Legendary Song

Legendary Song: After School – Shampoo

After School - ShampooI fully expected to write a “random shuffle review” today (it’s been a long time since I’ve done one!), but my randomizer picked After School’s Shampoo and I audibly cheered. Given the fact that this is one of my favorite K-pop songs ever, this post gets a quick makeover into “Legendary Song.”

Shampoo is one of a small handful of K-pop tracks produced by Japanese DJ Daishi Dance (most of the others went to Bigbang). It’s a collaboration that should have resulted in way more content. His compositions embraced trance music — a severely underused genre within the industry. After School had already been chugging along on the Korean charts for a few years, scoring a series of iconic hits. 2010’s Bang! remains an undisputed classic, mastering its “girl crush” energy before the term had even been invented. But, the shimmering, blissed-out Shampoo is my personal favorite from the group.

To put it briefly, Shampoo is perfection. I want its wispy synths injected right into my veins. They provide a gorgeous backdrop that keeps momentum taut and compelling throughout the entire track. This is ornamented with melancholic keys and symphonic flourishes, tucked in all the right places. The instrumental gets ample time to breathe. The ladies don’t even start singing until a minute in, which would be practically unheard of in today’s music market. This allows the song to unfold at its own pace, though it doesn’t waste a single second.

Shampoo is resonant and affecting without ever seeming to lift a finger. Witness how its verses grow seamlessly into the chorus! Thrill at how effortlessly those great rap verses blend with the energy of the track! This is potent songwriting at its best, insistent and nuanced and stop-you-in-your-tracks beautiful. Then, listen to how well-arranged the vocals are. There are no diversions toward needlessly bombastic peaks that exist beyond a comfortable register. Instead, Shampoo’s climax rests on a feat of gorgeous vocal layering, pulling the oft-repeated chorus up another level by shifting dynamics. The dancefloor thump disappears, but those emotional keys maintain Shampoo‘s through-line as it transforms into a more symphonic sound.

There’s a confidence in this style of song construction. After School don’t need to wave a million things in front of us for fear of listeners losing interest. When a melody is this strong, it commands full attention for its four-and-a-half minutes. It also endures long after the trends of its era have ended. Shampoo sounds as vital today as it did eleven years ago, harnessing timeless emotion through the transcendent power of dance music.

And that’s what makes Shampoo a Legendary Song.

 Hooks 10
 Production 10
 Longevity 10
 Bias 10


27 thoughts on “Legendary Song: After School – Shampoo

  1. Agree with everything you wrote, Nick. The song is a classic; plain and simple. To add a bit more nostalgia. “Shampoo” was the lead single on After School’s first full album “Virgin” which introduced E-Young (who can shred an electric guitar and slap a bass with the best of them). Though she worked with AS for a Japanese release “Make It Happen”, this was her first time with the group for active promotions.

    E-Young “Guitar Solo”
    Ref #1 (E-Y): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMLlS-cFW0I

    In case you’re wondering (after watching “Shampoo”) what the “To Be Continued” was leading to, here you go:

    After School “Let’s Step Up”
    Ref #2 (LSU): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6utponLXbo4

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you could insert any After School track and call it legendary tbh.

    What I love about the song is the layers in every aspect from vocal to instrumental. The synth lines are perfection, and they know it by letting it fill up a lot of the song without vocals on top. I can’t imagine a kpop act these days letting any amount of instrument breathe without feeling the need to add a bazillion things over it.

    I actually didn’t know Daishi Dance was behind this, but it makes perfect sense. He has done a lot of work with one of my fave Japanese singers in Miliyah Kato, if you are looking for another song that is similarly synth driven may I suggest Emotion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS_fY1GcQkM


  3. I was casually browsing the Daishi Dance producer page you’d linked when I found a pingback to a page that most certainly wasn’t yours. Upon reading, I realized they’d plagiarized your article, but the way random synonyms have been inserted in place of your words here and there makes me think it might be an AI. Anyway, I thought I’d let you know – and it’s kind of a funny read bar the fact that someone is stealing your content.

    (“Okay-pop” as a synonym for k-pop really took me out LOL)


    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, this happens a lot, unfortunately. To be honest, I don’t really understand the purpose of these fake websites. They aren’t really indexed by major search engines and I can’t imagine they get any hits/ad revenue. They are funny to read, though!

      I relate to “okay-pop” WAY too hard at the moment.

      Liked by 4 people

      • “In entrance of us for concern of listeners dropping curiosity”, may I suggest that you put a circle C copyright Nick James at the bottom of each of your reviews. At least if it does seem someone is profiting greatly from your words, you will have some basis to try to sue them in US court. Or at least send them a nasty letter that you will.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a mighty fine song. I had heard it a few times before, but now I shall proceed to go download it.

