Debut Re-Evaluation: AOA – Elvis

AOA - ElvisK-Pop debuts can be tricky things. At times, they’re the best song a group delivers. Sometimes, they’re the only song a group delivers!

But, debuts can also be huge wtf moments in an artist’s career. In this feature, I’ll be looking back at debut songs through the prism of time, re-evaluating how well they hold up and how representative they are of an artist’s eventual singles run.

Debut Date: July 30, 2012


I realize it can be a bit thorny to write about AOA in 2021, but Elvis is too unusual a debut to ignore.

When they were first unveiled in 2012, AOA layered concept upon concept. They were “Ace of Angels,” with literal angel wings in the music video. They were also a “transformer” group, who would at times perform as a typical dance act and other times as an instrument-playing band. When in their band iteration, they had an extra member, who was dubbed a “half-angel.” Confused yet? Apparently, you wouldn’t be alone because many of these concepts were dropped shortly into their career.

To add another layer of eccentricity onto the debut, Elvis sounded neither angelic nor band-like. It’s still as bonkers as the group’s concept, though. Like a mash-up between T-ara and Brown Eyed Girls, the brass-heavy track scoops hook after hook into a blender and hopes for a delicious result. To Elvis’s credit, this bizarre cavalcade of elements comes together quite nicely.

We rarely hear K-pop like this anymore. There’s a freewheeling, ‘anything goes’ energy here. Rap intermixes with breathless melodic refrains in unexpected ways. Symphonic flourishes lace most moments, and the whole thing is underlined by a throbbing dance beat. There are several segments that could act as the chorus, but even the verses employ the kind of tight structure and addictive melody expected of a song’s centerpiece. Lesser tracks would have built their entire focus around that catchy brass loop, but for Elvis that moment is icing on an already-sweet cake. In short, this is all killer, no filler.

Does the song hold up?

Is the song stronger or weaker than most of the artist’s title tracks?
I’d say stronger, even if it’s not quite on par with their 2014-15 peak.

Does the song represent the artist’s music going forward?
No. This oddball debut stands alone in their discography, for better or worse!

 Hooks 9
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9


21 thoughts on “Debut Re-Evaluation: AOA – Elvis

  1. I could write a rant post about the whole Mina situation and terrible online reactions. But honestly, this is a music review blog, and I don’t want to create another 5000 long comment chain, so I’ll pause while saying that can people stop hating on Mina? Depression does not go away in a year. But someone needs to help her mentally (family, psychiatrist) and get her off social media. Okay, I think I might have said too much still.

    On to the song, I wish AOA stuck with this concept, it really was unique. I love Come See Me and Heart Attack, but I wonder what would happen if they had stuck to this concept, how would their discography sound?

    Liked by 3 people

  2. 2012 was such an incredible year for K-pop! I have recently dived into your “Top Three Songs of The Month” and there were just too many classics here.

    I seriously want to make a Top 100 K-pop Songs list out of this year! It’s just too great!


  3. I am delighted by the corniness of “all killer, no filler,” a phrase that I think would fit in nicely with an early-career Jimin rap. Yes, it’s too bad that she turned out to be evil, but AOA was one of the groups that got me into kpop during the era you highlighted as their best, that 2014-15 sweet spot. I used to listen to “Like A Cat” obsessively. Those were the days…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Not going to lie. When “Elvis” dropped, I wasn’t completely on board. It took a few additional releases to turn me into a die-hard AOA fan. Each new release reeled me in a little at a time. Eventually, AOA became one of my favorite groups in the genre and some of their b-sides? ..C’est si bon! Here’s how I received their first several releases:

    Angels’ Story (2012)
    ELVIS / Love Is Only You / Temptation / ELVIS (Band Version)
    Title track: “ELVIS” – It was okay. It only made my playlists later on based on my appreciation of AOA’s collective works.
    Other tracks that I liked: None – Note: “Love Is Only You” was a nice ballad on this release, but I’m generally not a ballad guy.

    Wanna Be (2012)
    Get Out / Happy Ending / My Song
    Title track: “Get Out” – I really liked this one and it was their first release that started me on the road to being a fan.
    Other tracks that I liked: -None- – However, I was starting to appreciate that their other songs weren’t as cookie cutter as some other groups. There were some interesting things going on with the vocals and music; enough to put me in “stay tuned” mode.

    MOYA (2013) – under AOA Black
    MOYA / Without You / MOYA (Inst.) / Without You / (Inst.)
    Title track: “MOYA” – THIS was the song that brought me into the fold. I wasn’t sure at this point if I was an AOA fan, or only an AOA Black fan.
    Other tracks that I liked: -None- – The only other song was a pop-rock ballad, so.. ..yeah.

    RED MOTION (2013)
    Confused / Yours, Mine
    Title track: “Confused” – I really, really liked this song, so this release solved the AOA?/AOA Black? question. I liked them no matter how they were served up, but were they one of my favorite groups?
    Other tracks that I liked: -None- – I’m just going to forget “Yours, Mine” shares a folder with “Confused”.

    Miniskirt (2014)
    Gonna Get Your Heart (Intro) / Miniskirt / Under the Street Lamps / Miniskirt (Inst.)
    Title track: “Miniskirt” – One of my favorite AOA releases. As a producer, Brave Brothers is very polarizing. You either love his work, or you don’t. I tend to like most of his work.
    Other tracks that I liked: -ALL- – Here’s where the B-sides start to really cook. “Gonna Get Your Heart” was only a 0:59 second intro but it was so deserving of a full track. VERY smooth and completely enjoyable. It’s one of the few intros on my playlists. “Under the Street Lamps” is in my “Best of K-Pop” playlist. I love everything about it. Vocals, music, arrangement, everything; well, provisionally.. ..that Jimin rap break? Not her best.

