After huge hits like Cheer Up and Love Wifi, Hong Jin Young has become Korea’s choice purveyor of modern trot music. Trot, or Teuroteu, is a traditional genre of Korean music and, along with western influences, forms the roots that many kpop songs have grown from. As someone who listens to a lot of Scandinavian and European music, it’s always reminded me of polka, schlager or even dansband. Taken in its most concentrated form, it can be a bit of an acquired taste. But Thumb Up, like many of Jin Young’s tracks, does its best to bring the genre into contemporary times.
Strip the track of its traditional instrumentation, and it could probably be mistaken for any number of innocent or cutesy songs from current girl groups, particularly in its plaintive opening and simple choreography. The big difference is Jin Young’s vocal performance. As usual, it’s heavy on accent and vibrato, giving Thumb Up its distinctive trot feel. The chorus is designed to be catchy from the get-go. Its four repetitions seem like double that, given its sing-songy melody. It sounds great the first couple of times, but will probably tire a bit with age.
Still, a song like Thumb Up is not going for subtlety. It’s a party song designed to appeal to every possible age. How much you enjoy it will depend on how seriously you take your pop music. It doesn’t hold a candle to the best of modern trot, but it’s definitely a fun little novelty.