Girl group 3YE have been steadily sharpening their sound with each release, injecting memorable touches into an otherwise generic K-pop style. Last year’s otherwise-bland Out Of My Mind thrived on its addictive pre-chorus, which employed the kind of airy, rapid-fire delivery that made Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy such an international success. New single Queen (퀸) goes even more idiosyncratic. As with many K-pop tracks of this era, it’s a little disjointed. But, it points the group in a promising direction.
Queen’s opening minute is nearly perfect. It pulses on the kind of momentum we rarely see these days, perched atop a hard-hitting electro throb that gradually builds as more elements are introduced. It’s a high energy dance beat just when we need it most, unscathed from pointless cheerleader chanting or troublesome rap breaks. This goodwill continues into the tempo-changing chorus, which is a bit disorienting the first time through. The excitement level remains high, but most of the instrumental drops out, making way for a loop that’s closer to psy-trance. Luckily, this change in structure is coupled with a catchy, cool hook that uses repetition to its advantage.
I’m less convinced by the noisy instrumental break that ends each chorus, but its style is at least in keeping with the rest of the song. Queen’s only serious misstep is a very predictable one: the song collapses into a lurching trap-rap break just as its second verse should kick into gear. I let out an audible groan the first time I heard this. The song doesn’t need the change-up, and would have been infinitely stronger if it had just coasted back into the addictive bounce that soon follows. It’s yet another case of self-sabotage, beholden to trends and expectations that should have no place in creative songwriting and production. Still, the rest of Queen is enjoyable enough to compensate for these concessions, even if coming this close to “excellent” is its own form of frustration.
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