[Review] Gangkiz 'We Became Gang'
Kim Kwang Soo's new girl group Gangkiz has had one of the messiest debuts of the year because of their similarities to the popular T-ara, but behind all the drama, there's actually some pretty good K-Pop to be found.
Many people may see Gangkiz as destined to join the pile of failed girl groups right next to Stellar and April Kiss, but their debut mini-album, the hilariously-titled 'We Became Gang', is every bit as good as you'd expect from a group created by the same man behind T-ara (I'm pretending that 5dolls never existed, okay?).
Gangkiz has already been getting a lot of hate for ripping off T-ara's "Lovey-Dovey" with their Shinsadong Tiger-produced debut single "Honey Honey", but there's enough differences between the T-ara chart-topper and Gangkiz's groovy jam to appreciate both tunes.
While "Lovey-Dovey" was a Top Forty dance-pop record done T-ara style, "Honey Honey" is polka-influenced eurodance track with more instrumental breaks and less structure than a typical pop song. Shinsadong Tiger clearly looked towards French and Italian dance music for "Honey Honey", which is reminiscent of international club hits like IN-GRID's "Tu Es Fouto" and Yolanda Be Cool's Italian-flavored "We No Speak Americano" (the latter was actually covered last year by Korean group LPG). The instrumental sound of "Honey Honey" may even remind some people of trot, which adds a slight Korean sensibility to the euro sound.
Lyrically, "Honey Honey" is pretty flirty and sexy, but that was to be expected from a mature group like Gangkiz, whose oldest member is 29.
Gangkiz switches styles for its second track "Tonight", a midtempo song in the genre of Italo-disco (for those who don't know, Italo-disco is a genre of electronic music that was popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s). Although it uses a completely different style of disco to SISTAR's hit "Alone", in essence both songs are very similar with their dark retro production and lyrical content, both of which talk about being alone, miserable, and getting drunk after a breakup.
Vocally, it's virtually impossible to tell once voice from the next in "Tonight", which pretty much applies to the entire album. The only moment of variation is on the bridge when one of the members unleashes a fierce Hwayoung-style rap, which ends up being the highlight of the already strong song.
The girls showcase yet another side of themselves with the addictive "Super Love". The sunny, uptempo track features a bouncy acoustic beat and a catchy whistle that pops up on the post-chorus. There's even a short dubstep break in the bridge which is followed by a silly rap break where one of the members starts demanding, "shake it shake it boy boy! shake it shake it girl girl!". It's ridiculous and the dubstep is about as cheap and derivative as you can get, but it still totally works for the song.
"Super Love" manages to be cute and fun without falling into the overly sugary territory that younger girl groups inhabit. The idol scene is so full of bubbly girl groups that it's refreshing to actually hear a woman group for once, as K-Pop is in dire need of some more. (RaNia, Nine Muses, and Brown Eyed Girls are the only other ones that instantly spring to mind).
Gangkiz make the most of their maturity on the racy "Shh", which is about sleeping with a guy you like only to find out that you've been used for sex. The production is sensual and mysterious, with an acoustic-driven R&B beat topped off with synths and flourishes of oriental strings. Gangkiz are at their best vocally here, switching between rapping, sultry whispers, breathy sighs, and emotive singing. The style fits Gangkiz just as snugly as the electronic hip-hop of Absolute First Album fit T-ara, so it's definitely something that the group should consider pursuing more in the future.
For such a strong album, it's a real shame that We Became Gang has to end on a dud note with the overdone K-ballad "I Don't Want To Know Goodbye". It was clearly tacked on to try and show that the girls can sing (although it doesn't do a very good job of it...), and while it's a nice song on its own, it doesn't fit the vibe of the group or the rest of the album at all. It sounds completely out of place, not to mention that it was already released by member Hwang Ji Hyung a couple of years ago as a cut from from the Coffee House OST (Eunjung's drama series).
But for a group that seems as messy and thrown together as Gangkiz does, one misplaced song out of five good ones is quite impressive, especially for a debut. Gangkiz may not be the most original girl group out, but We Became Gang is a surprisingly solid collection of aegyo-free idol pop that should definitely please fans of classic europop, or simply those just looking for a more mature girl group.
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