Experimental music in K-Pop: A well thought out creation or noisy mess featuring Billlie, NMIXX and more
A dive into the sudden rush of experimental tracks taking over K-Pop. Read ahead to know more.
K-Pop. One word that encapsulates the many genres that is covered by hundreds of groups and soloists every year. It’s an industry that began booming in the 90s and has only seen an upward trajectory ever since. To a non-fan, K-Pop is a bright, poppy and cheery genre of music accompanied by an even more colourful MV but that is just one small portion, K-Pop is so much more than that. There are many genres and sounds covered under this giant umbrella term. It can range from sweet and bright sounds to rock and grunge- K-Pop has it all. But this industry has a side that is the most unique and that is the experimental side.
What do we mean by experimental? It’s a track that breaks the normal structure of a song and creates a new one by either blending one or more genres or creating a completely unique melody- its meaning changes depending on the song but the basic idea is that it is not a normal track. Experimental music is not new, it's been done by many groups and soloists. SM Entertainment is known as the father of experimental music as all the groups/soloists had at least one track that belonged to the genre. A popular example that comes to mind is Girls’ Generation’s ‘I Got A Boy’- a track that came out in 2012, this gained instant popularity for the constant jumping of genres in the middle of the song- all tied by a couple of iconic lines by the ex-member, Jessica.
Some other songs by SM Entertainment would be ‘Zimzalabim’ by Red Velvet or ‘Red Light’ by F(x). ‘Zimzalabim’ was truly a rollercoaster ride of a song as the melody line was completely bizarre but still had an addicting element to it while ‘Red Light’ had a more dark and mature sound that still was a bit confusing but it went with the theme.
Seeing the success of these types of songs, SM Entertainment continued to try it with 4th generation groups and that’s where it stopped becoming experimental and just receded to noise. A popular example would be NCT 127’s ‘Sticker’. Not sure whether it was intentionally meant to be noisy but at first listen, it leaves the listener confused as there is no tonal centre to the song and the structure is almost absent. It's a good song to dance to but would definitely serve as a distraction when listening to it during a task. The same could be said about aespa’s ‘Savage’ or ‘Next Level’. Despite having a vocally strong group, it diminishes to just pure noise as the instrumental gets perplexing.
Moving on to NMIXX, the group that debuted under JYP Entertainment and upon debut received stark opposite reviews of their track ‘O.O’. Upon first listen, the songs seem to be divided into two different genres of music- one being a dark and girlcrush concept while the other is more feminine and upbeat. Even on paper the sounds don’t blend together and it sounds like that too. While the group had some great vocalists, the bizarre twists and turns made the experience not-so-pleasant. The group has a lot of potential and based on the reactions, it would have been better if the song was made into double title tracks so as to showcase their talents completely instead of sloppily putting the two together.
Another group that recently debuted and has done only experimental music is Billlie. Their debut track ‘Ring x Ring’ has some great parts like the chorus but the verses are too noisy to truly appreciate the vocals that the members worked hard for. The instrumental drowns out the true sound of the group. Their recent comeback ‘GingaMingaYo’ is known to have an eccentric theme, therefore the song itself is eccentric. Here, they didn’t try to conceal but fully accept the noise aspect of their theme and blended the instrumental with their voices beautifully.
Experimental music can be a successful genre if the producers and artists are aware of the ultimate theme that will pair with the song otherwise it will not bode well with the listeners. Noise can carry a story and listeners are always striving for a story within the music, which is where experimental music can shine. Groups like EXID had a structure set for them- simple verse, vocally strong pre-chorus and an EDM chorus. While it can sound a bit hard to understand, some of their tracks like ‘L.I.E’ and ‘Up and Down’ carry some heavy messages that are showcased in the rollercoaster of a song.
NCT has also done well with experimental music such as NCT U’s ‘7th Sense’, ‘Make A Wish’ WayV’s ‘Moonwalk’, NCT Dream’s ‘Hot Sauce’ and more! The 23 member group are known to make music in a genre of their own, called ‘neo’ which is something that holds no bounds and in the last couple of years they have truly shown that. Stray Kids and A.C.E, known for tasteful noise music, constantly work on putting out music that has meaning and at the same time, can be enjoyed at a club.
Experimental music is tricky to master but if done well, the song will always be remembered for the unique structure, enjoyable melody and great performance.
What are your thoughts on experimental music? Let us know in the comments below.