I always look forward to B.A.P’s releases. That’s not just because they’ve got one of my favorite vocalists and one of my favorite rappers in K-pop, but also because they are so consistent with their sound. Their title tracks rarely, if ever, stray from this dramatic, intense, always slightly dark brand of catchy pop-rock. Of course they’ll dabble in other genres in their B-sides, but their singles always make you say, “Oh, yeah, that’s B.A.P.”
That was what I said during the first few seconds of their most recent single “Hands Up” from single album “Ego.” The anthemic chorus of voices shouting empoweringly, “Go! Hands up!” plus the electric guitar and the dark, mysterious melody altogether just scream B.A.P. This stewing concoction of atmospheric suspense seems like it will explode into loud, energetic rock after four measures—but instead, it subverts expectations. Rather than diving into a high, the dynamic goes down to a simmer as low vocals over a pensive piano introduce Zelo’s tense high-tone rap part. All the energy from beforehand accumulates here, ready to ignite in the hook. The second verse performs a similar feat with this unique combination of suspenseful rap, an understated instrumental, and captivating “ooh-ooh”s in the background. The whole arrangement should be a perfect leadup to a banger of a chorus.
Unfortunately, the chorus of “Hands Up” doesn’t deliver that banger. I couldn’t possibly count how many times I’ve said something similar over the past few months. Too many K-pop singles lately have great verses but play too safe in the hooks, and it’s costing them. I assume that’s what happened “Hands Up,” because the chorus is so simple that I was bored before I had even heard half of it. I was looking forward to hearing Daehyun’s habitual last-hook high note, but “Hands Up” didn’t give him much opportunity to let loose.
However, Daehyun’s vocals did have more space to stretch out elsewhere on “Ego.” For example, “Moondance” was a vocal delight. Actually, “Moondance” was an everything delight. It applies an interesting variety of funky techno to a relaxed pace, allowing for a striking amount of creativity in the instrumental and the vocal style. “Thinkhole,” contrary to what its name suggests, is an upbeat dance track. While the instrumental in this song is considerably less interesting than that of “Moondance,” its vocal melodies are captivating—especially that rapid cascade of “Falling, falling, falling, falling” right before the hook.
For me “Moondance” was the standout on B.A.P’s latest release, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the single was completely devoid of good moments. Heck, I’ll listen to any song where Zelo has a verse. I’m pleased that B.A.P has been so productive in 2017—many groups that debuted in 2012 have two comebacks a year at most these days, but B.A.P doesn’t plan on falling off the map anytime soon. That’s great to see, and I have no doubt that staying relevant throughout 2017 will work in their favor next year.
HANDS UP: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Hate to say it, but it’s a flop this time.
Take a look at B.A.P’s “Hands Up” MV below: