With over 2,900 songs on my iPhone’s “K-Pop Singles” playlist, I thought it would be fun to add a bit of unpredictability to my song review posts. So as a result, we have the “Random Shuffle Review” feature.
The rules are simple. I fire up my playlist, press “shuffle,” and whatever song plays first gets the full Bias List treatment!
Year Released: 2012
Despite disbanding in 2018, Fiestar have been in the news recently thanks to former member Cheska live-streaming a Q&A in which she talked about the darker side of the K-pop industry. With this in mind, the fact that Vista was the first to come up on my K-pop shuffle almost feels like fate. If you don’t count their 2012 duet with IU, this was Fiestar’s big debut single. It’s also their highest-selling song, with a colorful video that features JYJ’s Junsu in a guest-starring role.
Like many groups of their stature, Fiestar never really settled on an easily identifiable concept. Vista‘s big, brassy pop is miles away from the more seductive sound they’d settle on during their later years. This track is more in the vein of early Secret or up-tempo Ailee, flourishing on big vocals and bombastic production. Its introduction is a stunner, as the girls vamp in a salvo of harmony-rich ad-libs that feel ripped straight from a movie music. The rest of the song can’t quite match up, but Vista retains that “let’s put on a show!” energy across the rest of its running time.
Much of this is thanks to the ebullient production, which favors brass and a live band feel over the processed dance beats more commonly associated with idol music. Amidst all this drama, there’s plenty of room for the girls to show off, from bursts of harmony to a breathless rap verse during the song’s bridge. And though Vista’s melody isn’t quite as strong as the best Fiestar songs, it’s utterly invigorating to hear the group attack the track without the kind of chant-fueled aegyo that affects so many girl group songs today.
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I was about to write about how this song could teach a few new groups how to make a debut. I love this song and it’s still in some of my playlists. But then, since I remember this period of K-pop very well, I’m also reminded that this ‘style’ of song and music video wasn’t that unusual in 2012.
There were other groups debuting in 2012 (e.g., HELLOVENUS, EXID, AOA, GLAM, TINY-G, D-Unit, SPICA, Crayon Pop, Skarf, Two X, et al) and they all had really interesting debut songs/vids. There was a lot of overlap in the style back then. Pastel colors, wavy/curly hair, genuine ‘pop’ sound, and music that used genuine instruments (versus synth horns/strings, etc.), but there was a greater effort not to appear as a copy-cat.
In 2012, Fiestar’s “Vista” was a great release, but it arrived when a lot of 2nd gen groups were still in their prime so it didn’t steal all the attention. Back then, the spotlight still belonged to T-ara, Wonder Girls, miss A, 4minute, KARA, BoA, Orange Caramel, and more.
You commented on the brass elements and I agree, they’re wonderful. However, this song dropped about a week after KARA had released “Pandora” * and I was agog over the drop. It was a constant listen for weeks afterwards.
* Here’s a genuine sin for you. KARA “Pandora” released 8 years ago and the official video has only amassed 36 million views. Today, a video can pass that amount in a single day. Friggin’ fan groups. They completely destroy genuine popularity metrics with their “STREAM MOAR” shenanigans. I digress…
Anywho, the point I was getting to is that a song is going to be received based on the landscape of the industry at the time. In 2012, amid the other offerings, this was still a good release, but not one that broke into the top 25 at the time. If it dropped today (especially with Februaries releases), I’d be curious to see how it would’ve faired.
FIESTAR – Vista:
My 2012 rating: 8
My 2020 rating: 9
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