Frank Kogan (koganbot) wrote,
Frank Kogan

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Volume Up: Genius or Stuffed Giraffe? (Part One)

I think of Shinsadong Tiger tracks as catchy and spare, with some interesting musical countermotions but not overstuffed with them. 4minute's "Hot Issue" is a brilliant example (to be talked about in some later post), and is one of five or so tracks in the running for Frank's Favorite K-pop Track Ever. 4minute's new one, "Volume Up," feels like a radical departure: it's ambitious, it's full of stuff — stuff tumbling over other stuff — and it fucks radically with song form. Or at least it feels as if it's fucking with its form. I said to myself, "Shinsadong Tiger is fucking with us severely." And I sat down to diagram the thing, to figure out the game he was playing, and I went, "Hmmm, well some parts repeat, and if you call this the prechorus, and what comes after it the chorus, well…" And what I came up with was:

Verse → Chorus → Verse → Chorus → Middle Eight → Break → Chorus

Which is to say it's standard as fuck, doesn't screw with song structure at all. Except, I still think he's screwing with us. For one thing, the part I ended up calling the "prechorus" is a crescendo, and its effect when it first comes along is to make you think, or feel (since you don't put it into words),"OK, this cancels everything before it, makes that all prelude or preface or intro, and what comes after is the song proper; so here we go, we're starting with the verse." And what comes next sounds like a verse, rumbling along jaunty and energetic but not trying for a payoff — except it's the first section of what I've labeled "Chorus," above, in order to ram the song into verse-chorus format. Another peculiarity, which helped send my perception of form into confusion, is that several parts of the song end with a high-pitched wailing vocal that keeps going, soaring above and then spilling into the next part of the song. And what end up actually functioning as payoffs are recurring motifs (I'm calling them "motifs" rather than "riffs" or "hooks" because, as I said, the song feels ambitious — which doesn't mean it's not totally the opposite of grim; it doesn't carry a sign on it that says "funny," since it's not a joke song; but there's a deadpan playfulness, sending itself, without officially winking at us, over the top), for instance, a number of "oh oh oh oh ohs" and "eh eh eh eh ehs" declaimed by the group as if they were comic operetta singers out on parole, fanning out across the countryside (in the video, the women of 4minute are stationed in a medieval castle or cathedral, dressed in motley colors, as visual antigoths, I suppose; but when hearing the music I envision them traveling fields and hills and hamlets, serenading an uneasy populace and perplexing the local constabulary) and fanning out across the song as well, the variously cascading "ahs" and "ehs" and "ohs" recurring in different melodies in different sections. In addition, we've got a muted sax playing a moody, pensive line at song's start and then reappearing in the chorus but this time as the exuberant splash at the end of one of the spillover vocal wails I mentioned earlier.

(Sax at the start is the same as in "Mysterious Girl" by Romanian dance act Sunrise Inc.; I assume there's some third source for the sample, but, if so, I don't know what it is. Cube Entertainment says "Pump up the volume for 'SAX-Y' new sound!!" but I don't think the sax is really that big a deal, compared to the arc of syllables.)

To revert to my diagram, verse-chorus form is often actually something like this:

1st part of verse → 2nd part of verse → prechorus → chorus → [second part of chorus] → 1st part of verse → 2nd part of verse → prechorus → chorus → [second part of chorus] → middle eight → break → chorus [often repeated, sometimes with singer vamping while the chorus is taken care of by background singers or by her own vocals, multi-tracked].

There are verse-chorus formats that differ from this, and variants on this one where you start with the chorus or start with an intro or insert bridges and whatnot. I'm not much of a taxonomist here, since back when I wrote songs I rarely used verse-chorus. It was hard enough coming up with one good melody, much less five. But "Volume Up" sticks to what I just diagrammed, minus the vamping.

[Been trying to find time to finish this post for the last five days, finally decided, "Oh, hell, I'll just call this 'part one' and post it." More diagrams to come. In the meantime, I think I'm safer voting "Genius" than "Giraffe" since this is already up to a 9, and I always underrate Shinsadong Tiger tracks on early hearing, gave "Lovey-Dovey" only a 7 on the Jukebox, and last July I recommended to Edward that we run either "Bubble Pop!" or "Roly-Poly" but not both, wasn't even sure we should run either, believing maybe we should hold off for something better. For sure, this was before either of us realized how welcome Korean tracks would be on the Jukebox, but nonetheless for some reason those two very accessible songs took time to seep into me, ditto for "Trouble Maker" in December. And maybe I should relisten to that Exid track, which struck me as a major botch.]
Tags: 4minute, hyuna, sistar
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