When I sit down to watch/listen to a K-pop song, there is a certain mental checklist that I go down, marking off all the tropes and basic expected items that I expect both the video and the song to have. Tropes are easy, they’re comfortable, and it makes comparing them to other songs much simpler since, let’s face it, there’s barely any diversity between artists anymore. Imagine my surprise to find that the song that fills the number one slot on the Mnet Charts (think Billboard) is something so startlingly different in such an obvious way.
From what I can gather, Hi Lee is a finalist of K-Pop Star, something I’m assuming to be like American Idol. So she’s like the equivalent of Kelly Clarkson or, at least, Clay Aiken. Needless to say, there’s a lot of pressure on her to stand out from her peers. However, with a voice like hers I don’t think there was any chance of her blending in. What I think was one of the most brilliant moves was rather than fitting her into the pop-techno thing every other girl band has going on, they allowed her naturally soulful voice to have a song that actually suits it. At this point, it would be presumptuous to say that Lee is the Korean Adele, but if she keeps working on her voice and giving songs like “1, 2, 3, 4” then there’s a very real possibility that she could adapt into that roll. Of course, that’s highly dependent on if that’s what the Korean music market wants to hear. I hope it is.
Many will agree that the song itself is catchy, but there’s unfortunately nothing to offer in the lyrics. As her first single, this may work to her benefit, but I’m still a little disappointed that it’s so simple. It’s a vindictive song, but neither in a way that makes me sympathize with the artist nor in a way that makes me think of her as anything more than a high schooler. …Granted, the girl is only sixteen, so lyrics like this are most likely well suited to her. For now, the fact that she leaves me wanting to hear more is impressive enough, but I hope YG gives her something with more depth to work with later on.
In addition to agreeing about the song, many of the K-pop fans watching Lee will also agree on one thing: she has the stage presence of limp spaghetti. There is nothing about her that makes her pop on the screen, which is especially sad since the backdrop is concrete blocks and other industrial looking scenery. I don’t think the fault is entirely hers in this situation, though. Her wardrobe is almost custom made to have her sink into the background, even more so than her backup dancers. A good example of this is at the 1:37 mark. In a dark blue night-scene, she’s given an off-kilter, almost neon green outfit that blends in while her dancers are given bright pinks and oranges. It’s a really dumb oversight. Like, really dumb. Other than that, Lee will have to learn how to actually get into her dance moves, look more “excited!” than “I just got out of bed and what am I doing here”, and not make strange faces into the camera. This all comes with experience, though.
In the end, I’ll give this song a three out of five: the song is great, and Lee has the workings of a real star, but she has a long way to go. I’ll definitely be keeping tabs on her to see how she progresses.