Most of the time, a k-pop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-sides deserve recognition too. In the singles-oriented world of k-pop, I wanted to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
When I see the title “I-Yah,” I instantly think of Boyfriend’s Sweetune-produced anthem of the same name, and then of the first generation symphonic rap-rock hit by H.O.T. My mind certainly isn’t drawn to Infinite’s Back, but Cosmic Girls’ I-Yah comes across as the female equivalent of that 2014 classic. It lifts entire instrumental sequences from the song, and climbs to a similar kind of chill-inducing climax.
But this isn’t even the best part. I-Yah was partially composed and arranged by Kim Seung-soo, co-founder of my favorite production team Sweetune. Now, Back was infamously not a Sweetune production, but the fact that Seung-soo has clearly taken that track as inspiration just blows my nerdy producer-loving mind. It’s like things have come full circle, in some crazy (and probably meaningless) way.
All this behind-the-scenes talk isn’t to take anything away from the girls themselves. I-Yah is a sweeping track on its own, in part because of its stellar vocal arrangement. Cosmic Girls have one of the most distinguishable, layered sounds among this generation’s girl groups, and that’s put to riveting use here. The descending harmonies that buttress the chorus are pure bliss, adding contrast to a melody that just keeps ascending. This all climaxes in a perfectly placed power note that signals the final chorus. It’s thrilling stuff, and probably the best thing the group has recorded yet.