If we’re looking solely at commercial K-pop music over the past couple of years, the best release would probably have to be f(x)’s Pink Tape. There’s been a bunch of other excellent albums of course, but Pink Tape received critical acclaim in both the East and the West and is generally considered by idol fans as the current standard when it comes to albums from glossy girl groups.
As great as Pink Tape is, Ga-In‘s fourth mini-album, Hawwah, is just as good–if not better. In fact, it’s the best album to come out of Korea’s greatest girl group, Brown Eyed Girls, since Narsha’s self-titled debut and Ga-In’s own tango spectacular, Step 2/4.
Hawwah, the Hebrew name for Eve, is a concept album that uses the story of Eve and the serpent to explore the still outdated perception of women as sexual beings. This isn’t entirely new territory for Ga-In: her solo music has always been ambitious and thought-provoking, addressing topics like the elusive female orgasm in “Bloom” or the pain of Ike Turner-ing a bitch in “Fxxk U.”
The first of Hawwah‘s two title tracks, the sinful “Paradise Lost,” tells the story of Eve’s temptation from the perspective of the snake. Ga-In takes the concept and runs with it, playing the role of a sinister seductress who humps the floor and submits to facials from leaky pipes over a pit of menacing strings and drums courtesy of the infallible Kim Eana and Lee Min-soo.
She also throws some major shade at
that silly old book of fiction the Bible, implying that the holy scripture is nothing more than a story created to control and repress women’s sexuality.
“They’re making up another fantasy,” she moans. “They’re talking about a fantasy / they’re making up a story so that they can control you and me.”
On the bridge where most K-pop songs would house a noisy dubstep breakdown, “Paradise Lost” delivers a demented orchestra of wailing pipe organs and snares which then descends into a stuttering, psycho finale. It’s perfect, I just wish Ga-In had kept the creepy John Carpenter synths on the intro from the MV. (By the way, the MV is probably the best of the year and likely won’t be surpassed, but reviewing the visuals would require a whole other post.)
Hawwah‘s other title track is the catchier, cheekier “Apple,” which gives us the tale of Eve’s temptation from the woman’s perspective. I prefer this over “Paradise Lost” (although both are technically 5/5) because it’s just so much fucking fun. Jay Park plays Adam for Christ’s sake, rapping warnings to Ga-In not to cross over to the dark side. (Spoiler alert: she does.)
The song’s production is just as innovative as “Paradise Lost” and everything else on Hawwah, with fleeting jazz piano melodies, hip-hop snares, and comical horns that sounds like they were ripped from an old black & white slapstick comedy.
It also samples Afro-Rican’s “Give It All You Got,” which most people will already recognize from Fergie’s “Fergalicious.” And yes, Fergie fucking WISHES she recorded “Apple”–if she had I can guarantee her recent failed comeback would’ve smashed like it was still 2007.
Speaking of 2007, Ga-In gained weight for this comeback to achieve apple hips, which means she should travel back in time and shoot a CF for Nelly’s Apple Bottoms and appear in T-Pain’s “Low” MV.
Anyway, Hawwah is so completely perfect and next level that literally every track is brilliant and single-worthy.
My favourite is probably the Dok2-assisted “Free Will”: it’s an extraordinary fusion of British drum & bass, acid jazz, and James Bond sixties surf guitars.
“Guilty” is a very close second and has flaw-free lyrics that would induce melancholy sexual climaxes if sung in English. It’s also the kind of track I can imagine Moloko or Róisín Murphy singing during one of their poppier moments.
Even the album’s obligatory ballad “Two Women” is absolutely gorgeous. (It was written and produced by one IU’s Modern Times contributors and you can tell.)
Ultimately, the entire Hawwah era –from the music to the visuals to the concept– just feels so far ahead of what every other big female pop act is doing right now, both in K-pop and in the States. The album’s diversity and ambition is also a testament to the K-pop genre, which in many ways has more room for experimentation than America does. American pop stars are usually slaves to radio trends; even top tier acts like Beyonce, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga need to figure out the acceptable genres of the moment and then jump on board. Then there’s Ga-In, who’s just gone and dropped a concept album about Eve and the satanic serpent from the ByeBull with production that features everything from church organ breakdowns to surf rock.
And to think, some people still wonder why I stopped stanning A-poop and moved over to K-pop! Hawwah‘s the answer, honey.