Not every K-pop group will be for every listener, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Throughout 2022, I’ve listened to all of Kep1er’s music, watched them compete on Queendom and seen them live at KCON. And still, I approach new single We Fresh with tons of trepidation. From the teasers alone, I knew there’d be a lot of shouting and a generous dose of ear-shattering instrumental drops.
All of this turned out to be true, but the most frustrating thing about We Fresh is how good it could be if some of its more jarring elements were toned down or excised completely. Remove the by-the-numbers girl group chanting and replace that high-pitched instrumental breakdown with something less abrasive and you’ve got a rock-dance banger with plenty of verve. When the production focuses on guitar distortion and big, chugging percussion it’s a ferocious compliment to Kep1er’s indefatigable energy. I like how these elements come at us in waves, with the track pulling back before surging forward with renewed intensity. And when Kep1er are allowed to actually sing rather than “rat ta ta ta” they sound great.
K-pop has developed a reputation for throwing many competing ingredients into a blender, but a song like We Fresh doesn’t seem to be following any recipe. It simply tosses sounds around without purpose. Rather than thrilling, the result feels exhausting. Kep1er nearly get lost within the maelstrom and any hope of a melodic centerpiece dissipates as soon as hook smacks you upside the head. It’s a shame, because there are moments of great potential here.