After the incredible one-two punch of Up & Down and Ah Yeah, it appeared that EXID had become an unstoppable force in k-pop. Then they released the less-incredible Hot Pink and revealed a chink in their pop armor. New single L.I.E (엘라이) promised us something completely different, and that’s certainly true. But I’m not sure that it’s the kind of different the group needs.
EXID’s new album, Street, is actually pretty solid, with a few awesome retro dance tracks that would have served well as singles. On the other hand, L.I.E doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Complicated production and song structure is a hallmark of k-pop and can make a song feel more epic than it is, but this approach becomes problematic when the different elements don’t add up. L.I.E is giving us at least three songs in one. We’ve got the first verse, with its measured, ska-influenced pop bounce, and the LE-driven breakdown sections with their sleazy electronic grind. Tying these together is L.I.E‘s frantic chorus, which is by far the song’s weakest element.
This is a big problem. EXID’s hooks have always been impeccably produced, but something went wrong here. The beat feels too fast for the vocals. It’s at once too busy and too compressed, clashing with the ultra-pop melody. Hyerin and Solji are powerful vocalists, but the way their parts are handled here comes off shrill and poorly mixed. It’s such a shame, because everything surrounding this chorus is pretty strong. Sometimes simple and streamlined is better, and I hope to see EXID return to the kind of big, ballsy hook that they’re known for.