Purple Kiss made a splash by debuting last year with a look and sound that are punkish and power-driven, portraying themselves as less girl power and alpha female than predators seeking prey. Their third EP, memeM, sees them continue in this vein, though with a shifted focus. Rather than seeking power and control, Purple Kiss are tearing into the societal expectations that make their desire for power noticeable. And they do this in the most brilliant way possible. Purple Kiss take those expectations seriously.

Purple Kiss are not overtly fighting the expectations of female behavior. They do not rail against men or speak about the capabilities of women. Instead, they–and that is literal, every track bar the intro has credits from at least one member–are looking their audience in the eye and saying “No, no. Let’s take this path all the way to the end and see where we end up”. After all, that is the rub of being a woman: nobody actually expects female expectations to be lived up to. They are purely performative, and everybody knows it, but somehow we still have to live under them.

“Illusion” and “memeM”, the intro and title track, are the most on-brand tracks, but honestly the least interesting. “Illusion” has a vaguely Middle-Eastern sound, but its primary purpose is to set the stage for “memeM”. This is one of Purple Kiss’s signature power moves, seeking a relationship that is less “date” and more “subjugate”. It takes a stab at the experimental noise sound, and has some good elements, such as the calm, stable vocals against instrumentation that changes every 30 seconds, cementing that Purple Kiss have total control. The deceptively playful verses, done in more of a singsong delivery, sets the drop into darkness and domination nicely, but the mixing is questionable. The vocals are drowned out on the chorus and the production slides towards atonality. Mostly, though, “memeM” is as expected, standard Purple Kiss. It is a good track, but plays things too safe.

“Oh My Gosh” is where things get interesting. A silky pop R&B track, it starts out as a simple empowerment anthem, before questioning an unpleasant but very true reality, that women are not actually supposed to shine brightly. Excelling is fine, but never admit to it. The sweetness of the synth tones and heavier percussion create a playful tone that wraps Purple Kiss in an aura of vanity and ego. Yet their vocals overplay the part, providing just enough bite that, when coupled with lyrics like “Me liking myself? Why, so what?”, gives away the sardonic nature of the track. After all, what is the issue with confident, ambitious women that makes Purple Kiss being such remarkable?

The next track, anchored by one hell of a disco bassline, turns on idol expectations. “Pretty Psycho” takes most of its shots at the false narrative of codependency between idols and fans. Idols are supposed to love their fans, do anything for their fans, live only to please their fans, but most people expect that to be a persona. Purple Kiss highlights why: that someone who feels such intense devotion for anyone who likes them is insane. The rapid and shifting BPM and infectious bass mirror the mindset shown; it hopes to use the fun and chaos to distract the listener from the clear and concerning mental instability. Purple Kiss are unhinged, showing their obsession for anyone who claims to be a fan. And yet, this is often how idols are expected to act; Purple Kiss simply mean it.

Things slow down with “Joah”. Opening with a warm acoustic guitar, it delves into the familiar issue of an unrequited crush. The arrangements are lovely, very full and well-layered, with a honeyed element to the tones. The result is a song that is comfortably familiar; the aural equivalent of a fuzzy sweater. It envelops the listener, inviting them to get washed away in the harmonies that prove Purple Kiss have the vocal and performance skills to execute a simple track well. Yet even here, there is subversion. Purple Kiss may have an unrequited crush, but they also have the grace to accept it and wait to move on. They are resigned, annoyed, a little awkward, and confused by this state of mind. They are baffled by their own maturity, because moving on from a crush is rarely praised over suffering in silence.

This is only clearer when contrasted with “Hate Me, Hurt Me, Love Me”, which takes a crowbar to pining. The relationship is over, yet one half swears to love the other forever, and someday they will be together again. Rather than romantic, though, this is portrayed as being completely delusional. For the first time, the production shifts away from the richer alto range to a higher-pitched, more cutesy style. This, combined with the plucky instrumentation and more saccharine synth tones, creates a sense of childishness. They come off as little girls in grown-up bodies, who cannot grasp the concept of a love not lasting forever. Instead of proof of how real their love is, their behavior is utterly divorced from reality.

memeM draws to an end with “Cursor”. A return to the acoustic guitar, it uses space and quiet, with excellent touches of piano to create a heartrending ballad. The agony and despair radiates from every note, showing a vulnerability that Purple Kiss haven’t done before. The fact is, after five tracks of pastiche, parody, and tongues in cheek, the sincerity of “Cursor” hits like a brick. Underneath their bravado, Purple Kiss are still people, still capable of pain, of feeling like a forgotten cursor. 

memeM is a rock-solid EP, showing not only the skills of Purple Kiss as entertainers, but their wit and insight. They challenge lingering attitudes towards female humbleness, devotion, and idol behavior by leaning into it, drawing a sharp line to how much such behavior is expected to be false. Moreover, Purple Kiss do not preach, but lets their audience ask the questions about why, if nobody likes this, and nobody believes it, are such ideas still promoted over actual coping tools and adult behaviors?

(Images via RBW Entertainment, YouTube, lyrics via Genius, ColorCodedLyrics)