Following their successful storyline as the youngest and therefore the underdogs of Mnet’s Queendom 2, Girls Planet 999 project group Kep1er have swiftly returned with a second mini album to capitalise on the attention that their appearance brought them. In contrast to their debut mini, First Impact, which was a mish-mash of styles headed by their viral hit, “Wa Da Da”, Doublast is a markedly more focused and consistent effort – to the rookie group’s significant benefit. 

Consisting of five tracks, Doublast is a summer pop album through and through, delivered with sweetness and youthful energy by all nine members. Whereas First Impact (especially “Wa Da Da”, and with the exception of the elegant and edgy “Mvsk”) smacked of low budget and amateurish production, the songs on this EP sound much more – for want of a better word – expensive. All five tracks offer clean, polished pop production that is largely electronic, but slips seamlessly into acoustic instruments when needed for the album’s softer moments. 

The songwriting is similarly sharp and on trend, albeit in a fairly commercialised way. Kep1er switch between perky rap lines and airy vocal melodies as upbeat major chords swell underneath, singing about innocent love amid waves and sand, and under rainbows and stars. Title track “Up!” is the most upbeat of the bunch; it bounces from line to line with the energy of a hyperactive puppy, never staying in the same place for long:

We go, it’s my imaginary island
Follow, follow and line up
If you’re ready, up, up, up, up, up
We go, there’s a rainbow in the clouds
Follow, follow and open the closеd door
We go up, up, up, up, up

Clever production helps hold your attention – trumpets and a lively bassline complement the energy of the vocals, and constant breakdowns mean you’re never bored. The catchy chorus is the highlight, but overall, the song’s inability to focus on any one thing for long does leave listeners quickly overwhelmed. 

That may be intentional; the song sounds like it’s designed for short-form social media, and if so, it offers more than enough options for thirty-second clips and dance challenges. The same can be said for “Attention”. While it starts out with airy vocal chops and a pretty verse, the song ramps up into a high-energy, high-pitched chorus which quickly becomes exhausting with multiple listens of the EP.

“Le Voya9e”, “Good Night”, and “Rewind” remedy this with much more relaxed soundscapes and consistent structures. “Le Voya9e” is the best of these softer songs: gentle acoustic guitars and plenty of negative space on the pleasantly minimalist chorus make it one of the more memorable and enjoyable pop tracks on the project. 

The youthful mix of sweetness and sentimentality on “Le Voya9e” gives it a little more emotional depth, and the whispering “tiki-taka” hook is the catchiest on the project, more so than any moment on “Up!”. “Good Night” and “Rewind” are similarly breezy and enjoyable. But as fairly generic examples of their genre, they end up being much more forgettable – think of the soundtrack to any idol summer variety show and it will essentially be the same song.

Overall, however, Doublast works perfectly well as a light-hearted, 17-minute soundtrack for our summer days. Its objective is simple, and it achieves it completely. Aside from high-quality pop songwriting and production, it benefits also from consistency in theme and sonic elements. Apart from “Up!”, every song features airy, melodic synths and light, spacious percussion, and these work together intelligently to create impressions of breezy weather and sunny beaches. 

Despite debuting with more of a girl crush concept, and showing similar preferences in their performances on Queendom 2, Kep1er also adapt surprisingly well to the more cute and girly style required of them here. Vocally, they all sound decent, though their tones also often blend into one generic K-pop female voice – only Chaehyun’s more mature style adds some much needed variety and elegance. 

While it is a bit of dramatic change in style, the group are also young enough to experiment, and in this case their effort has paid off. A summer EP may not give them much direction for their next album, but it works well as a standalone project, and importantly it gives Kep1er the chance to demonstrate their versatility. Future releases may well make use of the more bright-eyed, innocent style they made their own here.

More generally, Doublast is a significant checkpoint in Kep1er’s time-limited career, solidifying the success they started with “Wa Da Da” and converting some of the attention they received through Queendom 2 into loyal fans. They began the series as the clear underdogs; Girls Planet 999 received almost no viewership in Korea compared to the Produce series. But beneath the surface hierarchy of seniority and domestic popularity, Kep1er were actually already doing extremely well internationally – “Wa Da Da” has more Spotify streams and YouTube views than many of the other artists’ most famous songs. 

That meant that they were already not to be underestimated among this generation’s cohort of newly debuted girl groups, but it is only now that Kep1er can breathe a sigh of relief and settle into their career in both the international and domestic market. With the credibility of two successful singles and a domestic primetime TV run under their belt, fans can now look forward to the group’s upward trajectory into mainstream popularity – it’s only up from here.

(YouTube [1][2]. Lyrics via Genius. Images via Wake One Entertainment.)