When I first launched The Bias List, I hoped to build the kind of K-pop blog that I, as a fan, would want to read. I sought consistency, passion, and… yes… a certain level of bias. I didn’t want to be a glorified press release, automatically loving every piece of music for fear of disappointing those who may disagree. And most importantly, I didn’t want the writing to be wishy-washy. I know that my confident tone rubs some readers the wrong way, like I’m trying to be an “expert” and have the “right” opinion. But, I’m not an expert, and I don’t have the right opinion. How presumptuous would it be for little old me, writing about a culture that’s not my own, to claim any sort of “expert” status? No, I’m not an expert. I’m an enthusiast.
Over the years, I’ve watched this same enthusiasm blossom throughout the online community. The sheer quantity of K-pop discourse available nowadays is almost too much to consume. I could spend the whole day reading blogs, combing through forums and sub-reddits, listening to podcasts and playlisting youtube videos. And, I’d still have only skimmed the surface.
Some of these outlets hit closer to home. Regular Bias List readers and commenters have branched out to create their own blogs. Others have gotten in touch later. I can be a lazy fool when it comes to community, and don’t always seek it out. But, I love that there are so many passionate perspectives to explore. It’s gratifying to find corners of the K-pop community where opinions can be expressed freely and respectfully, where people want to dig into the meat of the music rather than simply fawn over the glossy surface. Though, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of glossiness, either!
This is a very long, rambling way of me saying that I am so proud to be part of this online blogging community, and I’m delighted to offer the grand finale of the inaugural K-pop Songs of Summer collaboration. Thank you, 108ent, for making it all happen! A number of fantastic blogs – old and new – have already picked wonderful songs to write about. If you haven’t done so, be sure to check them out by clicking on the links at the bottom of this write-up.
This collaboration allows me the opportunity to finally craft a post I’ve long been threatening. Over the past few years, I’ve covered many of my personal “legendary songs.” But for whatever reason, I’ve always sidestepped Sistar’s Loving U. That ends today, as I take an affectionate look at this definitive summer classic.
Loving U came early in my K-pop fandom, before I knew the difference between a Brave Brother and a Duble Sidekick. If only I could transport back to those blissfully innocent days when everything sounded new and exciting!
That fact that Loving U feels as fresh and ebullient today, filtered through these old husks of K-pop blogger ears, is a testament to its perfection. In fact, like many of my favorite singles, Loving U sounds better today than it did upon release. Yes, it was trendy in 2012, powered by its Duble Sidekick-produced goodness, but it’s also timeless in the way that the best pop songs (and best summer memories) are.
Summer is a vibe best captured by pop music. There’s a reason so many of us talk about “songs of summer” but rarely consider contenders for an annual “song of winter.” For me, music always ties to memories. It soundtracks every day, and most major life experiences. I selfishly wish Loving U connected with a personal milestone, but its appeal is more vague than that. Rather than conjure a specific time or moment, its giddy headrush somehow encapsulates them all, bursting forth in a tidal wave of wading pools, firework displays, popsicles and bike rides. This song delivers a carefree, carnival-like energy that instantly puts me in the mood of summer.
The more I write about pop music, the more I realize I’m a sucker for ascending melody. I don’t listen to music to feel sad or mopey. It’s my happy place, and I’m drawn to songs that buoy my spirits and lift my energy. Loving U’s opening verse is all ascension, as Hyolyn and Dasom tease the track forward in an ever-climbing game of musical chicken. While the verse navigates a steep incline, it never feels overdone. There’s a gentleness to the melody that only comes with confidence. Blasts of celebratory brass nudge this segment along, bringing a fizzy texture to the track.
This structure generates another of my personal pop music cravings: tension. As we move into the breezy pre-chorus, the melody begins to glide. Yet, it retains a spiraling tension that climaxes in one of those wonderful Sistar vocals – equal parts airy and powerful. You can thank Soyou – queen of airiness – for that one!
It’s here that the dam breaks and Loving U’s unrestrained charms crash into the open. I love how the chorus just barrels at you full force, galloping on that brassy, carnival beat. It’s like riding a roller coaster, bounding up and down and back and forth as the hot summer breeze slaps your hair around. Tension is nothing without release, and moments like this crystallize why I’m in the business of writing about pop. No other form of media or art quite resonates in this way. It’s tactile and emotional, yet exists in the ether. You can’t reach out and touch it, but its effect swims around you, merging with the moment and – eventually – coloring the memory.
Not to be outdone, the equally effervescent Bora jumps in to act as the song’s mood-maker. It may be generous to call this post-chorus verse “rapping” (it’s more of a playful monologue), but Bora is too energetic and engaging for any of that to matter. Before she’s even finished with her “Let’s talk about love” invitation, I’m eagerly pulling up a chair. Okay, Bora. Let’s. As chintzy as this verse may be, it’s one of my favorite post-choruses in all of K-pop. At the very least, it’s certainly one of the most iconic!
The rest of the song rides its brassy waves to perfection, pausing for a brief flirtation with seasonal sound effects (in this case, waves and seagulls) during the bridge. It all culminates in a resounding coda that offers a more direct refrain to close the track in anthemic fashion.
Loving U is musical sunshine. I don’t know if I can put it any simpler than that. Summer isn’t summer without sunshine, and summer isn’t summer without this song. It kicked off a string of incredible Sistar classics in this same vein, and acts as a template for this seasonal sub-genre, still referenced today. It’s a defining work – a piece of perfect pop music that will always raise my spirits. And – to borrow the words from another blog feature – that’s what makes it a legendary song.
Check out every review in the series by clicking on the following links:
10/10 – Music Review (Hi Ya Ya)
A Floating Realm in the Corner Review (Summer 127)
KBOPPED Review (The Star Of Stars)
Jei’s Kulture Notes Review (Boogie Up)
Hallyu Reviews Review (Power)
8.5 Music Review (View)
KPOPREVIEWED Review (Hot Summer)
Deforested Music Review (Wave)