Rookie Watch: EvoL is a bit different
Welcome to the first edition of Rookie Watch! If you've ever felt overwhelmed by the onslaught of K-Pop rookie groups this year, this column is the place for you. There have been so many debuts this year, and sometimes, it's hard to keep track of all of them. With Rookie Watch, you will be able to take a closer look at some of the stand-out rookie groups and join me as I talk about their concept, music, and performances.
For this week's edition of "Rookie Watch," I'll take you through an in-depth critique of each song in Stardom Entertainment's first girl group EvoL's debut mini-album, "Let Me Explode," and give you my own take on their debut concept, music video for "We Are A Bit Different," and their live performances. So, without further ado, let's get started!
In a recent interview with the members speaking mostly English, the members of EvoL educated their fans about the three meanings of their name. First, EvoL is an acronym for "effective voice of a lady." Second, EvoL is short for "evolution," meaning the group wishes to bring about an evolution of music. Lastly, EvoL is simply "Love" spelled backwards. Whether this whole name analysis is just a marketing strategy for an accurate depiction of their group's concept is up to you to decide, but EvoL is definitely a group to keep on your watch list, as members Yull, Say, J-Da, Hayana, and Jucy have shown a lot of potential so far.
Fun Fact #1: EvoL's members call their fans "Vollers."
01. Let Me Explode
The electronic intro of this track sounds very different and doesn't have a conventional melodic progression, so right away you can tell that it's something unique. There is a lot of repetition throughout the entire track, with "leggo leggo," "what what," "drink drink," and the ever repeating "take a take a take a take a." The track as a whole is quite catchy, with a fast tempo and beat.
Rapping is definitely the main point of this track, although the lead-in to the chorus brings in some melody and softens up the tough image built up by the rapping. The chorus is packed with conviction and I feel like it's the most "in your face" part of the whole album. It's a good introduction to the rest of their mini-album, since the hip-hop beat and rhythmic delivery sets the tone and lets the listener know what they're in for.
Overall, I'm not really a fan of this song, since I prefer more melodic songs and all the repetition in the track isn't really doing anything for me. I looked up the lyrics, however, and the song does carry a positive message: "Aside from your hair and necklace I can't tell you apart - it's just your packaging that's different. Where is our conscience, where is your value? You're a scam."
Fun Fact #2: "EvoL" is pronounced with an emphasis on the "e", like how you would pronounce "evil."
02. I'm Sorry
"I'm Sorry" is the total opposite of "Let Me Explode," consisting of a hesitant acoustic finger plucking introduction, bass and electric guitar parts, and unconventional chord progressions. EvoL has suddenly transformed into a sorrowful group of vocalists and rappers expressing their dark emotions.
The melody of the verses are unexpected, because the guitar accompaniment gradually brings in non-harmonic pitches that oddly fit in with the melody. For example, you would expect that the part right before the rap would build up the energy and lead into a chorus, but the tone grows darker and the minor key becomes more prevalent as the song proceeds into the rap part. The chorus is quite melancholic, and the vocals sound solid and fit the tone well. I also enjoyed the use of lower moving harmonies that bring out the darker flavor in the song. Strings always emphasize the sad tone in most slow songs, so the producers made a good decision in not overdoing it and inserting them at just the right places. At the end of the chorus, the strings and guitar go into a funky descending line that pleasantly surprises the listener and brings the mood up a little bit. It also brings something unexpected and adds some flair to the track as a whole.
In addition, I like the rapping part that is accompanied by a guitar broken chord progression as well as varying synth pitches. It's almost as if the background music has taken over the main melody and the rapper is providing the different beats and rhythms for that part of the track. The bass guitar part is more upbeat than the rest of the song, with running note variations and syncopated beats. Fortunately, it's most out of the way and doesn't get in the way of the melancholic tone of the track. Overall, "I'm Sorry" is a pleasant track to listen to, with the unique instrumentals and vocal harmonies.
Fun Fact #3: The group's maknae, or youngest member, is J-Da, whose birthdate is on 1/11/1994.
I am very glad that EvoL chose to promote "We Are A Bit Different" as their title song instead of "Magnet." I do not particularly enjoy "Magnet," since the rapping that takes up the entire verse part does not sound appealing to me. I was totally relieved when the melody came in, because that is honestly the only good part of the song. The deep synth bass adds a nice touch to the powerful sounding track, and the energy is good. However, I totally dislike the bell sound that comes in when they say "heavyweight" during the rap, and I'm not a fan of groups singing their own name in their songs.
The dance break is also disappointing for me. When I watched the dance practice video for "Magnet," the dance seemed messy and unsynchronized. I felt that the members tried too hard to be "swag" and confident, almost emulating a B.A.P "Warrior" feel. I think Say also has a solo dance part, when the members sort of move their hands with the beat as Say does her own thing, but why is she standing in the back? That was totally the wrong formation, in my opinion. If she has a solo part, she should stand in the front, instead of being buried by all the moving hands. The whole choreography in general seemed a little disjointed, with slightly awkward pauses in between lines.
This song would be perfect for me if they switched out the rap parts with a melodic verse and lead in, but that's just me. The song is very versatile in the sense that it allows the vocalists to show off their high notes as well as the rappers to show off their rapping, so I guess the track is like a 50/50 for me.
"Magnet" Dance Practice:
Fun Fact #4: Say and Jucy have been working on EvoL's debut album since the beginning of their training period.
04. We Are A Bit Different
Ahh, the title track! This song definitely rivals "I'm Sorry" for my favorite track in the mini-album. "We Are A Bit Different" begins with a catchy synth intro, with a nightclub dance feel. The vocals come out strong and confident, and they are definitely not like your feminine, weak, over-processed sound at all. It seems like the girls have good control of their voices, and they keep them up during their lives as well.
