A K-pop group’s title track isn’t always the best song on their album, even if it’s the one most people will hear. 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.
Chungha’s new album is a behemoth. At twenty-one tracks (including interludes), there is a lot to digest. But as a lifetime devotee of Janet Jackson, and someone who grew up on a lot of 90’s r&b, I’m well-acquainted with this kind of bloated track list. In fact, it even conjures unexpected nostalgia.
Beyond the singles, much of Querencia just isn’t for me. It will come to no one’s surprise that my favorite section of the album is its upbeat “savage” side. We’ve already heard two of these songs as singles, but back-to-back they pack added power. And then, we’ve got the groovy Bother Me to top off the party. I already mentioned Janet Jackson (aka: my favorite popstar ever), and I could easily see her tackling a song like this in the mid-00’s.
Bother Me’s verses are a garble of lyrics, coming rapid-fire in an almost stream-of-consciousness manner. And while I would have preferred something more tightly structured, Bother Me is much more indebted to its beguiling instrumental. It throbs along an old-school club beat, occasionally swerving into more atmospheric territory. This comes to fruition during the chorus, which employs filters and muted synth tones to create a beguiling centerpiece. Chungha’s voice joins the bed of instrumental elements, pulled and twisted as sprinkles of guitar and icy strings add a disco touch. But, my favorite moment is actually quite brief within the context of the track. It comes just after the first chorus, as an ascending electro wave sweeps us into the second verse. K-pop often struggles with transitions between musical segments. But, they’re so important and — when done well — so satisfying.