So many veteran idol groups have gone through changes these past few years — some of them losing members and some disbanding altogether. Seventeen months after their last comeback, AOA are still kicking, but without their former main vocal Choa. So while Bingle Bangle (빙글뱅글) retains the fun, upbeat style the group has pursued for most of their career, it feels like the sound of a different act entirely.
As Bangle’s cheerful opening verse unfolds, the song is perched somewhere between Sistar’s summertime repertoire of singles and Laboum’s perky Hwi Hwi from last year. The breathy sexiness that informed much of AOA’s Brave Brothers-produced material is replaced by a sugary pop stomp. There’s some interesting shifts in rhythm happening here, underlined by an almost folksy influx of instruments. And while the girls don’t quite make the song their own, Choa’s absence doesn’t result in the total black hole one might have expected.
Bingle Bangle’s chorus is where we start to run into trouble. The whistling hook is fine, and I love the unexpected prominence of guitar. But, I’m not sold on the lifeless, spoken repetition of song’s title. It’s delivered in an oddly monotone style, which doesn’t make for a very engaging hook even after the warm harmonic burst that precedes it. This is a shame, because there are interesting things happening all around this moment. The instrumental takes a wonderfully bonkers turn during the bridge, even as leader Jimin’s higher-pitched-than-usual rap verse overtakes much of this experimentation. The song is good summer fun, but its shortcomings hold it back from being one of the group’s best.