The English lyrics in this track aren't bad either; I would expect nothing less from the English-speaking member, Hayana. The lead-in to the chorus "Get on the floor, get on the floor" is a bit generic, with the quickening beats that kick into the main rhythm of the chorus, but it works. The bridge is a little weak, with the monotone rap and autotune, however, I do enjoy the synth riff that comes in on the offbeat after each line.
Then, in comes a fast and smooth rap by Jucy, which is actually pretty nice to listen to. The hangul washes over your ears and the deep bass downbeats (which I always enjoy) provide a nice accompaniment, maintaining the energy of the fast and upbeat track. The final chorus arrives, as catchy as ever, and concludes the track nicely.
With this song being their title track, it's important to showcase and highlight all the members equally, and I feel that it has done the job well. After listening to the song several times, I am appreciating the vocal and rapping quality of the members, and it seems like not one of them have a weakness in their vocals. So, kudos for the equal part distribution.
As for the choreography, I think it's pretty solid, with energetic motions and precise lines. The choreography during the chorus is a bit lacking, however, as they are simply moving their bodies in place. However, in this case, I don't think it's that much of a big deal since the part of the chorus has a strong vocal part and should be emphasized during the lives, anyway. From watching their dance practice video, I would say that the choreography is fun to watch, looks difficult (for clumsy me, at least), and impressive to say the least.
"We Are A Bit Different" Dance Practice:
At last, the final track of the mini-album! "22.214.171.124.5" begins with a powerful but slow beat along with a piano broken chord progression, and sounds very similar to Beyonce's "Halo." This sort of introduction is the perfect way to tell the listener "This will be a very vocally impressive track, get ready." However, the rest of the track is quite different from "Halo," and honestly speaking, if I heard "126.96.36.199.5" before I heard "Halo," I would much prefer the former (Sorry Beyonce!).
The track's strong beats are a perfect accompaniment to the group's strong vocals, and the energy throughout the verse, lead-in, and chorus, is steady and maintained with variations in harmonies and sound effects. Hayana's verses remind me a little of 2NE1 Bom's vocals, since both of them tend to go slightly sharp (higher pitched) when their vibrato comes out. However, Hayana's voice differs from Bom in that it's not as husky, with none of the buzzing quality. Hayana's vocals have a sweeter quality to them, but she still delivers her lines with power and depth.
One thing I like in particular about the track is the multiple harmony "Ah ah ah" ascending part which comes right after Say's first lead-in line. It gives a more exciting flavor to the otherwise calm track, and prepares the listener for the more intense chorus.
The chorus is dominated by the main vocalist Yull, and I enjoy the intertwining harmonies very much, as they give the chorus shape and definition. The melody of the chorus itself is varying in pitches and and rhythms, giving the vocalist opportunities to show off her technique and range at the same time. The use of strings is also helpful in introducing another layer into the track, and adds to the chorus's depth. The vocal-only "1, 2, 3, 4" part coming out of the bridge does a good job of giving the listener a break from all the sound and then starting the beats back up again.
The track ends with a pleasant-sounding Hayana lending her sweet vocals once again, and the underlying piano accompaniment becomes the sole instrumental. The calm ending balances out the entire track, matching the gentle introduction from the beginning.
Concept & Styling
The styling and the concept for their debut reminds me a little of 2NE1, actually, with the whole party/club and "girl power" theme. However, their vocals and sound as a whole is totally different from the traditional YG sound (if you will), with more balanced out vocals and a less "in-your-face" style. I only wish that their outfits weren't so shiny and metallic. It looks like their stylist is going for the futuristic look, which sort of fits the track's catchy synth melodies. But the group's whole look is a little too shiny for my taste.
Their live performances of "We Are A Bit Different" are equally as impressive as the studio version, if not better. I did not hear much lip syncing at all, and their vocals sounded solid and stable for the most part. However, there were parts where the choreography was more complex and thus the vocals sounded out of breath. After Hayana's syncopated verse part, Yull's lead-in part is done very well with accurate pitches and good breath control. As the main vocalist, her powerful voice is perfect for bringing up the energy level to prep for the chorus. Say is absolutely consistent with her multiple note run at the chorus, even though the backtrack helped her out a bit. It would seem that singing a more complex run during an upbeat song containing a lot of choreography is very difficult; but Say makes it look effortless. I'm also glad that she doesn't try to overdo it by pulling a pained facial expression as some singers like to do. She keeps the mood light and doesn't make the audience nervous about her performance.
Debut on M! Countdown:
Live on Arirang's "Simply K-Pop"
Lastly, the music video for "We Are A Bit Different" gives off the tough-girl image, with the video full of flame throwers, gas masks, spray cans, and military props. However, the video is pretty standard, with your typical dance shots, solo shots, and slow motion intense walking. There isn't much of a storyline, either, except that the members are possibly going to face off with a huge tank near the end, so that may symbolize an uprising with some sort of larger force. Other than that, the music video didn't catch my attention in particular, as EvoL's strength lies in their live performances. It does gives the audience an opportunity to enjoy the members' solo shots, however, as the detailed styling and heavy makeup gives each girl a unique look.
Fun Fact #5: The English-speaking member Hayana is from Australia!
EvoL is definitely a rookie group to keep track of, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of them. Their album contains a mixture of good and bad songs, but it's clear that each member has strong technical backgrounds in their respective fields; I appreciate the variety in their album that gives each member a chance to show off their skills. EvoL excels in their live performances, and I think that if they work on perfecting their stages and hyping up the audience, the live stage will be their place to really shine.
What are your thoughts on EvoL's debut? Share your comments below!
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Source: aus2oneENT, LOENENT, @EvoLStardom, BrandnewStardom, BubbleFeetMusicCH2, newkpopmelody06, and pop!gasa