Few things can be more damaging to an entertainment career long term than success. The fear of every entertainer, be they actor, singer, or dancer, is to be linked to a single project for the rest of their life. And truly, the biggest obstacle Umji, SinB, and Eunha have faced since reforming as Viviz is the shadow of their former group hanging over them. Their debut EP was criticized for being too similar to Gfriend, as if change is an intrinsic mark of quality. And now, they have returned with another synthpop project, Summer Vibe. And how does Summer Vibe fare? Well, it does exactly what it says on the tin.

The summer project has always had an odd space. It is the Halloween of K-pop, in that groups can break from previously established styles and get a pass on any questions of musical growth. “Summer Jam” is practically its own genre at this point, and the only benchmarks are if the songs hit their party energy correctly. And Summer Vibe is, indeed, a summer vibe. Though it is a very specific vibe, the vibe of a fling in three stages: crush, covet, and closure.

Title track “Lovade” and “Siesta” are the opening salvos of a fling. They dig the hardest into the summer elements, aiming for a bright, fizzy soundscape. The songs are still very synth, but with a warmth that adds sincerity to the lovestruck lyrics. It helps that there is enough bass in the instrumentation to fill out the mix properly and ground the tracks, along with organic elements. The pan flutes on “Lovade” in particular stand out, as they are used enough to create a sense of whimsy, but not so much as to become grating. 

Both tracks also highlight the relatively simple desires of a burgeoning crush, the doe-eyed romance phase. Everything is sunshine and potential. The fantasies are just as appealing as the real thing, allowing them to project their feelings and linger in the head rush of being in love. Even when they move forward, their aims are still fairly innocent. They want attention and time; to be valued and nurture a simpler intimacy, though “Siesta” does have a touch of innuendo about it.

That innuendo is then cranked up in the second phase: coveting. “Party Pop” and “Love Love Love” take the synthpop away from the beachy fun and into something darker and more seductive. The production is dropped from the treble clef to the bass, emphasizing the shift to more carnal desires. There is still a driving energy running through the songs, though it has gone from manic to frenetic. It gives Viviz a sense of desperation and intoxication, chasing a high of lust and passion.

“Party Pop” strikes more of a balance, using bright, twinkling synths as decorations for a sound that is heady and chaotic but still with touches of sweetness. “Love Love Love”, on the other hand, fully embraces the darkness with extremely rubbery synths. However, the slight atonality works, given the space and intentionality with which it is done. Where “Love Love Love” really shines in the arrangement, Viviz is a trio, which gives them options larger groups lack. Those options are utilized, with multi-part layers and overlapping pickups to give depth to the mix. 

Finally, Summer Vibe ends alongside the fling. “#Flashback” and “Dance” both show Viviz reminiscing on the relationship once it has ended, though it is not portrayed as tragic or heartbreaking. Instead, the view is given that things were fun while they lasted, but it was always going to end. The inevitability provides closure; allowing Viviz to look back fondly, smile, and wish their partners well in the future because there was no other option. Thus, Summer Vibe ends on a note of maturity. 

“#Flashback” is interesting musically, as it veers from the 80s sounds that have dominated Summer Vibe for the 90s and New Jack Swing. It allows for greater prominence to be placed on the vocals, but also shows how perspective can shift. Viviz’s remembrances bear no resemblance to how the relationship felt when they were in it, the distance providing a clearer image than the love-drunk chaos ruling them in the moment. “Dance” is a simple yet effective ballad, relying on Viviz’s sweeter vocal tones rather than anything compositionally. It perfectly captures the maturity of the mid-20s–enough wisdom to let the fling end with dignity and grace; not enough to not start the fling in the first place. 

Overall, Viviz’s Summer Vibe is what says–a light, synthpop project that is the embodiment of a summer vibe. If that’s what you’re looking for, look no further.

(YouTube. Images via BMP Entertainment)