The story behind BP Rania (formerly just Rania) is one of k-pop’s messiest. Originally formed by famed American producer Teddy Riley to straddle the line between Eastern and Western sensibilities, the group has since lost almost all of its original members and transformed into a completely different group. Rania has actually managed to lose more members (9) than most k-pop groups ever even have. Now, as “Black Pearl” Rania, they’ve added American Alexandra Reid as their leader (!), but she doesn’t speak Korean and only appears intermittently in their songs and videos. Like I said, messy.
With all this background, it’s hard to enjoy BP Rania’s output without feeling like there is at least a bit of cultural appropriation at work. The way Alexandra is brought in and out of the group’s material haphazardly makes it feel like she’s being used as a prop. I’m not saying this is the case, and I’m all for diversity in k-pop, but Korea has some unresolved issues with race as it is. I’m not sure that the way BP Rania has been handling their members helps things get any better.
But onto the song, since that’s really what I’m supposed to be reviewing here! Since their reformation, BP Rania has traded in the sort of generic, girl group pop/r&b that goes down easy without leaving much of an impression. Prior single Demonstrate grew on me the longer it stuck around, but Start A Fire is more addictive from the get-go. Its simple, mid-tempo beat is refreshingly devoid of trendiness, and its catchy, melodic hook does a nice job showing off the members’ vocals. It’s certainly not the kind of song that’s going to change the world, but the melody has a certain sassiness to it that’s missing from most girl group tracks these days. It gives hope that the group might fill a certain niche that’s currently vacant in the k-pop world, but I think they’ve got some core issues to sort our first.