K-pop rookies seem to be getting younger and younger with each passing year, so the emergence of The East Light (with an average age of 15) isn’t all that surprising. But unlike the hyper-polished pop of similarly-aged NCT Dream, these guys are tackling a less likely genre of music: classic garage rock. And despite their relative inexperience, they actually pull it off.
The deliriously catchy Holla (홀라) was written by the same composers of Produce 101‘s equally infectious Pick Me. And although the two songs are of completely different genres, their repetitive melodic structures are more closely aligned than you’d expect. Holla opens with a brilliant power pop guitar riff that forms the backbone of the entire track. What follows is a singalong melody reminiscent of classic 70’s rock. It’s a unique touchstone for k-pop. When Korea goes rock, it’s usually either the singer-songwriter style or something a bit heavier. Holla is just unabashed fun, from its interspersing of rap verses to its young performers’ commitment and energy. Though its influences are far more American than Korean, there is definitely a touch of 90’s k-hip-hop in there as well.
Though the song’s production is crisp throughout, the vocal arrangement is at its best when the group’s voices are given some layering. Their immense potential as performers is obvious from the outset, but their voices clearly haven’t yet fully developed, and this is where the band’s young age really shows itself. It’s a somewhat limiting factor, and obviously one that’s out of their control at the moment. But all in all, Holla is one of the year’s best left-field surprises — a welcome blast of youthful raucousness in a world of tightly choreographed dance pop.