The 89th Academy Awards
Brown Eyed Girls' 'Black Box' Album Makes Appeal to Global Mainstream
After co-sign from PSY, the K-pop quartet regroups for dance-heavy set influenced by Daft Punk, Dr. Luke and "Blurred Lines."
Worldwide, quartet Brown Eyed Girls' profile is higher than ever after PSY shined the global spotlight upon the group. For the main dance move of his "Gentleman" choreography, he incorporated the girls' domestically infamous hip sways from 2009 K-pop hit "Abracadabra." Plus, member Ga In co-starred in the video, now with half a billion views. A 21-second clip of the ladies dancing to "Gentleman" has garnered over 6.6 million views:
In the K-pop world, Ga In, Narsha, JeA and Miryo are famous for their genre-bending, attitude-soaked creations, including No. 2-peaking K-Pop Hot 100 hit "Sixth Sense." The track blended regal trumpets, kitten-like "meows" and Mariah Carey-esque whistle notes over a pulsing beat, but is just one example of the forward-thinking music the girls have brought to the scene as a group and as soloists (from Narsha's "witch pop" stylings to Ga In's odes to orgasms, in "Bloom").
Perhaps as a way to capitalize on whatever global spotlight they have, BEG have seemingly toned down the genre-bending for something a little more accessible, though, as always, bringing an atypical twist. Their "Black Box" LP takes the Western's world's biggest successes and gives them a K-pop makeover so three vocalists (JeA, Narsha and Ga In) and one rapper (Miryo) can make the music their own.
The first taste of the new LP came with pre-release single "Recipe." In retrospect, "Recipe" was a good indication of what "Black Box" would offer: dance-pop tracks with layered harmonies and fierce-as-all-hell rapping courtesy of Miryo. The 31-year-old MC is a true standout on the album as her raps feel tighter and more aggressive than ever; not to mention her English pronunciation is on point.
But perhaps the best representation of Brown Eyed Girls' mainstream appeal is found in lead single "Kill Bill." Themed around Quentin Tarantino's classic film, the girls bring what sounds like an easy-breezy, Western-themed pop tune. While the whistle hook has been heard in pop for over two years now (most notably in Maroon 5/Christina Aguilera collabo "Moves Like Jagger"), it's still a hot hook today heard in Ke$ha's latest Top 40 hit "Crazy Kids."
In fact, the production sounds like it could have been helmed by "Crazy Kids" producer Dr. Luke. "Kill Bill" has crunchy synths and lively guitar strumming tied together with a knocking beat, that recalls Marina & The Diamonds' "Primadonna" and Adam Lambert's "Never Close Our Eyes," both Luke productions. Admittedly, though, it's tough to imagine a Western pop artist who could pull off BEG's harmony-driven coos. Rapper Miryo truly shines in the track with two sections to showcase fiery raps. Fans of BEG's genre-morphing shouldn't be disappointed by the song's simplicity, as the lyrics make the song all the more interesting. It tells the story of a woman mocking the man who did her wrong, laughing at his despair that their relationship is over. Miryo taunts him in the chorus with the English line, "So don't you want to kill me?"
The music video is equally accessible with a simple theme -- the well-known "Kill Bill" storyline -- as the sexy ladies try to find ways to kill one another in the 7-and-a-half minute affair.
"Black Box" as a whole plays off other Western pop culture faves, too. The album opens with "After Club," which hones the sound of Daft Punk's mega-successful "Random Access Memories" LP with funky guitar riffs mixed with vocoder-like effects.
One album standout, "Boy," sounds like a K-pop version of one of this year's biggest singles, "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke. The R&B/pop hybrid incorporates similar themes of the eight-week No. 1 hit like its breathy delivery, peppy percussion and even the shaking cowbells. One can almost hear Pharrell's "hey hey hey!" line. Even Miryo's rap section comes in at the same point as T.I.'s, on both track's respective bridges.
"Mystery Survivor" is another standout that could have been single material if Brown Eyed Girls took a more EDM-inspired sound a la INFINITE's latest. The track moves from sections of banging percussion, zipping synthesizers, Calvin Harris-esque build-ups and high-powered electro-pop breakdowns -- it's a more subtle attempt to blur genres than the ever-evolving "Sixth Sense" single.
"Good Fellas" is the album's sole ballad that not only shows off the girls' vocal talents, but how the group functions as one. For the soft song, even Miryo's rap feels like a stern talk (rather than an in-your-face rap attack) as the group tones things down to close out their fifth full-length. It's a nice conclusion to a record filled with enjoyable, globally accessible K-pop tracks that gives BEG a big chance to make an impression -- one that can last -- on both hemispheres.