Ready-made fanbases are becoming more and more important to k-pop, but a truly blockbuster idol group has to reach past those who have been with them since their formation and embrace a wider audience. This may be tricky for fromis_9. First, there’s that what-were-they-thinking, borderline undecipherable group name to contend with. And then there’s Idol School — the reality series that spawned them. Though the show definitely had its supporters, it was by no means a ratings smash. Curiosity is not likely to be high among those not already familiar with the girls.
Luckily, fromis_9 has the power of MNET behind them, helping to secure promo at this year’s hype-producing Mama Awards. Pre-release Glass Shoes (유리구두) is the beneficiary of that promotion, but I don’t anticipate that it will hook many listeners. The song is perfectly solid in its own right, borrowing equally from groups like Lovelyz and Cosmic Girls with a heavy j-pop influence thrown in for good measure. The instrumental rides along a jubilant drum beat, underlined by touches of electric guitar and perky synths. It would make a fine b-side on any girl group album, but doesn’t take enough risks to stand out among the veritable army of competition these girls are up against.
Still, Glass Shoes is not without its charms. I like the fact that the producers didn’t automatically resort to the type of infantile aegyo that fuels so many groups like this. fromis_9’s performance is incredibly generic, but it’s also competent and pleasant to listen to. A few explosions of vocal fireworks would have given the track more heft and better displayed the members’ skills, but I guess you can’t fault them for playing it ultra safe — especially when it comes to a pre-release. This song is not something to build a career on. It’s more of a placeholder until we (hopefully) get to the good stuff.