In the K-pop landscape, where artists often dive head-first into proven trends that could sweep mainstream music at some point, the gallant leaps of experimentation and mixing of genre and sound can be rare. Taking risks, even calculated, could result in a detrimental misstep that jeopardizes the prospects of a growing group.
Cue SM Entertainment’s latest girl group, aespa, who made their breakthrough on the scene just under a year ago by questioning their parameters, asserting themselves as pioneers in the next evolution of K -pop. With their breathtaking, genre-embracing sound and the fusion of AI technology into the concept of the group, the four aespa members – Karina, Winter, Ningning and Giselle – are slowly but surely shaping their place in K-pop. as catalysts for change.
The rookie group may already have a major triumph under their belt with their viral single “Next Level”, but aespa is making it clear that they are here to stay with their very first mini album “Savage”. This new six-track record is another step towards success for the girl group, refining their hallmark sound and hinting at the fast, upward trajectory that Aespa is on.
Hip-hop rhythms are fused with crisp hyperpop synths on the title track from the record of the same name. The booming electronic instrumentation that launches ‘Savage’, while reminiscent of the late PC Music artist SOPHIE, regularly unleashes the musical power listeners expect from aespa.
This time it’s in the form of a catchy chorus that makes full use of a sing-talk chorus (“Catch me, catch me, now / Catch me, catch me, now / Or I’ll become a savage”), softened by the wide vocal range of Winter and Ningning. “Savage” is full of hooks and addicting choruses that add to a masterfully layered production, further perfecting the nervousness in which the quartet had already anchored itself.
The highs set on “Savage” are not only maintained, but more importantly, embraced by the band on the remaining tracks of the mini-album, which sees aespa lean completely into the futuristic cyberpunk theme. The “ænergy” opener is knee-deep in the new SM culture universe tradition and that’s understandable. It’s a fitting introduction to the fictional world that came with the group and their individual characters.
The track itself is packed with song-like choruses and punchy rhythms that make it a haunting listen, despite its rather cryptic lyrics. “Karina is a rocket puncher / Winter an armament / Giselle a Xenoglossy / NingNing ed hacker”, they sing at one point. Lines like these can be confusing for fans of the group, let alone the uninitiated – but hopefully as the aespa grows in prominence the SMCU blanks will soon be filled.
‘I’ll Make You Cry’ comes to life with woozy electronic synths and punchy beats. Haunting belts intensify her already stubborn atmosphere, with strong vocal performances and fierce lyrics: “I’m sick of it and I’m sick of it / You have to accept it / You have to hurt to the bone / Don’t expect mercy from me.” “
Meanwhile, the eccentric and energetic “Yeppi Yeppi” is reminiscent of songs like “Everybody” and “Why Not? by SHINee and LOONA, respectively – no surprise given that all three songs were produced by the same producers, South Korean duo Coach & Sendo. In the same vein as the tracks that followed, ‘Iconic’ is a dazzling production force and sparkling hooks, with a seamless transition from edgy rap verses to mellow choruses that make it a charismatic track.
aespa slows things down at the end with ‘Lucid Dream’, which was co-composed by American singer-songwriter Hayley Kiyoko. On a record full of powerful songs, this track is a perfect breath of fresh air that crowns the record on a sweet note without compromising the audacity that aespa has shown so far. The song is a poignant mix of hypnotic synthesizers and light trap beats, mixed with intricate layers of breathy vocals.
Almost as if heralding a new era of K-pop, the vibrant and punchy electronic pop brand of ‘Savage’ fits perfectly with the nonconformity that Espa has so boldly showcased during their year. as a group. Beyond mere proof that they are more than a one-hit wonder, ‘Savage’ digs deep to cross beyond the confines of K-pop and is indisputable proof of aespa’s propensity for them. sounds and visuals up to expectations.
- Release date: October 5
- A record company: SM entertainment