A K-pop act’s title track isn’t always the best song on their album, even if it’s the one most people will hear. Sometimes, b-sides deserve recognition too. In the singles-oriented world of K-pop, I want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
Yena’s debut album has strong summertime energy, but I’ll gladly take a burst of upbeat sunshine in the dead of winter. Apart from a sentimental fan song, the entire project harnesses the sense of optimistic verve that fueled title track Smiley. Yena is a perfect conduit for this style and I hope she sticks with it for upcoming projects.
The rock-tinged Lxxk 2 U is destined to be a fan-favorite, but I think the poppier Pretty Boys has a more memorable hook. And, you know I’m all about the hooks! If you’re going to give me bubblegum, it better be as sticky and sweet as possible. Pretty Boys bounds along a groovy instrumental, heavily indebted to 80’s rhythms even before its bright synth makes an appearance. I love the chugging drive of the production. There are no diversions or breakdowns. The song has a singular vision and sticks to it.
Yena’s light vocal makes a perfect match for this material. Combined with effervescent synths, her tone sparkles. Pretty Boys’ chorus may rest strongly on the sort of “di di da di da” hooks that often elicit eye rolls on this site, but the arrangement carries a wistfulness that keeps the material sprightly. The worst thing Pretty Boys could have done was collapse into a heavy, plodding centerpiece. But much like the rest of Smiley, the track is a whirling pinwheel, casting off glitter with each turn. That’s a pretty good way to spend the winter!