Just when we thought Pledis Entertainment would be chucking more girls into the After School parade, we're presented with a brand new girl group, Hello Venus. By the looks of it, any one of the these girls would have made an interesting addition to After School, but Hello Venus is packaged with a particular charm and elegance previously unseen from Pledis camp. What we're seeing here is something a bit more developed than your typical cute concept.
Hello Venus introduces themselves along with their short mini-album rather aggressively with "Hello". It's a slight contradiction to their heavenly image, but allows Hello Venus to leave us with a strong impression. "Gorgeous, luxurious. Can you handle us?", the girls tease while boasting their confidence and appeal. Even with guitars blasting and wild gamelan instruments banging on their stereo, the girls stay faithful to their flirty, girl-next-door image, while also proving they have some spunk.
"Venus" is their appropriately titled debut single. Immediately, the propulsive beat and chanting melody should remind you of tracks like "Womanizer" or "I Go Crazy Because of You", decorated with layers of aegyo-tuned vocals and bright wailing synths.
As far as arrangement is concerned, the track is nothing new. In fact, we've already heard After School chant the verse melody of "Venus" in their recent Japanese single "Rambling Girls". What's great here, though, is the production. The muted electric guitar that drives the track give a subtle sense of sexiness with its light grainy texture against what would have been a bland kick sample. The drum programming is simple with just the right amount of variation to keep the track safe, but interesting. However, it's the chorus that sets this track apart from your typical K-Pop Max Martin knock-off. Rather than including the chanting in the chorus, the tracks takes a sharp turn and splits off into a symphony of glee and something you'd see in a cheery Old Navy commercial.
Hello Venus continues to excite with expert rapping from the group's very own former underground rapper, "Lime", and climatic high notes during the final chorus. The cute vocals may be off putting for some, but the hammering beat provides a buffer to set an interesting balance for the track.
The only real distraction here is the hook. If they were to replace the "V-I-C-T-O-R-Y Girl/Boy" hook with the simple "da-da-da" hook featured after the first chorus, the track would be nearly perfect. But even with them randomly spelling words for us, "Venus" is clearly one of the noteworthy debut singles this year.
The next track, "Excitement", is a song about a girl aroused by some guy but unable to actually do anything about it. It doesn't really provide any depth to the album, but since this is such a short record, Hello Venus does things right by keeping things simple and concise. With "Excitement", they prove that they're capable of singing ballads in a way that's appropriate for this release.
Along side "Venus", "Love Appeal" stands as a rehash of ideas already presented in "Venus" but with a more electronic flair. Unfortunately (or fortunately) dance pop isn't really their forte. With the pop trends slowly receding away from headstrong synth pop music, it's probably for the best anyway. It's a good thing this track wasn't right after "Venus" on the tracklist - "Venus" would just completely overshadow this one.
Pledis explains that the Hello of Hello Venus describes the group's approachable presence while the Venus describes the mystical quality of the girls' concept. For the sake of native Korean speakers from sounding so silly, we wished they had chosen something else (in Korean a "V" sound could easily be mistaken for a "P" sound, although they're actually saying something more like a "B" sound), but the name eventually grows on you and it's actually pretty memorable, awkward English aside.
What makes Hello Venus promising is the clarity of its concept. The four tracks on their debut mini-album easily cooperate with each other within the bounds of confidence, cute, and sexy. However, what keeps Hello Venus from being seen as a potential threat among higher tier groups is the group's lack of lyrical depth. We're not expecting anything on the scale of "Sunny Hill", but After School's "Shampoo" is a great example of effortless, yet clever K-Pop songwriting. If that's any indication of what Pledis is capable of with lyrical delivery, then there's potential for any of its artists to reach that sort of peak. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the direction Hello Venus is headed. Still, I'd much rather listen to fun pop music without being spoon-fed contrived, analytical explanations of ordinary pop songs by label representatives.
'Venus' by "Hello Venus" is nothing but pure fun and entertainment, but you know what? That's exactly what they're aiming for. I like that sort of honesty.