Review

Song Review: Sulli – Goblin

One of K-pop’s most coveted holy grails is the long-rumored f(x) comeback. Or, maybe it’s more of an urban legend — often discussed, but never actually coming to fruition. Like many agencies, SM Entertainment seems to have a hard time managing more than one girl group at once, so rather than continue f(x)’s powerful legacy, the group has been relegated to infrequent solo releases over the past four years. While Sulli hasn’t been a part of f(x) since 2015, her debut solo single Goblin (고블린) brings renewed hope that SM hasn’t completely given up on these girls. At the very least, all five original members now have their own music.

As expected from the quirky f(x) legacy, Goblin is a left-of-center pop track, more akin to western alternative styles than glossy, choreographed dance music. Opening with haunting chimes and atmospheric harmonies, the song feels ripped straight from some twisted fairytale. Its opening verse sets an ethereal mood, which takes an unexpectedly upbeat turn as we head into the chorus. The melody here is sugary and sing-song, almost at odds with the evocative instrumental supporting it. I like this contrast, though I think the arrangement is almost too jaunty for its own good.

Goblin’s most alluring aspect is Sulli herself. This could have easily become the kind of self-indulgent track that saw her taking on the “cool indie girl accent” that so many western pop singers seem to favor these days. Instead, her performance is relatively unaffected, and is at its best when she plays it straight and sings in her natural tone. Goblin’s whimsical sentiments aren’t something I usually go for, but I can see how an off-kilter track like this would enchant listeners who might be tired of K-pop’s usual, hyper-polished fare.

 Hooks 8
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 8
 RATING 8

~

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23 thoughts on “Song Review: Sulli – Goblin

    • This appears to be unnecessary reply but I’m not sure if you knew Linda Perhacs. I have a feeling that Sulli is trying to evoke 1970s/folk/ambient type of music. So if you like such style:

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  1. I’m glad you enjoyed Goblin, and, as much as i did like it as well, i think On the Moon and Dorothy completely overshadowed the title track. It really doesn’t sound k-pop at all (and that’s not a bad thing).

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  2. Sulli never affected me the way I’ve seen others react to her. I’d read comments saying how “goddess level” her visuals are and how much she’s a powerhouse performer, and.. ..I don’t get it. I don’t think she’s ugly, but I have zero attraction to her. I recognize her contributions to some of f(x) best songs, but I don’t think she’s an apex artist. This is one of those situations where I almost wonder, “Is it me?”. “Why don’t I see what others are seeing?” Anywho…

    This song is alright’ish. This song matches up with my opinion of Sulli. I’m aware it exists and I’m not sorry I experienced it. Just.. ..yeah.

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    • Well, same here. She can’t be a powerhouse performer, her moves are too lazy to be called one. I like quirky pop songs but this is simply not my cup of tea.

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  3. Hmm, just wish to remind y’all that Sulli isn’t a k-pop idol anymore and i guess this is more than clear with this comeback, so analysing this song or her perfomance with this point of view on mind is kinda pointless.

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    • This is one of the oddest comments I’ve read in a while. I’m not trying to insult you. I just don’t understand how can you expect us to “not” take her past singing and performing into account when commenting on this?

      It’s not like she made a major transformation in careers. It’s not like this is an instructional cooking video and we’re ignoring her cooking skills and criticizing her for not singing and dancing while she’s mixing the ingredients. The majority of the attention she’s getting on this release is due to her past as a singer/performer; which I believe, she’s counting on. If not for her past, this post probably wouldn’t be here. Even if it was still here, most of the comments wouldn’t be.

      If you’re suggesting that her switching genres (pop > indie) means she deserves a tabula rasa, then I disagree. Besides, I’m not sure she really wants everyone to treat this release as a debut effort from an unknown artist.

      Liked by 1 person

    • There is a strange and persistent kpop commentary theme that because someone has left or has been removed from a kpop group, they are no longer this that or the other thing, and every mention of them brings the keyboard warriors out to rant on this that or the other thing all over again. The comments usually come in incomplete sentences with a curious grammar that must be parsed. They also come with an urgency as if it the wound is still fresh even though it was so many years ago, and with a intensity as if the writer is the wounded one.

      A good example is Sungmin’s marriage.

      I just don’t understand this and reject this point of view. People leave groups. People start new groups. It happens. Vince Clarke was in 4 different groups in 4 years from 1981 to 1985, 3 of them are iconic examples of 80’s pop. C’est la vie. That’s life.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry if i wasn’t very clear and caused misunderstandings. An artist’s performance surely matters during a review of this work, specially if they are a k-pop idol, since most of them can only showcase their artistry through it, because generally they have little to zero creative control over their music, MVs, etc.

