Review

Buried Treasure: GFriend – Labyrinth

Most of the time, a k-pop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-sides deserve recognition too. In the singles-oriented world of K-pop, I want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.


Judging purely by Labyrinth, I’m ready to make the bold statement that GFriend should just let Big Hit’s team of composers take the helm of their music from now on. Not only should it have been their title track, but it’s the strongest the group has sounded in years. This is the kind of female-fronted K-pop I’ve been asking for. Propulsive beats, strong melodies, no weird vocal affectations or beat-drop choruses. The industry rarely churns out songs like this anymore, but Labyrinth could easily compete with Kara’s classic singles run.

The track draws strong influence from J-pop, but not the kind of ornate, wistful fare that inspired GFriend’s new single Crossroads. Instead, Labyrinth hearkens back to the high-energy techno of the late 90’s – one of my favorite J-pop eras ever. It glides on a dramatic instrumental riff that blends just the right amount of hard-hitting synths and electric guitar. Even more importantly, the song keeps this momentum going throughout its entire running time, never pausing for some ill-conceived breakdown or energy-killing bridge. I can’t stress how refreshing this is.

Labyrinth’s chorus is a thing of beauty. It’s impactful and immediately catchy without growing cloying. It also takes better advantage of GFriend’s vocals than almost anything they’ve recorded. The girls never opt for cute or innocent or quirky in the way that K-pop too often demands. They simply sing, and do so brilliantly. Of course, huge credit has to go to the song’s many composers. Of the eight (!) collaborators listed, one name especially stood out to me. Frants was responsible for tracks like Sunmi’s Siren and Wonder Girls’ Candle. Taking Labyrinth into account, I think we need to force him to work with as many idol groups in 2020 as possible.

 Hooks 9
 Production 10
 Longevity 9
 Bias 10
 RATING 9.5

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14 thoughts on “Buried Treasure: GFriend – Labyrinth

  1. Such a missed opportunity not making this a title track. It still sounds like GFRIEND, but it has a needed edge and feels like a more refined sound. And it’s also a lot more likable for newer/international listeners.

    Crossroads has grown on me a lot, but man, Labyrinth would’ve blown everyone’s minds as a title track.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is what makes me the most angry. I mean, I can listen to Labyrinth just the same whether it’s a title or b-side, but it would have been such a welcome shift in energy for their singles run.

      And on a geekier note, being released as a title track would’ve made this eligible for my end-of-year countdown, and I’m always looking for girl group tracks to make my top ten. This would have been a very strong contender.

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      • They couldn’t have asked for a more perfect time to experiment, not even that Labyrinth as much of an experiment as it is a more mature turn to their roots. Maybe they didn’t want people to think being taken under BH’s wing would change their sound, but they always could have used Crossroads as either a double title track for Labyrinth or saved it for a repackage in case there were complaints about the change (although I highly doubt that would have happened).

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  2. I absolutely adore this!
    There is something very chaser esque about it all the way to its abrupt end. It would have made the perfect title track!
    Btw what are your thoughts on the rest of the album? I for one, adore it

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  3. I listened to the entire album without looking up the MV and thought THIS was the title track. The disappointment when I couldn’t find an MV for this was intense.

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    • The people that deciced the title track of this mini are probably the same people that thought wistful melancholy was a good step-up for their discography. It was cute for a while, and it gave us the beautiful Memoria.
      Not to mention they follow the same structure AND offering us the same sentiment. Oh dear.

      Like

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