Review

Debut Re-Evaluation: GFriend – Glass Bead

GFriend - Glass BeadK-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

Review:

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.

 Hooks 9
 Production 9
 Longevity 10
 Bias 10
 RATING 9.5


~

18 thoughts on “Debut Re-Evaluation: GFriend – Glass Bead

  1. There are a few groups that debuts with songs that informed you precisely what to expect from future offerings. Such as:

    Apink: “I Don’t Know” – Fresh innocence with a glacial transition into more mature concepts.
    TWICE: “Like Ooh-Ahh” – Quirky Pop that would later become glamour pop.
    ITZY: “Dalla Dalla” – Brash crush that they still cling to.
    2NE1: “Fire” – The original queens for K-Hip Hop.
    ..and others including (G)I-dle, April, Lovelyz, etc.

    Then there’s groups that were all over the map trying to figure out what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some made drastic shifts that resulted in reformation (e.g., MINX > Dreamcatcher), while others simply experimented until they found someithng what worked (e.g., CLC/Girl Crush).

    With GFriend (and the other groups that stuck with their debut concept), it was comforting to know who the group were and what their next release was going to be like. You relied on them and they delivered. Nowadays, most releases/comebacks are a jack-in-box mystery. Might be good. Might be bad. Might be.. ..da fuq?!?

    P.S. See, Nick! I can make posts without links; even though this post would’ve REALLY benefited with a few. Do I get a cookie?

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Consistency is a really underrated thing in kpop. Experimental moments in an artist’s career hit harder when they’re the exception rather than the rule (like with Gfriend’s “Fingertip.”) It’s like the idea that in order for a comedic TV show to have lots of emotional depth, the emotional moments should be spread out and built up to instead of continuous angst (or it won’t feel like a comedy anymore.)

    I do wonder why I feel so drawn to Red Velvet’s music, though, given that they don’t really have a consistent musical style beyond “lots of singing” (and even Rookie/Happiness kind of break that.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • In the past, I described RV as experimental, but I don’t think that’s a detailed enough answer. They are a rare example of “expect the unexpected” that usually comes through with the goods each time. Hmm.. ..maybe they should have named their debut “Happenstance”.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. ah, perfect timing! i was making a debut tier list (based off of your reviews p much) and i was wondering where to show it off. these obv aren’t every debut in existence, just the ones i care most about.

    S+: NCT U “Without You”, Red Velvet “Happiness”, SNSD “Into the New World”, TXT “Crown”, GFriend “Glass Bead”
    S: Golden Child “DamDaDi”, Mirae “Killa”, DRIPPIN “Nostalgia”, ITZY “Dalla Dalla”, Stray Kids “District 9″
    A: ONEUS “Valkyrie”, VERIVERY “Ring Ring Ring”, Oh My Girl “Cupid”
    B: (G)I-DLE “Latata”, ATEEZ “Treasure”, STAYC “So Bad”, IVE “Eleven”, Dreamcatcher “Chase Me”
    C: aespa “Black Mamba”, Weeekly “Tag Me”
    D: EVERGLOW “Bon Bon Chocolat”, IZ*ONE “La Vie en Rose”, Kep1er “Wa Da Da”, BLACKPINK “Boombayah” “Whistle”
    F: Xdinary Heroes “Happy Deathday”, Pixy “Wings”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ouch! IMO, you]re doing Pixy dirty, but I understand.: To each his/her own. As to Gfriend, I never picked up on them until I heard “Crossroads,” which I absolutely loved. Then I went back through their full discography, and thought to myself, “WTF was I thinking.?” Then they followed with “Apple” and “MAGO.” Then, disbandment? One of these days will hear the real reason behind that. But in the meantime, we can revel in a very rich discography. BTW, I totally agree with OMG’s “Cupid.”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I really miss GFriend and their power innocence bloomed to give melodies as memorable. It was interesting seeing their sound take a shift with hybe as I loved their new direction even better. Who ever knew Mago would end that on a high?

    On a personal note, GFriend’s Apple was the release that first drew me to this blog. So, makes it more bittersweet I guess? Good things do come to you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love me some GFriend so it’s always confused me why their debut leaves me a little cold. I think it’s because it’s a little too lightweight for it’s own good, a little too reliant on that Into the New World formula. I like my GFriend with a little more meat on its bones, as seen by my love of Me Gustas Tu which is basically Glass Bead with random heavy metal guitars and an honest to god solo. Still exactly what a debut song should be, a good song that’s a harbinger of better things to come and puts the group on the map. GFriend forever!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, people always bang the “all GFriend title songs are exactly the same” drum so hard, and even just looking at the Iggy/Youngbae songs that aren’t Fingertip, some are clearly better than others… and by others I mean Glass Bead.

      Like

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