Ever since GFriend’s 2015 debut, fans have eagerly awaited their inevitable push into Japan. After all, their Korean material already borrows heavily from J-pop tropes, so much so that early hit Me Gustas Tu functioned just as well as a Japanese release. But until Memoria, the girls had yet to deliver an original J-pop track. So does the song live up to the hype?
To be fair, nothing short of Navillera Part 2 could fully live up to expectations. Memoria doesn’t seek to steamroll its way into your memory. This is not the high-octane dance pop many might have expected. It’s far more restrained, gradually developing its story rather than hitting listeners all at once. This approach is not new to J-pop, which has always followed a more poetic structure than much of Western pop.
In Memoria’s case, this results in a song that is slow to pay off. However, its trump card is revealed immediately by way of a gorgeous harmonization that draws upon GFriend’s superb blend of voices. This seems to promise a certain level of vocal majesty that never really materializes, and it’s hard not to long for the dynamic arrangement that might have been. But even without a major climactic point, there are still plenty of sparks mined from Memoria’s symphonic pre-chorus. The instrumental’s excellent use of strings gives the track an otherworldly sense of wistfulness, built upon by the group’s trademark guitar during the bridge. The lengthy chorus could have done with some tightening, but repeated listens reward its nuanced approach. I’m not sure if this is what I longed for in a GFriend J-pop track, but it definitely feels like the start of something promising.