
There’s nowhere else cause here tonight is special, perfect from head to toe
In contrast, As You Wish’s “Lights Up” is a straightforwardly romantic song, although WJSN once again employ lovely lyrical imagery:
Than any star (your love, your love)
Is the brightest (lights up, lights up)
You carved it out, a small room above the sky
It’s gonna light up the whole world
“Lights Up” stands out in WJSN’s discography for its stripped-down production and restrained vocal approach. Everything about the track is delicate, from its softly delivered melodies, to its sweet acoustic instrumentation, and most prettily, its quietly murmured conclusion. “Lights Up” proves that while WJSN may excel at belted vocal runs and luxuriously layered production, they don’t require either to create a poignantly romantic track.
In Neverland’s “Pantomime” WJSN return to their maximalist roots, and to spectacular effect. WJSN mix airy vocals, playful rhythms, and frequently atonal production effects to create a totally unique musical atmosphere. The result is a song that feels both fantastical and aggressively modern.
The lyrics to “Pantomime” are equally impressive. WJSN narrate in painstaking detail the spellbinding experience of their first kiss, “the moment the two pouring hearts meet, the breathtaking mute, the universe is all stop”. WJSN’s elaborate description of this romantic moment is endearing, but there are also hints of a menacing quality to their obsession, reinforced by the occasionally eery sound of the song. “Pantomime” is packed with wit and wonder, and is one of the most memorable demonstrations of WJSN’s lyrical and musical strengths.
WJSN’s most recent release was mini album Unnatural. B-side “New Me” harkens back to the retro-influenced stylishness of “You Got” and the exuberant self-love of “Let’s Dance” and arguably improves on both. Never has a song been more tailor-made for confident strutting. Its disco beat backs velvety vocals as WJSN sing an ode to their spectacular re-birth:
Draw everything you imagined in front of your eyes
Sparkling universe, a whole new world
Look up to the sky, level up repeatedly, watch me shout get higher
Watch me to be born new, a new me
“New Me” is a fitting end to this celebration of WJSN’s discography, and not just because of the fun reprise which serves as its conclusion. The song is an anthem of evolution, and WJSN are a group worthy of it.
WJSN’s magnetic romanticism is simultaneously dependable and constantly shifting. It connects all of the group’s songs into a cohesive whole, but doesn’t restrict WJSN to one sound or sentiment. If anything, WJSN’s deep interest in romantic ideas seems to have inspired them to regularly challenge themselves to try new things, or to revisit and improve upon previously explored styles and stories. This is a group that understands that romance comes in a million different forms, and perhaps more importantly, that a romantic lens can be applied to just about anything in life to make it a little more magical. So what WJSN do next is anyone’s guess, but it is almost certain to be blissfully and unpredictably romantic.