Pop Cult: 40NOTASSEXYBUTRESPECTABLE
Rain – “30SEXY” : B / “La Song” : D
The Return of the King! Bi Rain, who once raced Speed and danced with Stephen has finished his mandatory military service, only to find K-Pop enjoying worldwide notoriety the likes no one ever expected. Kind of like “Blast From the Past,” but emerging to a world filled with “Gangnam Style” rather than rollerblades and color TV. Will he be able to adapt to a world where T-ara hangs out with Ray J and G-Dragon and Missy Elliot are friends?
His first comeback single, “La Song” provides an ‘answers-are-hazy’ indicator. Supposedly a bid for South Korea’s soccer anthem come World Cup, Rain attempts to smash together Reggaeton and Hooligan Anthem with unwieldy results. The video is some sort of weird cross between “We Can’t Stop” and “Bubble Butt,” equaling both in culturally insensitive transgressions. Not a real good look.
Better is his more general purpose tune, “30SEXY,” which provides the complex reasons why he is both Sexy and 30. Not satisfied with SeungRi’s Justin Timberlake aping, Rain takes it upon himself to truly represent Seoul’s 20/20 experience. The lack of visceral impact from this tune is simply that our expectations are so high for the once-superstar that “30SEXY” is merely exactly what we expected. With the constant flood of new stars and new songs, it’s getting harder and harder to impress a once easy-to-please K-Pop faithful.
Pearls Negras – “Pensando em Voce” : B
There’s a charming communal gruffness to the chorus of “Pensando em Voce,” one of the many stellar tracks off of Brazilian rap trio Pearls Negras mixtape. The girls spend more time in lockstep than alone, which is probably for the best; the beat threatens to overpower their voices in solitary whenever possible. But, considering that they’re singing about growing up in the rough favelas of Rio de Janeiro, and that they’re choosing to express themselves in the male-dominated world of baile funk, finding female strength in numbers is not something these girls are unaccustomed to. Together, they play without fear. No longer concerned with proving they deserve the spotlight, Pearls Negras simply enjoy it, and share it.
Katy B – “Crying For No Reason” : A-
Katy B has always been the connoseiurs’ choice for pop diva, having come up on the back of the UK producer boom of yesteryear. On A Mission, though the production is a little dated, still kills melodically. However she’s never been able to make that leap to the mainstream, just a little too nice and a little too plain to make her mark.
From note one, “Crying For No Reason” aims to change that. There are serious Adele vibes here, from the emotive chasm of reverb to the fact that the production finally is content to take a backseat to Katy’s vocal chops. Her tone absolutely shines on this track, to the point where when the synths roll in they’re still a distant second when it comes to timbre. By the time the respectably produced outro hits, you’re already hopelessly enthralled.