There’s always one token cute act in K-pop that all the Western fans hate because dirty Westerners have never really experienced cute concepts beyond kiddie acts like The Wiggles and The Teletubbies, so almost everything that doesn’t fit into the fierce or sexy concept category is instantly reviled. First it was Girls’ Generation, then it was SECRET for a while, and now it’s the almighty A Pink.
I’ve been riding with A Pink since they debuted and have enjoyed every album they’ve put so far (although in retrospect the entire Une Annee era was a major misstep), and their latest, Pink Blossom, is no different.
Pink Blossom –which may or may not be a euphemism for A Pink’s untouched cha chas that uncle fans across the nation desperately long to deflower– delivers exactly what one has come to expect from the girls at this point: sweet, seasonal bubblegum pop with a retro flair. Dewy lead single, “Mr. Chu,” sparkles with a restrained effervescence, like a friendly pep talk that never gets too serious or pushy. When I first played it, I couldn’t get the Web Therapy scene out of my head in which Fiona Wallace falsely describes her childhood as, “Sun-dabbled meadows, lollipops dispensed, rainbows, and gambling lambs.”
One big cliché in pop music reviewing is to compare songs to soft drink, but I’m not about to do that because “Mr. Chu” is actually more like sparkling mineral water; fresh and clean without the tooth-rot.
Although “Mr. Chu” is produced by Duble Sidekick and not long-time A Pink producer Shinsadong Tiger, you get the sense that Cube’s A&R rep walked into Sidekick’s studio, placed an old photo from the Secret Garden album booklet next to the mixing board, and just said: “You know what to do.” Like last year’s long-running hit “NoNoNo,” “Mr. Chu” chills with an early 2000s pop’n’b on the verses before speeding things up on a chorus laced with retro synths. Some might consider it a one-note act, but what does it matter when the formula is so perfect?
A Pink’s flair for nostalgia isn’t just confined to their music. Their carefully-constructed image is one of an adorable little sister, the pretty girl next door when you were growing up, or your high school first love. When watching the “Mr. Chu” music video (which plays like J-pop KARA tackling Orange Caramel’s “Lipstick) you can’t help but think of all the guys between 30 and 50 working miserable 60-hour weeks and reminiscing over idealized versions of their youth thanks to A Pink’s charms.
That’s really the magic of a group like A Pink, and it reminds you why it’s sometimes so important to keep up the fantasy illusion of innocence and purity that so many Asian pop acts are infamous for. It may not necessarily be real, but don’t go and ruin it for all of us who like to pretend that it is.
For the tl;dr crowd: If you’re wicked, sinful, and morally bankrupt then you won’t understand this gleaming beacon of #love and #light like I do. BAM.