Hailing from Mystic Story has its advantages. You have agency founder Yoon Jongshin at your disposal, a celebrating songwriter whose work is foundational to popular Korean music. His songs may not be particularly trendy, but his name recognition alone draws attention. Billlie’s project album Track by Yoon puts that name front and center, as single Patbingsu (팥빙수) leaps into the past for a fun retro pastiche.
I’m of two minds about this song. Everything from the first chorus on is very enjoyable, but the first verse gets things off to an underwhelming start. Like Billlie’s last comeback GingaMingaYo, the melodies are just too nursery rhyme for me. And without an upbeat tempo to draw interest, the track sputters right out of the gate. However, we’re soon treated to a brisk, enjoyable chorus. It takes a jarring transition to get there, but Patbingsu quickly rights itself.
From here, the song is a good, retro time. That pesky melody returns for verse two, but the arrangement is much more robust and exciting. More importantly, the chorus looms large over the track. It’s a wisp of a refrain, but in a way that feels nostalgic and summery – like a memory you can’t quite place. Patbingsu takes great advantage of Billlie’s vocals, offering plenty of opportunities for harmony. The final chorus is especially riveting, building on a gorgeous bridge with a buoyant key change. It’s more than enough to forgive Patbingsu’s initial hesitance. The song is built to take you on a journey, and the destination is well worth it.
Maybe they were trying a bait and switch with that first verse, like with Ailee’s Don’t Touch Me? I don’t mind starting off slower, it just needed a transition (honestly any transition) into that first chorus. Also, I wish they’d written a meatier rap for Moon Sua at 2:52. Her tone is fantastic and when she started in I was like, oh HERE WE GO, but then it was 4 bars that didn’t rhyme. Still, a fun song overall and another color for Billlie, great video too.
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I don’t know how often I will listen to this, but for a few minutes I was highly entertained. Also thank you to YYS for the all the key changes from verses to choruses and back again. I think I counted 4 … ? Verse 1 and 2 are in one key, chorus 1 and 2 break are in a second key, final chorus is a third key. The song is lifted up and brightened by all those key changes.
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As a fan of both Billlie and YJS, I was excited to see what they did here. And they definitely delivered. It’s sugary take on the retro synth sound vaguely reminds me of April’s “Oh My Mistake” it’s not AS good but it’s still a super fun time. Also the MV was dope and i liked how they had Snowy Man just working on the set lmao. Billlie climbing my list of fav GGs quickly
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Also they’ve already sold 35k first day which nearly 4 times what GingaMingaYo sold. The Tsuki effect is coming in full force
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the beginning was very bizarre for me but when the song start going, it was going! sua’s tone on the rap was great – wish it was longer. rating seems right but i think the chorus is charming for me to listen to a lot / grow on me.
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When I saw the music video asthetic I got really excited, I live a retro concept. The first verse had me questioning that excitement. Though I find the transition to the chorus pretty jarring, the chorus is refreshing and good that you can easily forgive it. I didn’t care for verse 2 but the rest of the song makes it totally worth it. I just wish the song had an outro
As far Billie’s brand I’m very confused. They had such a unique sound when they debuted, gave us a decent winter track, and then a generic kpop song, and now this retro bop. I hope they settle on this or their debut sound
The song is definitely fun, but at the same time too nursery rhyme for me, tbh. I was shocked a lot when the super underwhelming first verse merged into an energetic chorus. Also, enough with this onomatopoeia, girls, you’re not some 5-year-old kids!
That said, my rating is:
I feel like the beginning was supposed to be a throwback to the original YJS version, then they switch it up at the chorus. This feels more like a small vanity project rather than a full comeback that’s supposed to chart and sell. In that context I felt like it was really enjoyable and I didn’t mind the slowness of the first verse as much. Also, I feel like Highway Romance is the exact kind of summer song that we’ve all been waiting for this year. Really excited for their full summer comeback.
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I tried to watch the MV for 1:30 min, decided the song was unbearable, then I read your review and continue listening to the song. Glad I did so, because the rest of the song was unbelievably fun! I can never enjoy the first verse but I’ll just skip and listen from 1st chorus/2nd verse instead
Also not related to the post, but will you review Busters – Tropical Romance? I’m quite curious of what you think of the song
yes the verses are kinda weird but the chorus surely delivers! and for me thats the most important
The fact that the lyrics are basically instructions on how to make patbingsu make the song a whole lot better. It’s very fun and doesn’t follow the retro synthwave trend that a lot of other kpop retro songs have done (which can be make or break for me)
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I definitely agree with your take. When I first listened to it, I was underwhelmed because of the slightly “boring” beginning of the track.
On the second listen, however, when watching the performance version of the MV (shout-out to the super fun choreo btw!), I quickly learned to love the retro feel, strong beat and fun & catchy chorus, paired with all these quirky sound effects.
I was even more delighted when I learned that the lyrics of the song are a recipe to make Patbingsu (which I didn’t know before).
“Odd”/quirky tracks like these are what I love a lot in K-pop and this might be the track of the summer for me.