Around 2015-2016, K-pop saw a boom of what most would call wistful, “cutesy” girl groups. On its face, this description feels a bit reductive, but the music itself was universally strong. Lovelyz, April, Laboum… early GFriend! These groups delivered a headrush of candy-coated pop hooks that emphasized vocal ability and sweeping, soaring melody. It’s a sub-genre I’ve missed greatly over the past few years, ever since the shoutier, more attitude-driven “girl crush” concept has taken hold.
Enter, CSR. These girls feel like a breath of fresh air, zigging while all their peers zag. Had debut single Pop? Pop! emerged back in 2016, it likely would have gotten lost in the shuffle. In 2022, it feels almost like a revelation. Composed by relatively new production team FAB, the track bounds along bright, exciting synths and effusive percussion. It’s a sparkling pinwheel of a song, intent on making every moment as catchy as the next.
This is evident right from the start, as Pop? Pop!’s titular exclamation frames the verses in a fun, animated way. Things slow a bit for the pre-chorus but it’s not long until we burst into an ultra-catchy hook that plays 2016’s “fresh” sound to the hilt. This chorus feels ripped right from Lovelyz’s (supremely underrated) discography in the best way. Better yet, Pop? Pop! grows more layered and inventive as it goes on. A fantastic breakdown injects needed edge late in the track, but even before this moment the second verse surges with added percussion (and brass!) that makes Pop? Pop! feel like an ever-growing explosion of joy. Along with RoaD-B, these unknown groups from small agencies are single-handedly honoring K-pop’s illustrious past. Now, we just need to get people listening!