The Varieties of Opinion: “Wonder World” by the Wonder Girls
On the eve of 2012, my anxiety about a new job in a new city was hardly pacified by my friends’ half-serious suggestions that, really, just maybe, this was the year humanity was going to kick the bucket. After all, unemployment is rampant among my demographic, a 27-year-old dictator is in charge of a country with nuclear weapons, Internet freedoms are constantly under attack, and Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary.
So to inaugurate—even celebrate—the uncertainty of the new year, we’re introducing The Varieties of Opinion, a new monthly feature in which we invite a diverse cross-section of people to review an artistic work. Because one opinion isn’t confusing enough.
Our first victim of criticism is the album Wonder World by the Wonder Girls. Released in November 2011, Wonder World is the adored K-pop supergroup’s second studio album. The first single, “Be My Baby,” peaked at number one on the Gaon Chart in Korea and the K-Pop Billboard in the US.
Huge buzz surrounded Wonder World‘s release, especially following the news that the Wonder Girls had recruited well-respected figures to develop the album’s concept. Renowned choreographer Jonté Moaning, known for his work with Beyoncé for “Freakum Dress” and “Single Ladies,” helped choreograph the Wonder Girls’ music video for “Be My Baby” (which clearly shows). Johnny Wujek, fashion stylist for Katy Perry‘s “I Kissed A Girl” and “California Gurls,” also advised the K-pop band.
In reviewing such a widely anticipated album, we made sure to recruit critics from all walks of life. What we heard may shock you.
Susan Kim, a NYU student from South Korea, enjoys K-pop and happened to catch the Wonder Girls live at their comeback concert in Seoul:
The Wonder Girls are back, asking us to join them in the Wonder World.
The Wonder Girls is a K-pop sensation that climbed to the top of the girl group hierarchy with three #1 hit singles and five unbelievably popular dance moves, earning them the title, “Korea’s Little Sister Group.” But in 2008, they put an end to their promotions and announced their plans to venture off to the United States.
Albeit being welcomed only by a dull crowd of K-Pop fans in America at the time, in a matter of months, they became the first Korean artist to climb Billboard’s Top 100 ladder with their English version of “Nobody” and also signed to tour with the Jonas Brothers.
Many say that the Girls’ time spent in America was a waste. I think people expected their success in Korea to magically continue on overseas and anticipated them to go on their own tour rather than open for someone else’s. The Korean public – myself included – criticized the producer, J. Y. Park, for ruining these girls’ career and future, but looking back on it now, he was right and we were wrong. Everything the Wonder Girls did in America was in preparation for a long marathon they are soon about to run.
Wonder World is the first foolproof evidence of their hard work, and also the starting point of their race. The title track, “Be My Baby,” hints remnants of the upbeat 60‘s and 80’s retro sound the Wonder Girls are oh-so-famous for along with a pleasant mix of background harmonies that make it sound almost like a Christmas carol. Overall, it’s just another generic K-Pop song, but what we need to pay attention to is Sohee and Lim: they both actually sing – for more than eight measures! The most impressive song on the album, though, is Lim’s “Act Cool,” where she shows off her moxie for the first time (the group had several Destiny’s Child-esque schemes of their own over the years and Lim is their newest addition to the team).
And recently, they finally had their comeback stage in Seoul. Maybe it was because I fell too much in love with the music video, but the performance failed to impress me. Let’s not even get to Sohee and Lim, who bluntly uses a backing track, during all three performances in the past three days. After all that time in the States, I was hoping Sohee would at last be able to sing live. But singing less than half her part along with a backing track is unacceptable for someone who claims to become a global K-Pop legend.
I am glad the Wonder Girls are back, but for the current generation of talent-conscious audience that craves flawless live performances, I doubt the Wonder Girls are ready to prove that they’re really taking over the world.
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TAGS: k-pop • Patrick Lukens • review • Sean Tierney • South Korea • Susan Kim • Wonder Girls • Wonder World
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