This May, Ladies’ Code connected with producers 1Take and TAK to deliver the funky, brass-filled Feedback. It felt like a return to the group’s older sound — heavy on groove and sassy vocal delivery. The song emerged after an extended hiatus, which itself was preceded by years of more subdued material. If new single Set Me Free is any indication, Ladies’ Code are intent on continuing to explore the upbeat side of their sound, sticking with Feedback’s collaborators for a sequel that works in fits and starts.
My favorite element of Set Me Free is actually its instrumental. I tend to complain about beat drops in K-pop, but I love the post-chorus freak-out that fuels Free. It feels like NCT 127’s Superhuman (also a 1Take/TAK production) as seen through a funky girl group prism. This energy could have been used more generously throughout the rest of the track, as Free‘s verses drag more than expected.
Ladies’ Code’s vocals — an asset during the laid-back, assured Feedback — are given no favor here. At their best, the trio offers a warm tone that melds pop and r&b performance with a pleasantly sly result. Set Me Free’s verses take advantage of this to some degree, but the pre-chorus strains their voices with an oddly structured melody that comes across as quite shaky. The chorus gives them more power to work with, but the melody still feels elusive and unsatisfying. Thankfully, the instrumental wallop that follows provides a needed anchor, as well as a distinct calling card for the track. It’s not enough to elevate Set Me Free above its predecessor, but it’s a nice little production flourish nonetheless.
Umm, this one hurts. I have been a LAVELY since the debut of LADIES’ CODE. While my bias was EunB, I have always considered Sojung as one of my favorite vocalists in this genre. While they have some impressive b-sides, I still listen to “Bad Girl”, “Hate You”, and “So Wonderful” to this day.
I understood the melancholic nature of their releases after.. ..that incident. I was still supportive because those releases were good; even though each was a bit of a gut-punch. Still, I’ve been hoping they would start releasing material with more energy. “Feedback” was a good first step in that direction. This release, “Set Me Free”, just isn’t ringing any bells for me.
The vocals feel like an awkward afterthought. While I can instantly recognize Sojung’s voice, I can’t connect it to the way she’s singing. None of her vocal strengths are being used. The same goes with Ashley and Zuny. They’re there, but aren’t. It’s as if this is a CF where an agency bought the song, then looked for someone to sing it and the final production didn’t try to apply changes based on the incoming vocals.
Sadly, I’m going to have to bury my head in the sand on this one.
I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way. On paper, Set Me Free has so many things that I like, but the actual execution of it leaves me wanting. It’s a pity, because based on teasers alone I thought I was going to love this.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Actually I like this song more than Feedback. this one is kpop does funk disco. I can imagine Donna Summer or the Pointer sisters singing the shit out of this song. This track is a lot more upbeat and danceable – well, ok, because it is literally more upbeat.
Now I NEED a modern K-pop version of Pointer Sisters’ Break Out album.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hell ya! or Donna Summer, or Gloria Gaynor, or Chaka Khan. I’d settle for “TLC meets 2NE1” or “En Vogue meets mamamoo”.
I’ve been waiting for a wave of “K-Pop meets Japanese city pop” to show up. I know we have a lot of Korean attempts at mimicking city pop such as Yubin’s “Lady”, Yukika’s “Neon”, and a couple of Bol4 offerings, but I want to see a fusion, rather than a re-imagining. I’d love to hear Red Velvet take on a song similar to Mariya Takeuchi’s “Plastic Love”. TWICE maybe? Nah… Lovelyz? Hmm…
Reference #1 (Yubin): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MiQonPvlVM
Reference #2 (Yukika): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67jSYCSrnE4
Reference #3 (Takeuchi): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Gj47G2e1Jc