In the overstuffed k-pop market of large-configuration groups, 14U have had difficulty standing out. It certainly didn’t help that they released the exact same song two times last year rather than begin to develop a more robust catalog. Like so many rookie groups, the budget seems to be very tight when it comes to 14U’s promotions. However, their ace in the hole is mysterious production team (or individual?) DEZION, who has composed all of their material so far. The group’s bright synth-dance sound isn’t at all revolutionary, but it’s quite fun.
Don’t Be Pretty’s (예뻐지지마) title feels instantly problematic, as much of k-pop’s use of gender roles and expectations tends to be. But lyrical content aside, the song has a wonderful throwback quality that doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s not an ounce of brooding or naval-gazing here — just a jolt of bubblegum pop energy. And anyone who’s been reading this blog for awhile knows that this commitment to a good time is something I always appreciate.
On first listen, I found Pretty’s unrelenting cheer to go a bit overboard. The boys’ aegyo-bating performance is swallowed up by a heavy layer of fizzy synths and touches of electric guitar that never offer a chance for breathing room or nuance. But then I had to remind myself that I’ve never believed in the concept of “guilty pleasure,” and Pretty benefits from the very elements that make it cheesy. Like Golden Child’s similarly pitched It’s U (which has grown on me immensely — to the point where I can’t stop playing it), there’s something disarmingly charming about the fact that Pretty doesn’t even try to be cool. Instead, it’s an incessantly buoyant mood-lifter bound to lodge itself in your brain whether you want it there or not.