I 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.