As retro influences begin to work their way back into K-pop, who better to take advantage than J.Y. Park? After all, he built his career on retro sounds – even embracing disco on 1997’s classic She Was Pretty. New single When We Disco pairs him with former protégé (and fellow retro-lover) Sunmi, delivering an unabashed love letter to the past. It’s more pastiche than pioneer, but that’s not a bad thing at all.
Above all else, When We Disco is fun. And in an industry filled with moody, badass concepts that’s become an underrated quality. It’s clear that the song isn’t taking itself too seriously, and that’s evident from the very first moment as the overwrought introduction gives way to a synth-heavy italo-disco beat. The production feels suitably processed – sparse and a little tinny but nailing the vibe of its era. Disco or not, I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to hear a K-pop track with consistent percussion that doesn’t force itself into unnecessary tempo shifts and jarring breakdowns.
J.Y. Park and Sunmi are the perfect duo to harness Disco’s silly energy. They lean into the self-aware parody of it all, yet have enough respect for the source material to make Disco feel like an actual pop song. And while the melody largely rests on rehashed flourishes from its chosen genre, the two offer impassioned, emotional performances that really bring it to life. The swell of the chorus hits with the kind of nostalgia that tracks like this thrive upon. It’s all a bit Eurovision at times, but camp is an underappreciated art form. When it works, it can be an utter joy.
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