In this day and age, I’m always impressed if I can get through a K-pop title track without a single trendy synth flourish. The tropical squiggles of yesteryear have warped into moodier, filtered electronics that instantly signal generic 2019-era tropes. Even some of my favorite singles of the last year aren’t completely immune to this sonic temptation. I fear that this constant recycling of loops and samples is only going to make much of K-pop’s current output feel horribly dated a few years down the road, so I’m always on the lookout for tracks that opt for a more timeless musical palette. With this in mind, I’m pleased to say that VAV’s Thrilla Killa feels very classic in its execution, and acts as a welcome turnaround from the group’s uninspired Latin-pop cover last year.
The best thing I can say about Thrilla Killa is that it sounds as if it belongs in 2013. That may seem like criticism, but 2013 was a watershed year for K-pop. I miss the era where idol groups were unafraid to go big — both melodically and stylistically. In a parallel world, Thrilla Killa could have served as a solid VIXX title track. Instead, VAV harness its funk-pop power for a refreshing antidote to current trends. In its press release, the song was described as being inspired by Michael Jackson, Phil Collins (!), and Prince. That sounds like the best recipe ever. Thrilla can’t quite live up to those lofty aspirations, but at least it tries.
This is a satisfying slab of funk-pop with an excellent beat and addictive energy. Producer Ryan S. Jhun is involved, and his retro instincts are all over the track. The percussion pounds relentlessly, supported by a rhythmic brew of guitar and synth that give a gritty appeal to the otherwise polished production. Thrilla‘s surging hook isn’t anything new, but it’s nice to hear a shot of pure melody rather than a clunky instrumental loop. I love the filtered vocal touches throughout and the slightly sinister arrangement that always feels alive and kicking. More of this, please.