Laboum released one of my favorite girl group singles of 2017 with the upbeat Hwi Hwi. But rather than double down on this style of bubblegum pop, they’ve spent 2018 pursuing a more subdued, mid-tempo sound. July’s Between Us proved that they were a solid match for this musical transition, so it only makes sense that new single Turn It On (불을 켜) would pick up where they left off.
While Between Us found success with a sensuous, synth-drenched instrumental, Turn It On takes a less daring approach. Its central melodic refrain is very turn-of-the-century pop — not edgy or provocative like a Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera, but safe and pleasant like a Mandy Moore. It may not make for a head-turner of a song, but I still think there’s a place for this in modern K-pop.
The instrumental’s slight Latin influences give Turn It On some needed character without totally folding to current trends. Honestly, the song could have done with more unique flourishes. I wouldn’t necessarily call it bland, but its head-nodding arrangement is very middle-of-the-road. Fortunately, the girls’ breathy deliver sells what little excitement there is to be found. It’s refreshing to hear a group like this deliver a track with such straightforward polish. There are no chirpy aegyo acts to be found, or half-hearted attempts at swagger. It’s just a simple pop song performed with restraint and sophistication. In this day and age, there are certainly worse concepts out there.