If you’ve ever wondered what sort of songs GFriend would come up with had they not disbanded on that fateful day in May 2021, look no further than Viviz’s sweet and zesty debut album, Beam of Prism

The seven-track record by former GFriend members Eunha, SinB, and Umji is familiar in tone and message as it continues the disco-pop sound and reflective disposition GFriend explored in their last album. As a result of this continuation, Beam of Prism notably lacks a distinct identity of its own, but whether this works to Viviz’s advantage or not is entirely up to the listener. Ultimately, and on its own terms, the group’s first album has just enough flair and heart to be a formidable entry in the comprehensive K-pop catalog. 

Beam of Prism opens with “Intro.,” a busy, minute-long instrumental that efficiently encapsulates the entire album’s sound: upbeat and retro in the first half, sophisticated and sultry in the middle, then soft and twinkly in the final half.  

“Bop Bop” and “Fiesta” are the girls’ obligatory 80s-inspired dance openers, but where “Bop Bop” only hints at their unstoppable need to keep “bopping,” that is, to keep performing at all costs, “Fiesta” expounds on this desire, relaying a sense of relief to have found a new road to tread. Charmingly optimistic and vocally delightful, “Fiesta” likens Viviz’s journey as a trio to joining a fiesta—unfamiliar but wholly exciting. Here, they declare they will be moving forward without “regrets” and “tears” as they enjoy the celebration that’s booming in their hearts. They sing in one particularly descriptive verse: 

Lined up like that ribbon

The street also welcomes me

Sure, my story has begun

The sunlight is just like a flower paper

Today I’m more dazzlin’ than yesterday

Soon, however, this infectious positivity gives way to cool confidence. The next tracks, “Tweet Tweet” and “Lemonade,” add a more polished and mature tone to the album.

“Tweet Tweet,” co-produced by K-pop favorite Moonshine, is the immediate standout in Beam of Prism; hearing its hauntingly complex and trap-infused beats accompanied by the sugary sweet vocals of Viviz is a pleasant surprise.

Here, the girls give us a real taste of who they could be outside of GFriend. Instead of inviting their lover, they are taunting him–luring him, in fact–to his demise. In the elaborate metaphor of the song, the lover is a butterfly—beautiful but flimsy—and Viviz are hungry birds encouraging their insect prey to fly right into their open mouths.

The bold choice would have been to debut with this song rather than the unchallenging “Bop Bop.” Since “Tweet Tweet” sounds a lot like Red Velvet’s “Peek-a-Boo” (another Moonshine production) anyway, it would have been interesting to see Viviz go down the Velvet road and pull off a creepy-cute or witchy concept, all the while showing us a genuinely brand new side to them.

Sadly, Viviz’s experimentation starts and ends with “Tweet Tweet,” although their sultriness carries over in the next track, “Lemonade.” While “Lemonade” sounds sweet and cool thanks to the irresistible charm of city pop, the lyrics hint at a wilder desire. In verses like the one below, “Lemonade” almost sounds like a winking euphemism for something more than just simple love.

The taste I’ve first tasted

Just like me

Honestly, I’ll drink all of you

In those clear and thick colors

Color me

Without any empty space

I want to be filled with you, woah

Things simmer down a bit in “Love You Like,” the only track in the album that credits a Viviz member (Umji) as a co-writer. In this acoustic number, Viviz express their heartfelt thanks to fans. “We’ll still go on and on and on,” they promise in pleasing harmony. “Let’s dream a dream that will not stop.” 

At this point, it’s obvious that Viviz want their listeners to know that they are okay, that they are past the struggle of losing an artistic platform, that there is no more cause for concern now that they have found a new place to thrive in. And thrive they do; the songs so far are self-assured, hopeful, and happy. Of course, it is always admirable to see artists transform their setbacks into something beautiful and positive, but as a listener, one also starts to wonder if Viviz are capable of feeling anything more than just sheer joy.

Enter, finally, “Mirror,” a glimpse into how awful Viviz can actually sometimes feel. As the outlier in an otherwise optimistic record, “Mirror” is curiously bleak and self-loathing, but also very welcome in its honesty. It is refreshing to see doubt creep into their confidence, and knowing that they are not immune to anger and pain only goes to show that they are truly and actually (as they insist) okay. What could be healthier than being in tune with your feelings? The fact that “Mirror” sounds like it was fished straight out of GFriend’s earlier repertoire could also be seen as a plus by some fans. 

That is another curious thing about Beam of Prism: it is impossible not to constantly draw GFriend parallels while listening to it. The former group’s presence is largely felt, whether it is in Viviz’s musical choices or their lyrical references. From the endless mentions of temptation in “Tweet Tweet” (which one cannot help but compare to the similarly themed “Apple”) to the reflection and image metaphors in the aptly titled “Mirror” (which could be seen by some as a follow-up to “Room of Mirrors”), it seems as if Viviz cannot quite escape their past. No matter how upbeat of a front they put on, some of their previous pain still lingers, which might be just as well. After all, true progress does not deny the past but accepts it, shame and all.

This is all to say that Viviz do feel more like a GFriend subunit rather than a fully-formed, newly-minted group. This can be viewed as good if their goal is to keep BUDDYs happy, but not so much if they are looking to attract new fans. 

What can be said for sure about Beam of Prism is that it is the natural output of seasoned performers. It is a sleek and sophisticated record that puts Viviz’s seven years of experience on full display. What it lacks in innovation and experimentation, it certainly makes up for in passion, skill, and a big, honest heart.

(The Korea Herald. Kpop Map. Lyrics via Genius and Color Coded Lyrics. Images via BPM Entertainment.)