    Speaking of downloads, last Autumn Nick reviewed Nu’est “Face”, which I had heard many times and reckoned it was well worth the buck-twenty-nine. Darling daughter proceeded to play it almost every day. It got to a point where she knew she had to ask me if she could play it again, because, yanno there is time when it is become overplayed. So I wonder what will “Shampoo”‘s fate be in her hands?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope I can speak for some of us when I say that it is an arch of hopeful optimism that you are bridging our love for this genre with the next generation. I’ve tried and failed numerous times to bequeath my appreciation of this world within a world to the younger branches on my familial tree. It’s comforting to know that some of us are actually passing the torch. Bravo!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Shampoo is indeed legendary! I love how it’s kind a composed as a ballad but arranged as a high energy song with interesting and dynamic instrumentation. This is one of my favorite gg songs ever.


  6. The reason peope always miss 2nd gen era it’s because their song not just good but have impact too. And Every old kpop song is more legend than current kpop song tbh.


    • Yeah that’s true. I feel like the last year in kpop that had truly legendary songs was in 2019. We do get good songs every now and then but they’re not impactful enough. It’s really just okay-pop at this point (the term i got from reading the comments above).


  7. Afterschool has always been so underrated and Shampoo has always been one of my all time faves, totally agree with all the points you made and thank you for appreciating them so!


  8. I don’t know what it is honestly. K-pop nowadays sounds so much like every other genre and it’s just lost its appeal to me.

    There was something magical about K-pop until 2017 when the market started becoming oversaturated. From the unique sense of songwriting to the maintenance of a signature sound or the enveloping drama in these tracks. Exciting producers, exciting talents, exciting eras, exciting debuts…MAN! It must have been such a wonderful time.
    The only year which I have witnessed which came close to this magic was either 2019 (rookie groups) or 2021 (ONF, Brave Girls and TXT).

    Speaking of which, this is one of my all-time favorites! I love trance music so much and there is something so good about that melody. It’s gentle but powerful in a way I don’t expect it to be. Most definitely my favorite song from After School!


    • You’re right. Even the good songs we have now don’t get me pumped up the way for example, the song Miroh (as you mentioned 2019, i think this is the best song in 2019) was already jaw dropping on the moment of its release. There’s something unique with kpop before and how confident the performers are and how producers care about giving the artists music that has a unique identity and that is full of emotions that we know the singers are humans, not robots.


      • DUDE! That last line is so accurate. Like there was something so alive about that past era honestly. I am not talking about songs like Super Junior’s Sorry Sorry or Girls Generations Gee which use a repetitive melody format (even though they are also very good) but songs such as Infinite’s paradise/The Chaser or most of B1A4’s discography.
        With Ven Para, O.O, Dance with God…K-pop feels so robotic, so stale honestly.


        • I very much relate to this discussion. In fact, I’ve been toying with writing a “State of K-pop in 2022” post for awhile now but keep deciding not to because I know some people will just try to bash me for being “old” and “out of touch”…


          • As someone who really enjoys the musical direction of recent k-pop, I would love to see this, even if I am not likely to agree! I find discussions like these really helpful for putting my own thoughts together (and finding older music recommendations)!


  9. You’re right. Even the good songs we have now don’t get me pumped up the way for example, the song Miroh (as you mentioned 2019, i think this is the best song in 2019) was already jaw dropping on the moment of its release. There’s something unique with kpop before and how confident the performers are and how producers care about giving the artists music that has a unique identity and that is full of emotions that we know the singers are humans, not robots.


  10. As much of a “newbie” to kpop as I am – it means I inadvertently have ended up in the fourth generation style of music and what I love swings from something like Oneus, Golcha and ONF to SKZ, Ateez and the NCT style… and as okay I am with it, there are still moments I feel that I got into kpop too late.

    Whether it be classic Shinee, Vixx, Infinite (which you introduced to me ngl), Nu’est etc or early BTOB or even early Oh My Girl which I only found recently and was stunned by- the only thing that runs in my mind is “They don’t make songs like this anymore”

    With the current gen there are many times I think – “This is a song only they can pull off” but I rarely get a “This song is something else.” vibe….

    Just like many other old songs I listened to because of your reviews, I listened to Shampoo and wow….

    I think I sometimes prefer this style of a very simple MV and story but the song is definitely not plain in any way 😭 Instrumentals of that generation were something else and such a crisp but strong chorus.

    Also…. I’m not getting into an argument of real rap VS idol rap – but the old style of rap in kpop was something else. Like…. it commanded emotions. I love noise music rap 😂 but the old-style of rap has a charm that I can’t explain. Heck… the whole thing has a charm that I can’t explain….💎


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