At last… the wait is over.
Korean pop group GFriend are back with a new mini album titled Song of the Sirens. This project follows the narrative from their last album Labyrinth focusing on a very complicated story line. This time around the lead track is titled ‘Apple’ with six B-side tracks to complete the mini. An album that has marked the official debut of some of the members as co-producers and co-writers of the tracks, which is very exciting to know.
GFriend turn into cool and stylish witches in their 2020 summer release. This is definitely a different move from what we have been seeing, not just from them, but in the general K-pop scene. The thing is, GFriend has a stable international fanbase but their main audience is the Korean general public. This audience enjoys songs depending on the season, winter songs tend to be ballads or melancholic songs (like GFriend’s ‘Rough’) whereas summers are dominated with feel-good EDM or tropical house songs that urge you to dance and sing them to the top of your lungs (like their songs ‘Fever’ or ‘Navillera’). Yet this time around the group surprises listeners with a sensual soft-rock/pop inspired track with the theme of temptation. They bring to the table a music video that continues their intricate storyline with definite apple allusions to Snow White and Adam and Eve. The producers shockingly did not play it safe this time around, with a song they knew is out of the ordinary for the season being. For that I applaud them.
The path the girls took from the ‘Crossroads’ (pun definitely intended) has led the storyline to an apple tree, with its plump red apples. As member Eunha bites an apple in the opening of the music video, the innocence that has characterised the group is dissolved into a corrupted version of themselves. This is where lead single ‘Apple’ stands, in the middle of a crossroads, should they accept this corruption of the soul or fight for their innocence? We shall probably see in their next release.
Now let’s dive in and talk about ‘Apple’ as a song. Composed by many but most notably members Eunha and Yuju as well as Hitman Bang (CEO of Big Hit entertainment), Pdogg and FRANTS (both regular producers of groups like BTS). The song is described as a blend of genres, mixing pop with a Slap Bass as well as Shuffle Groove and 90s nostalgia. ‘Apple’ has captivating musicality to it with sensual vocals that lure the listener in with a catchy chorus and a hook as a post-chorus. The guitar arpeggio that runs throughout the song is definitely one of the highlights of the song tying the whole of the track together. Through a couple of interviews the members have mentioned that they had to train vocally to embody fully the concept of ‘Apple’, showing a new sensual and mature GFriend that is confident and assertive in how they want to lure the listener into playing the song over and over. Some of the members manage to hit incredibly high notes during the chorus (G#5) and it is honestly quite impressive to listen to them singing this song live. The song is super addictive and I have often found myself just repeating certain parts of the melody over and over. The song may remind fans of second generation KPOP groups like Girl’s Day, shifting through the KPOP EDM trends of the present.
Nonetheless, some parts of the melody and vocal parts feel slightly strained and a little uncomfortable to listen to; this might be a problem with the way the song has been compressed. The intention behind ‘Apple’ is that GFriend wants the public to understand that they are a group that can play with concepts and is not afraid to explore niche sounds that can be pushed into the mainstream. ‘Apple’ moves away from the heavy orchestral pop we are used to hearing, but the song still holds the GFriend identity and sound, perfectly embodying the group’s journey from teenagers to adulthood. Emblematic of this change is the lyric within the song that states ‘translucent glass beads glowing red’, a direct reference to their debut single ‘Glass Bead’, a metaphor for how a person may look like a fragile glass bead but are not easy to break. The glass bead in ‘Apple’ is now tinted red, the girls are still themselves but a different version of themselves, they are able to shift through phases in their lives.
Following the opening of the album comes ‘Eye of the Storm’ which is described as a rock-based dance song similar in style to past releases by GFriend with fast and prominent drums, keyboards and really cool sounding synthesizers. Its essence is very J-pop and the fast paced melody an instant earworm. The best way to describe this song is by saying it is both very powerful yet elegant and delicate really embodying the metaphor of a typhoon that the song uses to describe a relationship. The chorus is definitely the highlight of this song, it holds so much emotion elevating this song from a plain J-pop inspired song into a powerful fast paced rock dance song. In the chorus I am drawn to the English lyrics which are extra catchy and the way it is structured in a call and response conversation between the various members; this allows the chorus to sound full and varied of different tones and timbers. ‘Eye of the Storm’ ends with Eunha’s clear voice and some delicate piano notes fully showcasing the duality of being both strong and delicate.
