Gugudan’s 2016 debut confounded many. For an act comprised of so many high-profile members, from an agency known to take artistic risks with boy group VIXX, how was Wonderland so generic? Though Gugudan’s potential and name recognition afforded them modest debut success, many of us were hoping that their follow-up would be a leap into new territory. With A Girl Like Me (나 같은 애), they dip their feet into uncharted waters, but suffer some of the same pitfalls as Wonderland.
Musically, A Girl Like Me is far more adventurous. Its cavernous, undulating bass is punctuated by an assault of chirpy synth blasts that drive the track just as strongly as its actual percussion. This chaotic whirlwind of sound seems messy at first, but smooths out with repeated listens. More importantly, the tightly-packed density of the instrumental grounds Girl‘s more lightweight melodic moments.
Gugudan are starting to veer away from the cutesy angle that defined Wonderland, and that’s a very good thing. But with that said, I wish they would have dropped it entirely for this song. There are parts of A Girl Like Me that pull back the sugary sweetness and offer glimpses of full-throated, soulful vocalization. This is hinted at during the track’s attitude-fueled first verse, but really peeks through after that initial chorus. Had the arrangement explored this texture further, we might have a real transformation on our hands. Instead, much of the song is draped in a layer of cloying, high-pitched ad-libs that cheapen an otherwise interesting move for the girls. Still, it’s a step in the right direction. By the time the next comeback hits, I trust that Gugudan’s music will finally match their potential. After all, it took VIXX a few releases to find their sound, too!