GFriend is back with their second title track of the year and their fourth with ace production duo Seo Youngbae and Iggy. With each subsequent release, I’ve become more and more excited about new music from this group. January’s Rough is easily my favorite girl group song of the year so far, and Navillera (너 그리고 나) keeps its sound while upping the tempo. Some have complained about how similar it feels to the rest of GFriend’s material, but I’ve always appreciated when a group builds their own distinctive sound and sticks with it.
As soon as Navillera kicks off, with its dramatic drumbeat and seesaw synths, I thought we might be in for the female version of The Chaser. Alas, the song never reaches those great heights, but it is a more aggressive, densely produced step in an exciting direction. Taking cues from 90’s j-pop, the track is built on a propulsive blend of synths, electric guitars and breakneck beat. The squeaky synth line that follows each chorus is an especially nice addition to GFriend’s already robust sound. The entire track is so intensely powered that it really takes more than one listen to process everything. Unlike past singles, there’s never a moment to breathe, and this is a smart move on their part. By the time the electric guitar solo rushes over the middle eight, the energy has been whipped up into an absolute frenzy. It easily covers any of the song’s shortcomings.
If there’s anything holding Navillera back a bit, it’s the amount of familiarity in melody. The chorus especially sounds as if it’s about to morph into at least two of their previous singles at any given time. Lately, Youngbae & Iggy have also shown an interesting pattern of ending hooks on a melodic downturn rather than a soaring crescendo. This was the case in DIA’s On the Road as well. I appreciate how this approach subverts traditional pop song expectations, but I can’t help but wish Navillera had a few more big vocal moments to poke through all the other elements competing for attention. But even so, the girls have done it again, delivering another brilliant extension of their core sound.