      But, in my opinion, i believe Sulli never really liked to not have this control over her work, so that’s why i think that, perhaps using her perfomance on this release as the main reviewing criteria isn’t right. Looks like, this time, Sulli participated on the artistic direction of Goblin (at least on the songs lyrics and the overall visual identity of the album/video), so, it wouldn’t be more appropriated to analyze it less like a product (kpop in a nutshell) and more like a actual piece of art?

      Again, i’m sorry if i sounded rude on the first comment, i’m just trying to express my vision about this.

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      • Your second comment confuses me more. But before I go into that, let me first throw you a bone…

        I think what you’re trying to say is that this site mainly focuses on K-pop, so anyone that frequents here shouldn’t treat this specific release with the same tinted glasses that we review regular K-pop because this is indie. So we’re incapable of separating the two genres because one genre is superior to the other.

        Sorry, but again.. ..huh? Let me try to clarify…

        1. If one of the criteria we’re suppose to take into account when analyzing this release is that Sulli was the creative force behind it, then that doesn’t bode well for Sulli. If it was an agency track, we could at least defend Sulli by saying, “Well, it isn’t her fault.” Your contention paints a bulls-eye on her forehead.

        2. This line in your post irritates me a bit: “..so, it wouldn’t be more appropriated to analyze it less like a product (kpop in a nutshell) and more like a actual piece of art?” — I don’t think you realize how pompous and arrogant that statement comes across. You posit that indie is art, because the performers had a hand it its creation, but K-pop is a product (and NOT art) because the agency provided all the creative force behind it. By that logic..

        A. Is the painting of the Mona Lisa not art because she didn’t create the painting, she just sat there, took direction and posed as Leonardo painted.
        B. Are all of the critically acclaimed films that been released throughout the history of cinema not art because the actors didn’t write the script or direct the film?
        C. What about literature? In literature, the author always gets the credit for the published work, not the characters within its pages. But when it comes to K-pop, the producers and writers don’t deserve to be considered artistic because they’re not in their own creation?

        I reject the idea that K-pop is not art. I reject the idea that music producers are not artists. I reject the idea that just because you wrote the song you’re singing, it’s now art. I reject Goblin by Sulli; not because it’s k-pop, or indie, or heaven sent on gossamer wings, because this song does little for me and the video is a bit sloppy and awkward.

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      • This is just my opinion, no offence.

        As long as the artist remains in the most ostentatious Kpop entertainment label where the visual concepts and music compositions are meticulously designed to satisfy all types of listeners in Seoul, I am too skeptical to ‘buy’ her ‘artistic license’. Of course this does not mean Sulli cannot experiment musically.

        Visionary artists, to me are the ones who dare to move out of their labels and build their new post-idol identities. They are more authentic and appear to be way more genuine, as well as being gutsy as hell. Because we all know how Kpop idols are judged. These are the ones who should be praised more than Sulli.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I found it interesting and strange but not compellingly so. The sing song parts reminded me of the use of nursery rhymes in song.
    There was a new TXT that came out a week or two ago “Nap of the Star”. which I found also interesting and strange, but in a Wes Anderson sort of way.

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  5. Okay Xeno, i understand what you were trying to say.

    And about your second topic, i really didn’t wanted to imply that i don’t credit the creative team behind the music or whatever the work is, or that i don’t take what they make as art. It is, but when speaking about k-pop, the way that it is used/sold/showcased, at least by the bigger labels that has this kind of creation process, it actually becomes a more of product than a statement (that’s how I see it).

    There are cases that you can perfecty see the music/video carrying some message or being build on some concept without having the involvment of the main artist, a example of this is my favorite girl-group at the moment, LOONA. I don’t think the girls have artistic control over their work, but that doesn’t mean it is bad, or inferior to the works of indie artists. That’s not how i review music (i don’t even really like comparing somebody’s work to another’s).

    But i also don’t mean that being a product is a bad thing. I surely listen and like a lot of songs that doesn’t actually have a special meaning, because music can also be a piece of entertainment. I think that this the main PoV that you and a lot of other people that frequent this site (and Nick, as well) have about kpop or at least, when you review these songs. It is not wrong, i also have this reviewing stance when i hear mainstream music that doesn’t have the involvement of the main artist.

    When i read your (and the other’s) first comment about Goblin i admit i got pissed off when reading it, because i saw these reviews being more on the entertainment side, without crediting her apparent involvment on the music. That lead me to post that infamous comment that i already regret that i posted, because i was rude on it and certainly offended you guys, that wasn’t my intention, so, i’m really sorry.

