Within the span of just two years, GFriend have cemented themselves as one of the biggest girl groups in K-pop. This is no easy feat, especially for artists outside of the “Big 3,” but label Source Music has been incredibly savvy in creating and marketing GFriend. Their “powerful innocent” concept was the perfect way to stand out after the sexy concept craze of 2014. The group immediately established their own sound, a nostalgic mix of retro bubblegum and Japanese idol pop, thanks to production duo Iggy and Seo Yong-bae.
The girls hinted at a more mature direction on last year’s “Navillera,” but now they’ve really followed through with their latest single, “Fingertip.” This time, they’ve dived right into funky eighties synthpop, which is something we already saw Wonder Girls do on 2015’s excellent Reboot. But while Wonder Girls’ eighties makeover was effortlessly cool, GFriend have honed in on the gaudier sounds of the decade. They’ve also put their own spin on the song by retaining their signature anime-esque electric guitars, which at this point have become a welcome necessity for all GFriend singles.
However, like “Navillera” before it, “Fingertip” suffers from a weak chorus. And with wailing guitars, disco strings, and aggressive synths at every turn, Iggy and Seo Yong-bae are starting to get too ambitious and trigger-happy with their production. They haven’t jumped the shark just yet, but if they don’t reign it in soon then they’re going to get too far away from what made GFriend’s music so great in the first place - simple, melodic pop songs with great hooks.
For that reason, I’ve actually gravitated more towards one of the group’s new b-sides, “Hear The Wind Sing.” It’s a lush ‘90s house track with violin strings and cute synths, like a girlier version of f(x)’s more sophisticated “4 Walls.” I felt the same way about GFriend’s last comeback, where their album “Gone With The Wind” grabbed me more than title track “Navillera” did.
Judging by GFriend’s current chart performance, I’m not the only one that feels this way. “Fingertip” is currently being outsold by a number of tracks on Melon, including BtoB’s new single “Movie.” For a group like GFriend, who are one of K-pop’s strongest digital sellers, this is an extremely underwhelming performance. “Navillera” also undersold compared to “Me Gustus Tu” and “Rough,” and has in fact only sold slightly more than their debut single, “Glass Bead.”
Artistic growth is usually a good thing, but in GFriend’s case, it might be time to go back to basics. As they say, 'if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.'
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