K-pop groups rarely make it past their initial seven-year contract, and it seems to be an even trickier prospect for girl groups. We’ve seen a host of high-profile disbandments over the past few years, but one that might have flown under the radar for many is Dal Shabet. The girls never made it to the a-list, but they left behind an admired discography that won over quite a few fans. Subin, the group’s youngest, is trading on that success, cleverly working under the stage name DALsooobin for the release of her latest solo single, Katchup.
Since 2016, Subin’s work has taken a more indie approach, driven by her expressive voice and inventive arrangements. Katchup sounds very little like mainstream K-pop, and that’s a smart move when trying to stand out among her peers. The song’s opening verse grooves on a minimalist beat, forgoing trendy electronics for something more organic. Even when additional production comes in for the taunting chorus, Katchup resists the urge to go bombastic.
This is important, because the track’s final forty-five seconds wouldn’t work nearly as well if Katchup played all of its cards right off the bat. Despite K-pop’s love of experimental song structure, it’s pretty rare for an arrangement to hesitate for so long before bursting to life for its climax. So much of Katchup feels like a tease, but it pays off as a host of frenzied instrumental touches bring us to a fake-out ending that blooms into a double-time freak-out of vocal processing and looped whispers. It’s an idiosyncratic finale, and makes me think that Subin has a host of compelling ideas up her sleeve for the future.