Song Review: Hot Issue – Icons

Hot Issue - Icons

Hot issue debuted earlier this year with the attitude-infused Gratata. Like many onomatopoeia K-pop songs, the sound wasn’t for me. But as fellow 2021 rookies Ciipher proved yesterday, there’s always room for improvement. The ladies are making their first comeback with Icons – another in the seemingly endless series of “I’m the best” girl crush tracks. And true to form, you get what you pay for. If you enjoy this style, Icons will be for you. If not, it’s best to move on.

Of course, my mission to write about every big K-pop release means I won’t be moving on. So, I’ll trudge through the noise in search of redeeming qualities. I’ll also apologize to those who enjoy this omnipresent style. You can either sit through another Bias List temper tantrum, or simply click away. I won’t blame you for choosing the latter!

The thing is, there have been songs within this sub-genre that hold great appeal. ITZY’s debut year comes to mind. But, the style has been so overused these past two years that it’s all but exhausted its ideas. Hot Issue do what they can, and generate a few sparks during the standout pre-chorus. But, once the track plunges into its clanging, Bratz Doll chorus, Icons has lost me. Instead, you’ll find me in the corner drafting a letter to the K-pop industry: “I get it, your idols are cool. They’re badass. They’re the best. I don’t need the constant reminder. Show me something new instead!

 Hooks 6
 Production 7
 Longevity 7
 Bias 6

6 thoughts on “Song Review: Hot Issue – Icons

  1. Just going to repost my reddit comment here since my feelings haven’t changed since last night:

    As someone who really liked Gratata, I can’t say I was feeling this. I know I should have looked before getting too excited, but it’s obvious while listening that this isn’t the same producer or arranger. I can’t say that Gratata’s songwriting was genius or anything, but the instrumental was genuinely very well made.

    I won’t be the first or last person to criticize Teddy’s songwriting, but damn if he doesn’t know his way around a DAW. There’s nothing wrong with trying to replicate a certain style or vibe in pop music, you just have to get the execution right. To make a good “drop” song, it has to sound good on more than just a car stereo. Gratata has some incredible mixing, and each sound seems to come from a distinct location. To me, this is the mark of a truly proficient arranger. The song needs to feel like it’s happening around you, not at you.

    This, I feel, is why Teddy’s music works. Trent Reznor (not kpop) is also famously very skilled at creating a detailed soundscape. A great example of this would be “The Mark Has Been Made”.

    Anyways, Icons. There’s just something that feels… off? It feels really flat to me, for reasons I’m guessing are either tied to mixing or creative choices. The airy flute(?) doesn’t hit quite as hard in the chorus as I think it was supposed to. I like that the second verse is switched up, though it has similar issues. Also, wow, that bridge. Sounds like a completely different song. The high note sells the transition from [bridge -> final chorus], so I like it.

    Besides that, I thought the music video was great. This actually looks really expensive for a nugu group, with tons of sets and outfits. The outfits in particular look varied and interesting without being “ITZY – Not Shy” levels of extra.

    The colors are also incredible. Just off the top of my head, Dreamcatcher’s early MVs look super washed out and almost lifeless, which tends to expose their limited budget more than another cheap MV like CLC’s Devil. The transitions from dark rooms to outdoor locations with bright blue skies were particularly stand-out to me.

    All this being said, the performances in the video and the showcase stage were all excellent. The members are doing the best with the song they got, so I hope they grow and succeed regardless.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have been incredibly impressed by every performance video I’ve seen from Hot Issue – they’re great dancers, and I just wish they’d get a great dance track to show it off.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. When Hot Issue was first announced, I was pretty excited given the group was coming from the same person that founded Cube Entertainment and was the head of the company when they were creating acts like 4Minute, B2ST, Apink, G.Na, and BtoB. I feel like Cube was kind of known for standing out from the crowd during this time so it naturally made me think Hot Issue would come with some decently innovative or at least distinct. Unfortunately, that just hasn’t been the case yet. The girls are uber-talented and are up there with the best from this generation already imo but the music is lacking a bit. Gratata wasn’t bad but was still pretty on trend with most modern GG releases, but this feels far more faceless and generic. I just really hope the girls start getting work that compliments their talent levels because I really think they have potential.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. it’s amazing that this is the same topliner (Anna Timgren) as Dun Dun Dance, Fromis9’s “Talk and Talk”, and even Loona’s “So what”
    Actually…now writing it out…I feel her hook’s are very modern and while they hint at classic melodicism they have much more of that ” contemporary catchy phrases strung together” feel. so there’s cohesion there.

    I’m a huge fan of Anna’s work so don’t want to disparage especially having an inkling of understanding of how difficult it is to get placements, let alone multiple throughout the year. and there’s actually a lot I like about this song, chorus included.

    Yes other’s have done sass, very well. But Hot issue brought it!


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