I guess it was up to one of KPop's leading supergroups to punch through KPop's recent obsession with cute and coy and deliver a bold, fiercely sexual in-your-face ass-shaking anthem. With doe-eyed youngsters from GFriend to Twice to Pristin to even Red Velvet batting their eyelashes and driving up the hit counters on YouTube, iTunes and Spotify, Girls' Day returns from a nearly two-year hiatus and smacks everyone upside the head with their new track "I'll Be Yours" from the E.P. Everyday #5. But is it a hit?
Lately, a lot of vocal groups have lost signicant members and not only survived, but used the shake-up to refocus and reload. Significant examples include SNSD parting ways with Jessica Jung (with mixed results), f(x) parting with their visual then maturing to a sleeker, more mature trop-house blend, Dal*Shabet and Brave Girls lost two members and immediately released their best singles ever, Beast (now Highlight) lost a member but also a name in their battle with their former company, and recently Winner lost their main vocalist then dropped what could be their best work yet. When you lose a lead vocalist of the caliber of Heo Sol Ji (Solji), considered one of KPop's top voices, can you move on?
EXID, pronounced E. X. I. D. (and not exid), have always had a reputation as one of KPop's most inventive groups, combining pure hook-laden pop with elements of minimal hip hop, often turning abruptly from one to the other. Their style is a combination of street, hipster, and mod, and their choreography style, particularly on their hits "Up and Down" and "Ah Yeah" is distinctive and often mimicked. Their songs have a hard, bratty edge, not unlike 2NE1 or f(x) and their videos are often comical and occasionally off-putting. They're also known for their strong, popular personalities, notably lead rapper and songwriter LE (pronounced Elly, a.k.a. Ahn Hyo Jin), visual Hani (Ahn Hee Yeon), and their lead singer, the aforementioned Solji.
When Solji finally succumbed to a bout with hyperthyroidism, the group was forced to carry on without their acclaimed singer. Solji was actually the first winner of the outrageously popular and strange television program, "King of Masked Singer." She'd also twice won MBC's "Duet Song Festival", only further solidifying her personal popularity and artistic reputation.
Which brings us to the latest, EXID's first release as a quartet, Eclipse, and the awkwardly named single, "Night Rather Than Day." To say the group has succeeded despite their loss of Solji would be an understatement. What LE, Hani, Junghwa (Park Jeong Hwa), and Solji's fill-in at lead vocalist, the cherubic Hyelin (often spelled Hyerin, a.k.a. Seo Hye Lin) have done is turned out an almost flawless collection of sleek, impeccably produced R&B-flavored tunes whose biggest flaw is its brevity. Eclipse changes the playing field, covering new ground for EXID, and leaves you wanting more.
Aside from the non-linear and compelling "Boy" and atmospheric anthem "How Why?", the E.P. also features sultry solo numbers for Hani and LE, and their smoothest, funkiest single yet, "Night Rather Than Day." "Night" is a retro, neodisco number, replete with snappy rhythm guitar, bouncing bass, and a percussive mix of shimmering cymbals and handclaps, all flavored with a 1970's-influenced horn section that evokes the Tower of Power Horns or even Chicago. The song starts softly, almost wistfully with the hint to the chorus, "bame bame neoneun natbodaneun bame (At night, at night, not during the day but you at night)" then kicks in one notch when LE, co-composer and co-lyricist of the song, pops it up with a short snappy intro rap and signature line, "najbodaneun bame wa! (Come at night not the day!)"
The smooth mid-tempo, but very danceable track continues with a smooth boyant flow, peppered with LE's bratty rap, into the chorus which swings in easily and then gets taken up a notch by Hyerin's almost startling vocal register jump, "Bame bame uri duriseo ireohge! (At night, At night, us two, like this...)" Hyerin's high notes, not only in "Night" but throughout the first three tracks of Eclipse show her as being capable of, if not on the same exact level of, doing some of the belting they miss from not having Solji.
Not only that, but "Night" flows so easily that you may not notice its slightly unconventional structure, nothing unusual, but there are few other nice turns, for example LE's rap insertions at different points, flowing with the verses instead of a stand-alone and predictable rap break, Hani's non-sequitur line "butterflies in my mind" as another gear-change, and a lick of group harmonies at an unexpected point, at the tail end of the second verse, then again after the last chorus, taking the song to new heights as it drives along like a soulful train picking up the vibe as it slowly comes to its destination, one final "Najbodaneun bame wa!"
This is a completely different look for the illustrious girl group, a softer, friendlier style, singing about how they prefer dating at night for less-than-compelling reasons in the song: no UV rays, looking at the moon, soft lights making them prettier, etc. It's a sweet song, one of those perfect-for-summer happy, bouncy infectious jams. With any luck, we'll be hearing it well into September. Dig:
The other tracks on the E.P. are decent, but the two other full-group tracks are particularly compelling. The torchy-but-funky "Boy" and "How Why," a fascinating mix of street-corner sing-along and dreamy, almost indie vibes. Here's both, thanks to cutegorami: