‘Simple’ may not seem like a complimentary adjective, but it is when it comes to Nayeon’s solo debut, “Pop!” Particularly in a K-pop sphere oversaturated with complex concepts and songs that could be classified in sixteen different genres, “Pop!” stands out for picking its (delightful) lane and sticking to it. Clocking in at just under 3 minutes, “Pop!” is a brief but brilliant breath of fresh air, a fantastic solo career launchpad for Nayeon, and since Nayeon is the first Twice member to go solo, it raises anticipation for future Twice solo material.
“Pop!” draws consistently on retro influences, most obviously in the song itself. The track kicks off with jolly brass notes and a fast percussion beat that persist through the whole song, calling to mind a 50’s or 60’s upbeat dance song. The fact that the instrumentation in “Pop!” is pretty much entirely made up of, well, instruments, gives the track a pleasant, throwback quality in a time when K-pop is increasingly electronic-sound dominated.
“Pop!” also breaks the current K-pop mold with its simple song structure: Just verse, pre-chorus, chorus, post-chorus, repeat, with the addition of a bridge before the final refrain. While many structurally experimental K-pop songs are wonderfully innovative, the industry has increasingly been defaulting to unusual structures. This means that a more traditionally-built track like “Pop!,” ironically, feels new and fresh in the context of K-pop in 2022.
The retro elements of “Pop!” also extend beyond the track’s musical tone into its MV’s two most influential components, choreography and styling. The MV for “Pop!” is straight-forward, alternating between glamour shots of Nayeon in perhaps one-too-many fun sets, and dance sequences. Again, this simplicity works in the song’s favor: with no complicated plot to follow or lore to untangle, viewers can simply settle in and enjoy the playful and gorgeous ride.
The retro touches bring a lot of this light-heartedness to the table, though non-retro aspects like Nayeon lounging in a set filled with bubbles during a song called “Pop!” also help! Some throwback elements are glaringly obvious, like the old-school diner, synchronized swimming pool, and decked-out soundstage (like an old Hollywood musical) sets that feature prominently. Other retro-influenced elements are more subtle, like the predominance of high-waisted silhouettes in Nayeon’s outfits, and the wholesomely flirty dance moves that fill the choreography, both of which again recall a vintage 50’s or 60’s vibe.
The track’s choreography deserves a closer look, both because of its quality and prominence in the MV. The dance uses loads of small but constant movements, namely bounces, shimmies, and the popping hand motions that accompany the post-chorus spoken refrain of “Pop pop pop” to lend the track major momentum. This is particularly apparent in the MV, which because of its non-narrative structure, massively benefits from the sense of forward-motion the choreography provides.
A strong example of this is the final section of the MV, which capitalizes on combining the track’s clever choreography with smart musical touches. As the MV switches between footage of Nayeon confidently strutting or posing on the elaborate soundstage set and performing energetic dance moves, a hype-generating final pre-chorus kicks in, complete with a shouted countdown. Then, with the final yell of “Here we go!,” the last chorus comes in and the choreography takes center stage for the final half-minute of the MV, particularly on the soundstage set where Nayeon is joined by dozens of backup dancers. The result of this careful combination of simple but well-crafted elements is a MV climax that feels totally satisfying, despite not technically containing anything different from the previous two minutes of the MV. However, when the joyful momentum of this song’s dance is placed front and center, you can’t help but feel like you’ve arrived at a worthy destination.
Another aspect where “Pop!” opts for sweet simplicity is in its lyrical content. In a nutshell, “Pop!” is about Nayeon wanting to move things forward with a bashful love interest, pursuing them so that she can capture this magical feeling and make it “Pop!”:
The twitch in your eyes, your nervous gestures Baby
I want to pop you
Before the fluttering stops, I wanna make it
Pop pop pop, you want it
Pop pop pop, I want it to pop
The lyrics of “Pop!” also fit right into its old-school pop influences, though it’s a refreshing twist that Nayeon is the pursuer rather than the pursued, something that likely wouldn’t have been common for a female singer in the actual mid-20th century. Nayeon’s empowered, confident persona, as described in the lyrics and illustrated throughout the MV, is half the fun of the whole track. However, romantic chasing does always come with some easy-to-hit lyrical pitfalls: a line like “You cannot get away from me” feels pretty harmless when the rest of the song’s lyrical content makes it clear the attraction in question is mutual, but in isolation, it doesn’t exactly read the best. Mostly though, “Pop!” avoids those lyrical trip-ups and remains a spoonful of easy-to-enjoy sugar.
A slight issue that the lyrics of “Pop!” do reveal however is that this debut track, delightful as it is, doesn’t tell audiences much about Nayeon that we didn’t already know. “Pop!” is a fantastic showcase for Nayeon’s joyful stage persona, but anyone who’s seen even a second of Twice before would already recognize this talent of hers. The pure pop perfection of the song just doesn’t leave room to highlight anything especially unique about Nayeon the soloist.
That being said, Nayeon still has the whole EP that “Pop!” comes from and likely future releases to establish a more distinct solo identity. In the meantime, the straight-forward approach “Pop!” lives and dies by certainly brings more pros than cons to the table. The song’s infectious energy, retro charm, and earworm hooks are almost guaranteed to leave audiences grinning and full of goodwill for Nayeon’s solo career. Ultimately, “Pop!” is a bubbly summer-suited debut that is sensational not in spite of its simplicity, but because of it.