What does a pop act do when they’ve already pushed the envelope so many times? After a decade together, Brown Eyed Girls have broken cultural boundaries (2009’s “Abracadabra” video and choreography showed a girl group could successfully get sexy) and musical ones (there are too many genres to count on their 2011 hit “Sixth Sense”). But with their 2015 album Basic — which is anything but — they aren’t pushing, but opt to further perfecting their provocative formula, doing so with some of their most sophisticated work yet.
Basic (which bows at No. 14 on Billboard‘s World Albums chart, Brown Eyed Girls’ first appearance) is led by “Brave New World,” a shiny disco single with shimmering violins and a funky bassline, but is taken to the next level with electronica embellishments and a re-occurring sample of rapper Miryo slurring “heyyy.” It’s slick, it’s sexy, and hits previously unexplored territory.
That template is utilized on other Basic cuts to brilliant results: “Time of Ice Cream” is the bluesy, slightly-gospel-sounding album opener where the ladies sing, “If I have to die tonight, use your lips” along with “Wave” which blends funky guitar strums with BEG’s slinky harmonies. When the funk sound fails to have a standout element — like in the brassy stomper “Higgs” — it falls into unforgettable throwback territory, but those songs are few and far in between.
Basic also sees BEG diving deep in genre exploration. As a next step from 2011 buzz single “Hot Shot,” the quartet dabble into Latin-jazz with the punchy “Obsession,” plus the salsa-inspired “Dice Play.” And while at first, the hip-hop-heavy “Light” looks like it might be classified as a “basic” rehash of every song that sees a rapper enlists a pop start to sing their hook, but Miryo’s tight rhymes and Gain, Narsha and JeA‘s varied, passionate vocal deliveries help it rise above.
But one of the most fascinating moments comes via “Warm Hole,” which is a play on words from its Korean title that means “wormhole.” The gals playfully chant “Fire in the hole, when you touch me down there,” and use the “warm hole” as not-so-subtle metaphor to discuss what appears to be female masturbation — as they sing about being taken to the “the good place” — in K-pop, which barely talks about sex at all. Furthermore, the accompanying video is loaded with tongue-in-cheek, vagina-inspired imagery (see when Miryo blends a pink milkshake, JeA stashes herself in a washing machine, Gain cores an apple, etc) that the women approach with confidence.
“Warm Hole” is the type of shrewd-not-crude song that only Brown Eyed Girls could believably release, fitting nicely inside another genre-bending album for the quartet. Basic doesn’t have BEG breaking any new territory necessarily, just further sharpening their skills as one of K-pop’s best provocateurs.