G-Friend -- 'LOL
2. Fall in Love
6. Water Flower
11. Gone with the Wind
12. Navillera (Instrumental)
'LOL' probably had every Buddy laughing out loud in sheer joy and glee. And the girls sure didn't disappoint with this one!
I was entirely unsure what I should expect from G-Friend following their school-themed trilogy with "Glass Bead," "Me Gustas Tu," and "Rough." For me personally, "Rough" was a bit of a letdown, and I was hoping that G-Friend will impress me once again like they did with their strong debut track "Glass Bead" and even stronger followup "Me Gustas Tu."
I can't see "Navillera" becoming as big a hit as "Me Gustas Tu" but I like it immensely more than "Glass Bead" and "Rough." With "Navillera," all my worries and fretting dissolved, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I truly enjoyed the song. "Navillera" managed to maintain that unique 'G-Friend color' that so many others have tried--and failed--to imitate. They didn't shy too far from the image that they are known for: girly, bubbly, preppy, childlike in their innocence...basically the perfect girl next door and every guy's ideal G-Friend. Ha! I had to.
Iggy (or Lee Ki) and Seo Yong Bae once again took charge of composing several songs on 'LOL,' and it's clear that this duo's got a penchant for epic guitar riffs and breakdowns. Maybe they derive inspiration from rock n' roll? In any case, this tasteful infusion of rock n' roll based melodies with the snyth-heavy pop over-layers is what makes the G-Friend sound so unique and difficult to emulate in K-Pop. It seems Iggy and Seo not only got a penchant for this mixing style but they also quite artfully mastered it. And G-Friend is a group that delivers this particular sound, which is full to bursting with a youthful, girlish energy, with a steadfast conviction, i.e., the girls are the perfect physical representation of their own songs. It's no wonder that they became so big so fast!
'LOL' kicks off with an intro track aptly titled..."Intro (in case some folks get confused!)," a prelude to "Navillera." However, unlike what we would expect, "Navillera" is not the song that plays immediately afterwards. In fact, the subsequent track is "Fall in Love," a track which begins low-key with orchestral strings that builds gradually with the addition of guitars, stadium drums, chimes, and chirrupy keyboards. It's an opening title with enough force to hold your attention, particularly with its descending, subtle minor chord-suffused melody in the chorus.
"Navillera," the next and title track on 'LOL,' is easily one of my favorites off the album. A fast-tempo, lighthearted dance pop track with a steady stream of synth injections, "Navillera" even throws in a brief--very very brief--trap breakdown which suddenly shifts into a guitar solo that rips it to shreds. The listener might be simultaneously overwhelmed and impressed at this odd amalgam, but it certainly is catchy and arranged well enough to be added to your K-Pop playlist with a lightning speed quickness.
I had several other favorites on the album, which is surprising considering my general lack of interest in K-Pop girl groups, particularly girl groups with this sweet, girl-next-door image and sound. I guess that just serves as further proof that G-Friend are true masters at this concept; in fact, they pull it off so well, so much so that you sometimes find it hard to believe that the girls are still pretty new to the K-Pop scene. In any case, enough of my sidetracking.
Moving on, can we please talk about what a treasure "Gone with the Wind" is? G-Friend experimented a bit with this track, as the track contains traces of dubstep during the breakdowns between verses. But G-Friend still throws in that an inevitable guitar solo near the end for good measure, marking it with the signature G-Friend sound we've all come to know and love. "LOL" is another track that I grew to love the more I listened to it, starting off with a decadently nostalgic melody which springs suddenly forth into a jovial and zippy dance pop tune. Its melody is not as happy-go-lucky or frolicsome as "Water Flower"--also one of my favorites--but serves as more of an inspirational, 'chin-up' track that promises Buddies that G-Friend will always be there for them. "Mermaid" slows things down a bit with a gentle acoustic melody, evoking a certain longing with delicate, diaphanous harmonizations. The high notes did sound a bit shaky, but I will let that slide as the overall track made for a pleasant listen.
Of course, though, I was generally impressed with G-Friend's first full LP, there were tracks that failed to resound with me personally. "Distance," for example, is a nice, chill track that was more experimental...and not really to my liking. I commend the girls for trying something new in terms of sound but I just couldn't bring myself to like it. "Sunshine" also fell in the 'forgettable' category, a ballad encompassing a straightforward piano-based composition with harmonies in the chorus. "Compass" and "Click" sounded a bit like the opening to a Japanese anime (or the OST to an animated film) which isn't necessarily a bad thing but the arrangements failed to stand out to me, buried under the more memorable tracks off the album. Especially for "Click," I just couldn't get used to the girls' ad lib of "Here I go, I wanna go! Let's jump higher!" where they sound more like a pre-school choir rather than near-grown women. I guess when it comes to G-Friend, their 'signature' of guitar riffs and glitzy synths is what I prefer.
Needless to say, the production is stellar as is with any K-Pop MV. But what's more, I found "Navillera" surprisingly artistic for a K-Pop MV, featuring a vintage set and theme that is tastefully executed throughout. The shots give us a dynamic and intimate view of the group as a whole as well as individually, using shaky 'amateur' camera movements that cleverly make it appear as though you are right there hanging out with the girls. Notice in the beginning how member Yerin beckons you to come join them in their adventures? And as a Buddy, how can you resist? This concept may be running rampant and feel a tad tired in the current K-Pop scene, but G-Friend manages to pulls it off with such authenticity and heart that you can't help but fall under their spell.