    Now i’ve explained how i felt about your reviews and i do not disagree on the points you’ve made on them, i just wanted you guys to give her at least some credit for the single (i mean, the three songs) and the mv, but again, you don’t have to, that’s just a suggestion.

    Sorry for the stress i caused, and i hope we’re on good terms now…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Let’s start over. You are entitled to your own opinion. That is your right. What set me off is that you were trying to tell other people how to form their opinions. You wanted “creative control” over what they were thinking because it differed from your assessment.

      You’re right. K-pop is a highly controlled industry. Idols aren’t just denied creative control, they’re denied life control. Do you remember what your teenage years were like? Mine involved emotional instability, anti-authority rebelliousness, and a sanpan-load of sexual tension. Now imagine wading through all that while a company takes away all of your control, starves you, dresses you and styles your hair, sculpts your body through rigorous exercise and hygiene regimes (and possible surgery), removes your ability to freely communicate with the rest of the world, and you are never off the clock. You will work as many hours as your told and sleep in the slivers of time between activities.

      I respect idols who make that kind of sacrifice for their dreams. When I was younger, I joined the military. Many of my friends thought I was crazy giving up my freedom for years, but it was what I wanted so the sacrifice was tolerable. That’s how I view idols. They may not have signed up to risk their lives, but that doesn’t mean their lives aren’t at risk. So when someone comes along and dismisses idols as pointless corporate chattel, I take umbrage.

      Just as idols are micromanaged, so is the music. Heavy analytics, precision market targeting, and a tactful assembly of personnel to form a scaffold around their artists that includes managers, choreographers, stylists, wardrobe, trainers/teachers, travel logistics, etc., etc., etc.. K-pop is an enormous house of cards that all rests on the fragility of each idols shoulders. It’s not just.. ..a widget spit out of a machine, or an automobile at the end of an assembly line. There’s human souls at the center.

      Back to artists being able to have creative control. While under contract, most won’t. Period. In the minds of the studio, idols have a limited shelf life. Each release is an enormous effort from a lot of people with a very big price tag attached to it. There isn’t enough time or money to allow idols steer the ship themselves into uncharted waters.

      So.. ..they get no control. If they want control, then don’t become an idol. If you do become an idol, then don’t blame the company for your choice. Most idols don’t enter K-pop because they want to create; they want fame and adulation. It’s only after they become an idol that most start wanting to be a part of the creation process. Unfortunately, they’ll have to wait until their contracts are over and they are no longer working on someone else’s dime.

      This may all seem tragic, but it’s reality. Early idols (1st gen, 2nd gen) may have been blind-sided by the harshness of idol life, but this latest batch have no excuse. They know what to expect, but they jump into the meat grinder all the same.

      Okay.. {inhale} .. {focus} .. {exhale}.

      I understand being a stan. There are many idols I’m very sensitive about. I want them to succeed and I hate seeing others giving them a hard time. {Shall we discuss T-ara?} When other people criticize an idol I like, I want to shake them frantically and yell in their face, “Wake up! Don’t you realize how wonderful they are?!?” But that’s not right. I don’t want them telling me who to like or not; I have to grant them the same courtesy.

      As far as Sulli, I “do” give her credit. She’s free spirited, kooky, flamboyant, and a human vitamin. I’m a f(x) fan so I acknowledge her contributions as a member of the group. I’m more of an Amber Liu fan, personally, but I give Sulli credit too. I just didn’t care for this particular release. Maybe I’ll like her next one. Who knows?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with mostly everything you said. However, this sentence is interesting to me:

        “So when someone comes along and dismisses idols as pointless corporate chattel […]”

        The truth is they all are, even if they did ‘sacrifice’ for their future. Kpop is designed to ‘sell’, idols are products made by their companies, selling their charms and their personal lives to the public. Fame and fortune are what they crave (or taught to crave by their respective management) from Day 1.

        A lot of people tend to focus on the reality of idols, but what about the fans ? No one ever credit the fans (as obsessive as they may be) for having to do so much work (time and money) for their fave groups, so that none of the groups have to face the slight threat of disbandment.

        What’s the real use of a fandom light-stick ? Why are there even names for fandoms ? Fans are ‘obliged’ to state they belong to whichever fandom, they are ‘required’ to buy official merchandise / official fanclub membership. In all honesty, they are ‘required’ to do a lot of things in order to support their favorite idols; watching variety shows, buying various/multiple versions of albums, streaming the heck of their idols’ MV, voting for their idols’ first win, attending damnably expensive concerts just to catch that one fleeting glimpse on their idols (plus air tickets, hotels etc). All of these are pretty much great examples of how ‘brand loyalty’ works. And now, even mobile games have succumbed to the power of K-pop.

