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Let’s Talk About K-Pop’s Messy Verses

I think most of us could agree that — at least so far — 2018 has seen a certain amount of renewed attention given to strong choruses. As the EDM build/drop structure has begun to (slowly) wane in popularity, we’re seeing more melody take its place. Yet, many of my recent song reviews could be summed up something like this: “the track’s pretty strong, but there’s something missing.”

As the year goes on, I’m becoming more and more convinced that that “something” can be found within pop music’s most underrated element: the verse. It feels like I’ve been leveling the same criticism over and over. A song’s hook may be relatively strong, but its verses feel like wasted space. Or even worse, a song’s messy verses completely sabotage an otherwise solid chorus.

This isn’t a dig on k-pop’s diverse musical palette, which is one of the industry’s biggest strengths. Nor is it meant as a blanket generalization for all idol music. There are plenty of 2018 songs that follow a more classic structure. Instead, it’s a recognition that many of today’s k-pop title tracks seem to be undergoing a transformation when it comes to the way that they’re constructed.

I have a theory that, as k-pop groups become larger in configuration, the verses within their songs become less streamlined. After all, it’s much easier to find something to do for four or five members than attempt to shoe-horn in ten or eleven separate voices and personalities.

This has resulted in a kind of verse without any discernible structure — a verse that feels more like members offering a series of “cool” or “moody” moments without regard for how they connect together and serve the song as a whole. Most recently, my reaction to GOT7’s Look has crystallized this theory. The song has a decent chorus, for sure, but it’s surrounded by verses that are so all over the place that they verge on unlistenable.

When carefully constructed, a strong verse introduces and adds to a song’s vibe, but also acts as a mini highlight on its own. Its job is not to eclipse the strength of the chorus, but that doesn’t mean it should be forgettable. A dynamite verse can even veer the song towards a new direction, but it should still share enough connective tissue with the other elements surrounding it so as not to completely derail the song’s effect as a whole.

Too often lately, k-pop’s verses have felt more like opportunities for idols to posture and appeal their charms (whether cute, badass or brooding) than fully fleshed out moments of their own. And as long as a catchy chorus rears its head every thirty seconds or so, the song can be pulled out of its murk and salvaged. But this isn’t good enough. I’m looking for those title tracks that open at an outstanding level and never dip below that high water mark.

As the pre-chorus/build has gained spotlight thanks to the rise of EDM’s lockstep structure, it almost feels as if this segment has adopted the role that verses use to play. I’m curious how this will change as trends shift and k-pop moves into yet another new iteration. I think we’re right at the beginning of that transition now, so it will be interesting to see what the rest of 2018 will bring.

Readers, am I totally off the mark? Or is this something you’ve noticed as well?

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10 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About K-Pop’s Messy Verses

  1. Hi, I have been reading your posts for a while and I completely agree with your opinion and no I don’t think you are off the mark. Personally I reckon that group size needs to cut down because trying to fit so many members into one song does not work. More often than not it feels as though they are sacrificing the quality of music just to squeeze in yet another vocalist or rapper.

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  2. I definitely agree with you! Recently, I’ve found that, when I try to sing or hum a song that I haven’t heard in a bit, I have to skip to the chorus because I flat-out don’t remember the verse melody. That said, some 2018 songs, like Golden Child’s It’s U and all four songs from Seventeen’s special album, to varying degrees, (no girl group songs from this year come to mind, unfortunately, though this is off the top of my head) have had verses that either started off as some of the strongest I’ve heard or have grown on me immensely. Hopefully this is just a blip on the radar that’ll pass fairly quickly!

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  3. seventeen consistently has great verses (both w/ their title tracks & album tracks) even though they have 13 members. twice, too (most of the time). w/c is weird bc they’re under the same company as got7 & got7’s verses have been going downhill since 2016 -_-

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  4. K-pop and pop are genres mostly based around catchy choruses that get stuck in your head and that’s why I don’t mind too much if the verses are a letdown, because when a good chorus comes after a couple of terrible verses in a song, I kinda just forget the verses altogether.

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