    Short Hair (2014)
    Fantasy (Intro) / Short Hair / Joa Yo! / Soulmate / You Know That / Short Hair (Inst.) / Joa Yo! (Inst.)
    Title track: “Short Hair” – Another one of my favorite AOA releases. Again, Brave Brothers.
    Other tracks that I liked: “Fantasy” was another great intro that deserved a full release. “Joa Yo!” and “You Know That” both made my playlists, the latter marked as one of Jimin’s better rap breaks.

    …and so on…

    It would be easy to look at my progression with AOA and quickly think, “Ah, you only liked them after they adopted the “sexy” route, but that’s not accurate. Sure, the eye candy was there, but I was really digging the music during this transition as well. I wish they had released more as “AOA Black” and we never received anything from “AOA White”. We did get an “AOA Cream” release (AOA Off-white?), but that was.. ..what it was.

    Some reference songs:
    Gonna Get Your Heart:
    Under the Street Lamps:
    Joa Yo!:
    You Know That:

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ah, I remember this debut. I remember thinking between the angels, the rapping, and the constant “Elbis” lyric that it was super odd. Catchy though. I think it’s also worth noting how they lay the foundation here for their later sexy concept. Was anyone so surprised at their sexy turn when in their debut video they’re in hot pants rubbing their pelvises?


  6. Was watching “Space Force” on Netflix and I was amused to see a scene with a Korean American dude blasting this track (as well as HER by Block B) in his car, to show he was a real kpop fan with real taste.

    While not ignoring everything else that went down with AOA, I hope people can still fondly remember their discography for all the bangers it contains.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. AOA is the unique group where-in I was there from the literal beginning & loved the entirety of their career – I still remember hearing about them due to their pre-debut flash mob performance – and while things ended in a truly awful way it doesn’t erase what memories I did love.

    The dual concept is definitely what had me intrigued and they would perform either in off weeks for each version – ala get out. One week dance, one week band – and during Elvis pulled together a dual performance that seemed to have a crack at making this work:

    and even a few band performance versions –

    (it’s also worth noting the band members could actually play their instruments and for a while expressed wanting more band things before Youkyung left. Fun fact, she now has her own youtube channel called You’s drum(s) where she posts drum covers of songs that come out).

    I wanted so many things for them and when WG rebooted themselves I was half annoyed that AOA dropped the ball on the two concepts because that easily could’ve been THEM capitalizing on it. Ah well.

    Also –

    When in their band iteration, they had an extra member, who was dubbed a “half-angel.” Confused yet? Apparently, you wouldn’t be alone because many of these concepts were dropped shortly into their career.

    This also always bothered me because the dance only members weren’t called half angels so why single out Youkyung?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, FNC did her dirty. They kept her in the dungeon for four years after AOA debuted. At the very least, they could’ve recorded at least one song per release that utilized her skill set; either as an AOA Black b-side, or just to give her some production credits for standard AOA releases. Something.. ..anything.. ..just to reward her for time served.


      • If I’m not mistaken, she wound up covering some of AOA’s later songs on her YouTube channel which features quite a few K-Pop drum covers. It’s more work than she ever got through FNC… and she’s actually quite good. If they were going to let her rot in the dungeon for AOA releases, they could have at least let her feature on some of their male band concepts. But then again, by that point I’m not even sure if a handful of people still remembered her or thought she was even still with the agency.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. They don’t make songs like this in kpop anymore. Its totally bonkers. Believe it or not, I hadn’t heard this before now.

    I can’t figure out if that is a key change right at 0:56, or something more simple like a minor to major change. There are cleverer regulars here who can figure this out – Gabriel, where are you?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It was always weird watching “get out” and “Elvis” since they had both dance and band scenes. It was 2012 and I had no knowledge of their concept, I just clicked the thumbnail and was left with many questions. I wodner how their discography would’ve been if they kept either or both of these concepts

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, definitely wasted potential. They would’ve never gone the Dreamcatcher J-Rock route, but I could’ve easily seen them go in the K-Pop meets The Go-Go’s direction. Imagine AOA Black doing a cover of “Our Lips Are Sealed”!!! Goosebumps and shivers!


      • Generally speaking, more bands need to cover the Go-Go’s.
        Head Over Heels would also be a good one to cover.
        (I never saw this video before now, it was somehow not in rotation on MTv despite the song’s popularity.)

        We wore out bootleg tapes of go-go’s back when. “Vacation” was a particular favorite as the made-up dance in our rooms culminated in a lot of jumping around on the beds.
        (Except for the water skiing, I don’t remember this video either)


  10. I loved these AOA songs before the mina incident so I still love them although I definitely had to take a break from them


  11. I love how Nick started this feature with two 3-letter girl groups that aren’t disbanded but kinda are because of their companies. Next is DIA or IOI or IBI? I’m just joking lol, it was just an observation. Though, I do love this feature. I think it’s cool to look back and really highlight where it all started. Suggestions (though you probably get plenty already)
    “Adore U” (17)
    “Girls, girls, girls” (Got7)
    “Replay” (Shinee)
    “La Cha Ta” (fx)
    “Chewing Gum” (NCT Dream)
    “Chase Me” (Dreamcatcher)
    “On/Off” (ONF)
    “Hot Issue” (4minute)
    “Boombayah”/”Whistle” (BlackPink)
    “Mama” (EXO)
    “Bad girl, good girl” (Miss A)

    **** AOA was so powerful. It’s sad now that they are practically disbanded after everything. Man, I wish Jimin wasn’t such a horrible person. They had so much potential to go even further. They were really one of a kind.

    Liked by 1 person

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