        Why do we have to deny that Kpop is perhaps, the most immaculate vehicle for global capitalism ?

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        • I’ll address your comments from two separate angles…

          ———————————-
          The Value of a Idol

          In truth, corporations remove humanity from almost every aspect of day to day operations. In the case of entertainment companies such as SM, YG, JYP, they may want to appear caring but: idols are product, employees are tools, and customers are targets; and that’s it.

          In my comment, “So when someone comes along and dismisses idols as pointless corporate chattel..”, please focus on the direction of this. My comment is about someone asserting to me that since a corporation considers its idols as ‘just product’, that I should value them the same way. I reject that reasoning.

          Here’s an example. I mentioned that I had entered military service in my youth. During this time, the government may have considered me an expendable asset in the pursuit of a militaristic goal. I was fodder to them. Part of my service to my country was protecting the general public. Should that same general public consider me pointless as well? Should civilians have looked upon me as a valueless peg on a scoreboard? No service member should ever feel that.

          Just because one party dehumanizes an individual because of.. ..goals, doesn’t mean the entire human race must now devalue that individual as well. That was the message behind my “..dismiss / as chattel..” comment.

          ———————————-
          The Value of a Fan

          The subject of fans is a VERY rickety bridge to try to traverse because emotions run deep. The entire reason “idol machinery” exists is to tap into those emotions. “Love makes you do crazy things…”

          This is where the “customers are targets” aspect enters. The same corporation that devalues idols as product, devalues you as ‘a coin purse’. Your emotions forge the crowbar they’ll use to pry open that coin purse.

          Fan love breaks down as follows:

          The value of a fan to a company is “priority”. Corporations depend on fans. Fans are unpaid employees that work tirelessly with deep devotion and savage loyalty. They are the ultimate off-the-book employees. Free, dedicated, self-sacrificing. Despite that usefulness, fans are not humans. Fans are money.

          The value of a fan to an idol is “priceless”. You’re the air they breathe, the blood in their veins, the sustenance that feeds their bodies. Without you.. ..nothingness.

          The value of a idol to a fan is “personal”. We are social animals. For all our desires to be unicorns and snowflakes, we all.. ..just want a hug. When reality won’t wrap its arms around us to provide a sense of belonging, fantasy will do its best to fashion a surrogate. {*}

          ———————————-
          Some of your questions:

          – What’s the real use of a fandom light-stick?

          Answer: Branding. You are the unpaid advertising arm of the corporation. Not only are you working unpaid, but you’re paying them for the tools you’re using to advertise for them {**}. Light-sticks, t-shirts, posters, buttons, stickers, et al. Still, I understand the desire to wear t-shirts or display items that have idols on them. You may be a sandwich board for a company, but you’re hoping to connect with others that share your love for that artist(s); so there’s a personal reward.

          – Why are there even names for fandoms?

          Answer: Branding – Part Deux (The Sequel). Us versus Them. Teamwork. Camaraderie. Strength in numbers. Hive mind. Huddle mentality. Take your pick.

          – Why do we have to deny that K-pop is perhaps, the most immaculate vehicle for global capitalism?

          Answer: We don’t; because it is. As this post (hopefully) demonstrates, my eyes are wide open on the realities of the K-pop industry. It’s a cyclic relationship. Corporations get money, idols get fame, fans get love. It’s obviously more than that abridged assessment, but that’s the gist of it.

          ———————————-

          Yes, there’s a lot of devaluation taking place and I’m a fool for playing my part in all of this. But.. ..why are we here? Why am I here? Why are you here? If idols have no value, then why are you on this blog, reading this post, at this moment?

          Answer: Idols have value because “I” value them; and I believe “You” value them as well.

          * {FREE HUGS TO EVERYONE!}

          ** Note: My entire life, I have never bought into designer labels. I think anyone that wears clothes with labels such as Chanel, Gucci, Moschino, Nike, Adidas, Starter, Eddie Bauer, GAP, Members Only, etc. are sheeple. The fact that a Madison Avenue marketing team has found a way to brainwash large swaths of the population into believing that being an unpaid billboard for a designer “makes you cool” is hilarious to me.

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  6. I just discovered this site today and am loving it.
    I thought this song was… nice. That’s pretty much all I can say. Maybe it’ll grow on me more.
    I’m enjoying the comments but wanted to say it’s refreshing to find a thread where posters disagree but still keep it civil. It’s depressingly rare.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Sulli (설리) – Goblin (고블린): Special MV Review – TweetNewscaster

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