[Album Review] Oh My Girl takes a step further in experimentation with Dear OHMYGIRL

The EP is a reverse sandwich where the filling is rather minimalist, yet tasty

If you’re a fan of some unapologetic, somewhat ludic, sugary pop, Oh My Girl is a group you will enjoy. I don’t follow them too closely, but every now and then they come with pretty exciting songs that remind me why I love this kind of music so much.

But also, if you’ve ever wondered how the septet would sound if they experimented a bit more with their sound, then their 8th extended play (EP), Dear OHMYGIRL (2021), might be the right work for you.

In 6 tracks, Dear OHMYGIRL makes a strong case for how their sweet signature functions just as well in different variations of the music they’ve been releasing so far. It reminds me a bit of Red Velvet’s older albums, in which the b-sides really shined and shown an elegant range beyond their title tracks. It’s not the first time this comparison comes to my mind — I feel that Red Velvet-brand of quirkiness — of songs like “Dumb dumb dumb” (2015) and “Red Flavor” (2017) — in Oh My Girl’s “Colouring Book” (2017) song and music video too.

Except that now I’m even more excited to bring up this comparison. Red Velvet used to have one of my favorite discographies in K-pop, and Dear OHMYGIRL shows that Oh My Girl can, if not pick up where they left, at least play in a similar league.

At first, the EP might not look like it’s gonna deliver anything too different from what they’ve done, or what everybody else is doing. The cover is their most child-like ever, and the title track, “Dun Dun Dance”, follows the nu-disco / disco-pop trends we’ve heard in songs like TXT’s “Blue Hour”, and GFriend’s “MAGO”, in 2020.

However, there is a lightness in “Dun Dun Dance” that makes it different from what other K-pop artists have put out lately — not necessarily better, but it’s undoubtedly a fresh, welcome approach. It reminds me of Tina Charles’ “Dance little lady dance”, not much in sound, but in its innocence. It also helps that the chorus’ melody and vocal delivery in “ Dun Dun Dance” feature vocal traits found in many 1970s soul & disco hits from great vocalists such as Alicia Bridges and Tina Charles herself. The part when they sing “feel so hiiiigh” is remarkable.

Because the exciting thing about Dear OHMYGIRL, for me, lies in the b-sides, “Dun Dun Dance” is my least favorite song in the EP. This is not to say it’s a bad song — it’s lovely, and indeed the best choice for a title track.

But a different kind of fun begins in Track 2, “Dear You”, a candid song that is opened by hip hop beats and tropical house synths, and then flows into a dreamy chorus with slightly more minimal melodies and sultrier vocals. The acoustic guitars in the last chorus add a delicate, intimate touch to the song, and the use of reverbs makes for its ethereality.

The contrast between “Dun Dun Dance” and “Dear You” is not shocking, but it’s noticeable. This is the moment Dear OHMYGIRL rolls towards newer, peculiar waters for Oh My Girl.

From Track 2 to Track 5, you will be presented with smoother melodies, lowered vocals, and downbeat production, with glimpses of industrial pop, alt R&B, and a lot of trap beats.

The third track of the EP, the Grimes-like “My Doll”, is the peak of its experimental glow; while tracks like the adorably eccentric “Quest” (in which member MIMI has a lyric writing credit) and the trap-bossa nova “Who Comes Who Knows” recall artists like IU and Suran. K-pop and K-indie’s love affair with bossa nova date back to a long time ago, and as a Brazilian, it’s always a pleasure for me to hear songs like “Who Comes Who Knows” — just as much as it is a pleasure for me to hear the whistle in 1:57! Pretty!

The EP finishes differently, with the crying in the club type of track “Swan”. The composition is not as introspective as Oh My Girls’ 2015 hit “Closer”, but both songs are similar in how they consist of dance-club music that was not exactly meant for partying. The lyrics in “Swan” are poetic, enigmatic, and the vocals in the drop convey a sense of dispair. It’s an approach Oh My Girl takes very well.

But overall, Dear OHMYGIRL is not really an explosion of emotions, even in its more upbeat moments. It’s almost like the opposite of a big sandwich, where the bulk lies in Tracks 1 and 6, and the filling is rather minimalist, yet tasty.

Songs like “My Doll” and “Quest” are b-sides for a reason: they aren’t meant for performances and are likely to fall under the radar among catchier tunes when played on the radio or playlists. But still, I can’t help thinking Oh My Girl could have shown this side before.

I kinda wish we could turn back time and switch Dear OHMYGIRL’s b-sides for Coloring Book’s — songs like “Real World” and “Perfect Day” would sound so fit for 2021, as punk pop/pop rock are getting big again.

Nevertheless, I’m glad Oh My Girl is going that route now with Dear OHMYGIRL. And, even if their next albums/EPs follow a different direction, they would have to be really, really bad to ruin the enthralling discography that the group is building thus far.

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My work as a music writer and critic is independent.

I am currently a staff writer at PopMatters, an independent, digital magazine of cultural criticism and analysis. My articles and reviews have also appeared in Consequence of Sound, Dummy Magazine, Remezcla, Sounds and Colours, Kultscene, and more.

The reviews and articles posted in this blog are original and have not been published on any of the websites I write for.

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