When I first started getting into K-pop, 4minute was one of the groups that I really latched onto. Like 2NE1, their commercial electro-pop and artificial ferocity appealed to a K-pop noob like me, who still wasn’t quite ready to accept the less blatantly Western K-pop acts at that point. While I eventually grew tired of 2NE1’s one-trick-pony shtick and moved on to more interesting artists, 4minute’s always remained a favorite, so I was pretty disappointed when “What’s Your Name?” became the group’s first single that I didn’t like.
In retrospect, “What’s Your Name?” was actually pretty great. The 8-bit bloops and synth bubbles over hip-hop beats, the wailing sirens and sound effects, the multi-hooks and chit-chat vocal delivery… You have to at least give it credit for being original, if nothing else.
As expected from Brave Brothers, 4minute’s follow-up single, “Is It Poppin’?,” sticks to a similar formula, but with a few important twists. He’s toned things down, removing a lot of the bells & whistles that made “What’s Your Name?” so busy and just stuck with the essentials instead. The synths still whistle and wobble, the snares hit all the right spots, and even 2YOON’s usually grating vocals are dialed down to a sweet coo. There’s a perfect synchronicity to “Is It Poppin’?” that’s been hard to find in K-pop this year, which has seen a lot of producers going for big statement songs with a lot of unconventional arrangements and jarring shifts. The experimentation has provided some welcome thrills, but “Is It Poppin’?” deserves a hand for being able to play both safe and interesting at the same time.
I should mention that “Is It Poppin’?” bears a few sonic similarities to SISTAR’s “Shady Girl,” but we all saw that one coming a mile away. It wouldn’t be a true Brave Brothers song if he didn’t recycle at least one of SISTAR’s old hits.
I’m still undecided as to whether or not “Is It Poppin’?” tops 4minute’s finest moment, “Volume Up,” but even if it doesn’t, it sure comes close.