Wave is not only the latest SM Station release, but also the first under the company’s new EDM sub-label. It makes sense that f(x)’s Amber and Luna would take hold of this sound first, as their group’s most recent album already veered slightly in this direction. Working with a cavalcade of producers, the “featuring list” alone is a real mouthful. All those cooks in the kitchen result in pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a 2016 EDM track, kpop or otherwise.
Unfairly or not, this review will be colored with my feelings towards EDM as a whole. And since Wave is ultimately typical of the genre, it rises and falls along with the formula’s inherent strengths and weaknesses. Right off the bat, it’s great to hear the girls singing over a galvanizing, full-speed-ahead dance track. Kpop, and SM in specific, is often concerned with throwing so many rhythmic and stylistic changes into each individual track that it can occasionally come off a bit claustrophobic. This is actually one of the reasons I love the genre so much, but there’s still something to be said for a straightforward club track.
Everything floats along nicely as we enter the bridge, with its expected (but nonetheless effective) build. Luna’s voice feels tailor-made for these moments, but Amber more than holds her own in an uncharacteristically unbridled vocal performance. It’s only when Wave devolves into the inevitable, cut-and-paste electronic hook that the song loses potency. And herein lies my issue with EDM as a whole. For all its strengths, it is not a particularly innovative genre — at least when directed at pop radio. The synth refrain that acts as the song’s centerpiece sounds like any number of similar dance tracks over the past few years, dulling excitement rather than maintaining it. I appreciate that there’s a nice little vocal hook to go along with it, but it’s not enough to elevate Wave from enjoyable to truly outstanding.