Simple, clean and elegant is the perfect way to describe the third track ‘Room of Mirrors’. The song is a mid-tempo ballad with GFriend’s super characteristic orchestral-pop sound that they have been curating for almost six years now. The song at first listen is not anything new, we have seen this before from them. Vocals full of emotion, a full orchestra, a piano, synth bass and drums. The classical GFriend song. YET, ‘Room of Mirrors’ is so much more, it plays with wanting you to feel comfortable, it wants you to fall into the trap of just believing this is any other song by them. With the interesting addition of a rap in the middle of the song, a full guitar and orchestra musical break and finally an ending that is just the definition of tasteful with Yuju’s vocals, ‘Room of Mirrors’ is a perfect addition to GFriend’s extensive discography. The song depicts a very interesting message that relates a hypothetical room of mirrors to the way our world incites envy, jealousy and make us compare ourselves with other people constantly.
What can I say about ‘Tarot Cards’? Honestly… this is the best song in this mini-album. There is no question about it. I will take no more opinions. HEAVILY inspired by J-pop and anime openings this song is just a boost of serotonin and energy to anyone that listens to it. Produced by various composers as well as members Umji, Yuju and Eunha the song’s lyrics use tarot cards as a way of finding the answers to your own fate without having to agonise over finding your own direction. A blend of alternative rock and dance that blends in brings in the classic GFriend strings and synthesizers. ‘Tarot Cards’ starts quite mellow with the harmonization of a couple of the members voices, but soon enough the beat starts playing fast and playful. The verses of the song are full of power and staccato rhythms that are followed by long notes that stretch out a feeling the feeling of adventure. The catchiest part of the song is probably the chorus and the post chorus that emphasizes the excitement of knowing your own future fate. I really love this song.
Next up is ‘Crème Brûlée’, a weird and playful song that uses créme brûlée (the famous French dish) as a metaphor for the way people approach love and temptation. The best way to describe this song is bubbly and bouncy, with a soft plucking keyboard riff that holds the whole of the song together the song feels almost minimalistic in its composition. ‘Crème Brûlée’ feels experimental, it creates a soft atmosphere that I feel is very trendy in a lo-fi kind of way. The staccato in both instruments and the vocals of ‘Crème Brûlée’ make it an interesting song to listen to. The song is cool but weird, I am not sure if it is catchy or not as it really confuses me (in a good way, at least I think so). Definitely one of the highlights of this album.
Last is ‘Stairs in the North’, the designated KPOP ballad of this album. I really do not want to repeat myself on this topic as I already covered it in my previous GFriend review. I’ll just state that ballads are included into albums for the sake of musical diversity and for that reason they tend to be quite hit or miss for me. Whilst during my first couple of listens I felt pretty underwhelmed with ‘Stairs in the North’ I must admit it has really grown on me. ‘Stairs in the North’ was produced by Hitman Bang as well as FRANTS both inspired by member Sinb’s memories and feelings of what fame and success have allowed her and fellow members experience in the past five years. The lyrics details create an allegorical staircase that stands in for the rise to fame. Going up the stairs you don’t particularly realise everything that is going on around you, everything seems almost a blur, but when you start descending the stairs you can see and feel the beautiful scenery around you which is an allegory towards the effort their team, producers and fans have put in throughout the years to allow them to be where they are. It is a super pretty ballad song inspired in folk and 90’s British rock with a beautiful live recording of a fourteen-member string performance. The vocals are extremely calm and reassuring, full of emotion. I am extremely happy of the inclusion of an electric guitar solo, as it creates an aura of musicality that can be forgotten in KPOP.
Song of the Sirens is super experimental for GFriend and for that I applaud them. However, this does not allow for the whole album to be as cohesive as I would have liked it to be. Each song feels too different from each other which is ultimately the album’s most prominent flaw. Nonetheless, there are some songs within the album which are absolutely stunning and perfect.
- 7.3 -
‘Apple’, ‘Eye of the Storm’, ‘Tarot Cards’ and ‘Crème Brûlée’
Guille Fernandez is a music lover who studied the cello for almost 10 years before moving to the UK to study English literature at King's College, London.
This article was edited by Fin Cousins, a literature student studying at Kings College, London. He is an avid consumer of sports, fashion and music. He is still waiting for his rap career to take off. He also made our logo.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based at the University of Oxford. He is also a Fleet Foxes shill.