K-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: January 15, 2015
In many ways, GFriend’s Glass Bead (유리구슬) is a perfect debut. It’s not the group’s strongest song, but it flawlessly captures their sound, energy and concept. When I write about acts debuting with a “signature sound,” this is pretty much what I mean.
Glass Bead’s signature sound happens to hearken back to earlier K-pop eras (namely, SNSD), but in 2015 this was not a common approach. It felt immediately fresh, and would feel even more vital if it were released today. Further singles would cement GFriend as one of K-pop’s top girl groups, but Glass Bead captured the attention of listeners without the benefit of big agency support or tons of pre-debut hype.
Opening with the familiar chimes of a school bell, the track goes on to unveil a catchy instrumental loop before bursting into its chorus. Pop songs need tons of chutzpah to lead with their chorus, and Glass Bead never hesitates. Its hooks are sharp and punchy, underlined by a bright beat that approaches new jack swing without completely embracing the genre. Extra stabs of percussion add emphasis in all the right places, urging along the group’s strong vocals. A series of power notes mark the track’s extended climax, while a breathless breakdown resolves each chorus. The girls give it all they’ve got, but this was also the breakout moment for production duo Iggy & Youngbae, whose effervescent sound went on to fuel Astro’s debut era. It’s a match made in heaven here, with Glass Bead standing as one of 2015’s defining K-pop moments.
Does the song hold up?
Absolutely! It still sounds amazing today.
Is the song stronger or weaker than most of the artist’s title tracks?
It’s right up there with the best of them.
Does the song represent the artist’s music going forward?
GFriend would go on to switch producers, but Glass Bead immediately established their 2015-17 sound.