On her currently-streaming documentary, BoA has professed a desire to release music that appeals to the current generation of k-pop fans. Her concerns are valid: Why listen to an established artist like BoA when there are so many younger, trendier groups on the scene? Why not fuel her choreography with a simple, meme-ready point move — even though we know she’s capable of much more complex routines? She’s at the stage of her career where she has to choose between appealing to trends or continuing to stick to her signature sound. It’s a dilemma all successful artists have to face eventually, and there’s no right or wrong answer.
New pre-release single Nega Dola (내가돌아) plays it down the middle, borrowing a bit of the old but grafting it to a hip-hop style that feels new for BoA. To be clear, she possesses enough charisma to pull off just about anything. And she very nearly does when it comes to the song’s flimsy rap verses — but the attempt still carries a hint of pandering that doesn’t go down well. A guest rapper might have helped, but I’d just assume nix the rap altogether. There are more interesting melodies that could have acted as a substitute and still supported Nega Dola’s hip-hop vibe. BoA is much more successful when letting her brilliant vocals take center stage, whether that’s during the song’s slinky, rhythmic verses or the tonally diverse chorus.
The production is a jumble of ideas, throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the mix. We’ve got acoustic guitar, tabla-esque trap beats and a healthy dose of that frustratingly pervasive lurching synth all the k-pop groups are calling “future bass.” There’s a bit too much going on, and the song’s ability to compel varies greatly depending on which moment you happen to be listening to. In the end, BoA’s energy and polished performance makes it all worth it, but not in quite the same way as her best material.